Sensational spelling

Sensational spelling is the deliberate spelling of a word in an incorrect or non-standard way for special effect.[1]


Sensational spellings are common in advertising[1] and product placement. In particular, brand names[1] such as Cadbury's "Creme Egg" (standard English spelling: cream), Weet-Bix (wheat), Blu-ray (blue) or Kellogg's "Froot Loops" (fruit) may use unexpected spellings to draw attention to or trademark an otherwise common word.[2] In video games, a well-known example of sensational spelling is "Mortal Kombat" (combat); some versions of this game also include an "Insert Koin" (coin) prompt in the arcade mode.

In popular culture

Sensational spelling may take on a cult value in popular culture. An example of this is the heavy metal umlaut. Also, the rail service Amtrak is portmanteau of the words "America" and "track", the latter having a sensational spelling of "trak".

During the 1960s, bands often included in their names misspelled words and/or homophones that played on double meanings of the names as spoken. Examples include the Beatles, an intentional misspelling of "Beetles",[3] the Byrds, and Led Zeppelin, in which "led" was deliberately misspelled to make clear it is pronounced lead (as in the metal)[4] rather than the other pronunciation.

The deliberate misspelling of words in album or song titles has its origins in early 1970s rock, such as

In the 1980s it became common with funk artists such as Prince (e.g. "U Got The Look", "I Would Die 4 U"), and eventually came to be epitomized in the rap and hip hop genres, with both song titles (e.g. Usher's "U Remind Me" and T-Pain's "Buy U A Drank") and artists' names (e.g. Ludacris, Phanatik, Timbaland, Xzibit, Gorillaz) using the form. Sensational spelling was common amongst nu metal bands of the late 1990s and early 2000s (e.g., Korn, Linkin Park and Limp Bizkit). The term "nu metal" itself is a sensational spelling of "new metal", and sometimes even stylized as "nü-metal", with an additional metal umlaut.

An influential hard-rock magazine of the 1970s–80s was Creem. In 2009, in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, Rodrick's band is called "Löded Diper".

On the Internet

In imageboards such as 4chan and the Encyclopedia Dramatica wiki, "lulz", an intentional misspelling of LOL, is used to denote gloating. Doing something "for the lulz" (also abbreviated as ftlulz) means doing something "just for laughs" and often portrays a hedonistic behaviour.


In esoteric circles, magic is often spelled "magick" to differentiate it from stage magic.

Terry Pratchett's fifth Discworld novel, published in 1988, is titled Sourcery, a sensational spelling of the word "sorcery". A sourcerer is, according to Pratchett, "a wizard squared; while the eighth son of a non-wizard is a wizard, the eighth son of a wizard is a sourcerer. A source of magic."

See also


  1. 1 2 3 Rozakis, Laurie E. (2008). I Before "E" Except After "C": Spelling for the Alphabetically Challenged. Citadel Press. p. 24. ISBN 0-8065-2884-2.
  2. Ross, Nigel (2006). "Writing in the Information Age". English Today. Cambridge University Press. 22: 40. doi:10.1017/S0266078406003063.
  3. Harry, Bill (2000). The Beatles Encyclopedia: Revised and Updated. London: Virgin Publishing. pp. 103–104. ISBN 978-0-7535-0481-9.
  4. Keith Shadwick (2005). Led Zeppelin The Story of a Band and their Music 1968-1980. p. 36. ISBN 0-87930-871-0.
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