Definately (sic) alot (sic)

This one may be short and sweet, or bitter, depending on how it comes out. For once the title says it all: “definately” “alot.”

I’m starting to feel that no one knows how to spell definitely. For the last twenty years in my teaching career, I think I corrected definately to definitely more than any other mistake except maybe student-creating one word of the phrase a lot. Both errors are omnipresent, apparently, on the Internet, at least in e-mail and on Facebook and any other post anybody makes electronically. Why is that? It’s an avoidable situation. I’ve got my computer programmed, using a little Mac app called Typinator, to auto-correct such foolish goofs. Doesn’t anybody else care? You can make Word do similar corrections, and I know some people at least do try out e-mails and posts in a word processor before sending or posting. Reading ill-conceived and ill edited e-mails and posts, I’m beginning to think everyone should proof their writing of every kind first in a word processor.

Unfortunately, even for me it’s just too easy to write and post right there in the browser. And I make typos myself. Boy, do I make typos. (And, of course, this MacSpeech Dictate software that I’ve gone back to using for today’s post can create some doozies by mishearing what I say.) So I probably should get off my high horse, but I won’t.

On to the grammar lecture (well, really it’s a spelling lecture). I am beginning to feel I definitely have a lot to say.

Both errors seem pretty ignorant to me. Taking the easier, second one first, “a lot” is a phrase not a single word, just like “a little.” And I don’t see anyone writing alittle, one word. So where does alot, one word, come from? And why? Are we all just stupid? Surely we see it in print correctly as two words, a lot.

Furthermore the phrase “a lot” says what it means. There’s this thing, this lot. Which lotA lot. That lot. This lot. A lot. The a is an adjective, modifying—or describing—the lot. So it’s two words, my friends and faithful readers, please.

And definitely definitely has no A in it. Never did, never will. I am quite definite about this. We all are. Aren’t we? And in my experience most people who use the word definite know that there is no A in that word, the adjective from which the adverb definitely derives.

Both the adjective and adverb (definite and definitely) come from finite, meaning “limited,” the opposite of infinite, “unlimited.” So to be definite means to be clearly limited about the point of view or opinion. And when one does something definitely, one does it in a clearly limited way.

Since finite is pronounced “fine•ite”  (with a definite long I in the second syllable), the spelling for its derivative definitely should definitely be easy.

I could go on—a lot, but I should definitely keep this finite. The End. (I just wish I could’ve thought of some pictures to illustrate these topics.)

(I hope you’re happy, Shark, because it was thinking of you partying with Janet in Milwaukee over the weekend that got me to think of doing a grammar post, your favorite.)

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.