Descriptivism and widespread misspelling

If you search google for “fuscia” it asks “did you mean fuschia?”. The correct spelling of the word is “fuchsia”. (This was pointed out on the xkcd blog a while ago.)

So enough people are spelling fuchsia wrong that it’s polluting Google’s autocorrection algorithms. Now this got me thinking. If you’re serious about your descriptivism, then it seems like you have to accept “fuschia” as a legitimate alternative spelling. Lots of people use it, so it’s right, right? What do you think of this? Is “fuschia” acceptable? Is there some way to discount those misspellings and insist on the correct spelling?

This isn’t some anomaly of the way google’s autocorrection works. There are 10m hits for fuchsia, 4m for fuschia… Is this enough usage to make “fuschia” a legitimate alternative spelling? If not, what criteria do you use to decide when a misspelling becomes acceptable?


Personally, I feel that am not in a position to decide such things, so I gladly leave the decision to people whose whole job it is to make such decisions. When a respected authority known for its descriptivism (say, Merriam-Webster) starts listing “fuschia” as a legitimate alternative spelling, I will be more inclined to accept it myself.

Until then, I am heavily biased towards “fuchsia”. (Even doubly so because I am one of those few people who actually pronounce it [ˈfʊksja] rather than [ˈfjuːʃə]. In other words, as far as I am personally concerned, I just can’t misspell the “chs” as “sch”; if anything, I am likely to misspell the word as “fuxia”.)

Source : Link , Question Author : Seamus , Answer Author : RegDwigнt

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