The United States has a government official called the Surgeon General who is the nation’s chief adviser in matters of health. One of the most famous to hold the job was Dr. C. Everett Koop, author of warning labels on cigarette packages.
We need a Teacher General who could advise and decree on matters of English usage.
Until a President arises who sees the need for such an office, I’m willing to be the Unofficial Teacher General of the United States. I’ll begin by placing virtual warning labels on two recent advertising products that could be harmful to writers whose spelling is a bit shaky to begin with.
The first is the title of a recent Will Smith movie: The Pursuit of Happyness. Since the title is already quite catchy, echoing as it does a familiar line from the American Declaration of Independence, the reason for the “cutesy” spelling eludes me.
The rule for adding suffixes to words ending in “y” is to change the “y” to “i” before adding the suffix: happy + ness = happiness. This spelling rule also applies to forming noun plurals and third person verb forms: baby/babies; carry/carries.
The other offender is a recent Target television commercial that has singers chanting words like “fabulous,” “meticulous,” “stainless,” “timeless.” Otherwise entertaining, the ad has captions that spell “fabulous” as “fabuless” and “meticulous” as “meticuless.”
If American schools were producing efficient spellers, such media nonsense could be shrugged away. As it is, misspelled advertising copy only adds to the confusion of a public already insecure when it comes to standard usage.
The word from the Teacher General is, don’t trust advertising spelling. Invest in a reliable dictionary.