Does incorrect spelling matter?

“… who moved differently then I knew”: this is a quotation from the website announcing the film Pina by Wim Wenders (UK release 22 April 2011). The error, then for than, is a typical Dutch mistake, according to Joy Burrough-Boenisch in her book Righting English that’s gone Dutch (see elsewhere in this blog). This is probably why I’m always alert to the possibility that the spelling of this word can go wrong in my own writing. Wim Wenders, despite his first name, however, is not Dutch but German.

Seeing what is almost a kind of blemish on a beautifully presented film always, I suppose, with teachers like myself, raises the dilemma of whether to correct it or not. People might not be best pleased by such comments. The last time I drew attention to a transcription error on the fantastic website Jane Austen’s Fiction Manuscripts – privately rather than in a publication – I’m not sure my comment was well received. I was struck by the fact that there was one regular spelling in the manuscripts of the word adieu, which Jane Austen always spells differently in her letters. (I’m currently writing a book on the language of her letters.) The spelling adeiu is in fact one of her linguistic fingerprints. The single exception turned out a transcription error, but it still goes uncorrected.

Perhaps Wim Wenders will read this blog.

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