Word of the Day : February 7, 2012


noun ka-KAH-gruh-fee


1 : bad spelling

2 : bad handwriting

Did You Know?

In its earliest use in the 16th century, "cacography" meant not "incorrect spelling" but "a bad system of spelling." Today people worry about misspelling words, but back then there was little need for such concern. English spelling was far from standardized; people spelled words any way that made sense to them. Not every one was happy with such laxity, however, and over the coming centuries spelling reformers pressed for regularization. Some reformers thought spelling should reflect the etymological background of words; others thought words should be spelled the way they sound. And of course, everyone believed his or her own way of spelling was the best. Our present inconsistent system was arrived at over time. Today "cacography" usually suggests deviation from the established standards.


The letter was marred by cacography and poor punctuation, among other flaws.

"I sprang out of the car, sensing that I was different, and that I had only begun to comprehend the enigmas underlying mankind and cacography." -- From Jeff Deck's 2011 book The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time

Test Your Memory

What is the meaning of " weltschmerz," our Word of the Day from January 21? The answer is ...


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