Avoiding spelling mistakes.


The noun history is obviously an important word in the English language, especially for anyone preparing a thesis or academic research project. A search of the Thammasat University Libraries online public access catalogue (OPAC) for the word history turns up over 30,000 results. Perhaps because the word history is written so often in Thai English, it is also spelled wrong in many ways. Writers of Thai English sometimes mistakenly write hisotry or histry or histroy or hitory or hsitory instead of the correct history. This can be a serious problem if we want to be taken seriously as researchers. If as readers, we see a book with the title

Hisotry of Thailand


Histry of Thailand


Histroy of Thailand


Hitory of Thailand


Hsitory of Thailand,

we may wonder whether the author is a reliable historian. How much understanding will a book contain if the author is careless enough to make a mistake about a common word like history? So it is especially important that we take the time to avoid this sort of misstep with a familiar word. How can such errors be prevented? Part of the issue may be carelessness by inattentive writers. If we write down a word in English that we are familiar with, we may take less care to make sure it is spelled correctly. Since we think we know how to spell the word history correctly, we would not do a Google search for the proper spelling. Also, we might not look carefully to see if the automatic spell check feature of our Word document program in English has underlined the word in red, indicating that there may be a problem with the way it is written. This is a sign that we are too comfortable with certain words, if we no longer make an effort to get them right. Native speakers of English often take spelling for granted, and that is one way that mistakes occur. Instead, if we remind ourselves of the source and meaning of the word, it is less likely that we will fall into this pattern.

The noun history, as we know, refers to something that happened in the past. It involves something that questions are asked about, or that is investigated, It can also mean everything that happened in the past, relating to a person, place, or thing. When a book is entitled a history, than we usually expect it to tell a series of past events in the order that they happened. The word originates from Greek terms meaning to inquire, a wise person or judge, and to see and know. So a historian is an inquiring wise person or judge who sees into the past and knows things as a result. A good history should be inquisitive, wise, judicious, insightful, and knowledgeable. In this case, the roots of the word history are useful for remembering what it means, and also to keep in mind a general ideal for what it should be. Note that many words exist in English inspired by the word history:















Because these are longer and more complex words than history, chances are if we even had to include them in a thesis or research paper, we would check their correct spelling. Knowing even one of these terms well makes it more probable that we will spell history correctly. Looking at the most commonly appearing incorrect spellings, hisotry and histry and histroy and hitory and hsitory, we see that some of them are clear examples of human error. For instance, reversing the order of letters by typing too fast can result in the incorrect hisotry or histroy or hsitory instead the correct history. Two other wrong spellings may have more complex causes. In British English, the word history is sometimes pronounced as histry. Thai writers who may be trying to seem elegant and British may follow this sound and assume that the word is spelled without the essential letter o. This results in a mistake which may be avoided if we take care to sound out all the syllables of any word and not take short cuts in pronunciation. While some letters are silent when we pronounce words in English, this is not the case of many words. In pronouncing the word history, we should hear every vowel and consonant. If we make a point of saying the letter o in history, we may not sound British, but we are likely to recall that the letter o does exist in this word as written. Without needing to remember details about other foreign languages apart from English, it may be useful to keep in mind that around the world, the word history is also seen in variations that keep the letter o as part of the word:

Language       translations of the word history

Albanian        histori

Basque            historia

Bosnian          istorija

Catalan           història

Czech               historie

Danish            historie

Finnish           historia

French            histoire

Galician          historia

Italian             storia

Lithuanian     istorija

Maltese           istorja

Norwegian     historie

Polish              historia

Portuguese     história

Romanian      istorie

Slovak             história

Spanish           historia

Swedish          historia

Swahili            historia

Maori               hītori

Esperanto       historio

Although there are some exceptions to the rule, as with all things involving language, generally the word history is so well established that it is recognizable in most other languages. For this reason, it should be especially easy to spot if something has gone wrong when it is written in English. Another way to make it less likely to commit this error would be to learn by heart one of the many short sayings that are often quoted about history for English readers. Among these:

History repeats itself.


History does not belong to us, we belong to it.

                                         Hans-Georg Gadamer

A generation which ignores history has no past — and no future. 

                                          Robert A. Heinlein

I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past, — so good night!

                                           Thomas Jefferson

History admits no rules, only outcomes.

                                            David Mitchell

The historian is a prophet facing backwards.

                                           August Wilhelm Schlegel

The very ink with which all history is written is merely fluid prejudice.

                                         Mark Twain

There is properly no history, only biography.

                                       Ralph Waldo Emerson

History is only the register of crimes and misfortunes.


We may not agree with these statements and sometimes we may strongly disagree with them, but if we remember one of them, it is more likely that we will correctly spell the word history.

(All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)