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.

7 thoughts on “Definately (sic) alot (sic)

  1. Spell checker is not always the answer.
    Spell Check Poem
    Also know as…
    The Pullet Surprise Can Did Ate
    Eye halve a spelling chequer
    It came with my pea sea,
    It plainly marques four my revue
    Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
    Eye strike a key and type a word
    And weight for it two say,
    Weather eye and wring oar write
    It shows me strait a weigh.
    As soon as a mist ache is maid
    It nose bee fore two long,
    And eye can put the error rite
    Its rare lea ever wrong.
    To rite with care is quite a feet
    Of witch won should bee proud,
    And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
    Sew flaw’s are knot aloud.
    Eye have run this poem threw it
    Your sure reel glad two no,
    Its letter perfect awl the weigh
    My chequer tolled me sew.
    -Sauce unknown

  2. Teaching her rear? I nearly spit out my coffee.

    I know I was guilty of both but after two or three dozen corrections to journals and essays I finally caught on, still have to think “finite” when writing it though.

    • I was dictating again (and not proofreading myself at all, it appears). That’s how MacSpeech Dictate heard “career.” And as it’s not a message I want permanently associated with myself, it’s now corrected. Thanks, Blythe (and I cannot believe that you ever made such gaffes by the time you were in high school—at least I don’t recall it that way, although I am the elderly and senile one nowadays…).

  3. I loved this post. I could never understand why people write “alot”. I also hate text writing- using rite for right, luv for love, etc. How hard would it be to type a few more letters to spell the words correctly??

    • I thoroughly agree, Colleen (but I read once that we’re just being stick-in-the-muds: having gone to the effort to learn the right way ourselves, we get grouchy at lazier writers for no real reason except that we know).

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