Print

Here's a bit of orthographic weirdness that I was introduced to by my parents. They were quite annoyed by an upcoming new show called "The Dilemma" because, they said, it was misspelled. Apparently, they were both taught, in different schools, to spell dilemma as "dilemna." I went on to the internet, and apparently many thousands of people were taught the same thing over the years. Just google "dilemma dilemna" and you'll find a lot of people who learned it the second way.

I was curious how this could be, so first I looked it up in several dictionaries to see if some might consider it a valid alternaitve spelling. It isn't. Then I looked up the etymology, and it quite clearly comes from di- "two" + lemma "premise, anything received or taken," so that's not the problem. Then I looked up <mna> in the Word Searcher, thinking it might be one of those things, I can't think of the name, where it was influenced by the spelling of another similar word, but there aren't any -- all the words listed are like "alumna" where the <n> is pronounced.

So it's clearly a misspelling, but one that was taught (and perhaps is still being taught) in schools all over the world (some of the comments I encountered were Brits claiming that <mm> must just be another weird Americanization), which made me wonder how this widespread misspelling ever got started, not to mention making its way into classroom teaching? Anyone have any ideas?