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Spelling Infidelity Explained

from Nautilus

What Misspellings Reveal About Cultural Evolution

BY HELENA MITON

Illustration by VectorMine / Shutterstock

Something about me must remind people of a blind 17th-century poet. My last name, Miton, is French, yet people outside of France invariably misspell it as “Milton”—as in the famed English author, John Milton, of the epic poem Paradise Lost.

It is not uncommon for people to misspell an unfamiliar name—yet 99 times out of 100 people misspell mine as “Milton.” That is the name that shows up on everything from my university gym card to emails from colleagues.

It might seem trivial, yet this misspelling actually illustrates a key feature of how cultural practices emerge and stabilize.

When studying culture, one of the key questions scientists ask is about continuity: Why do people do the same things, in roughly similar ways, over long periods of time? Consider how traditional food recipes, say tamales, have maintained a stable core definition over generations—corn-based dough cooked in corn husks.

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Posted on August 6, 2021 by Editor

Filed under Culture Music Art, Weirdness | | No Comments »