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Spelling diarrhea... diarrhoea? How to spell it correct... ly!

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I say, old man, how do you spell diarrhoea?

The unfortunate circumstances of such a word causes undulations of the brain that seem to twist consonants and vowels in strange configurations:

is it diarhea or diarrhoea?  Dioreah or "Diet, Urethra!"

How could such an unfortunate concept come to be represented with this confusing combination of sounds?

Reading this word misspelled in a fellow hubster's writings, I felt called to do a bit of research!

Origins of a word in opposition to constipation

Etymological Approach:

1. The spelling of "diarrhea" is an appropriation of the Greek "diarrhoia" meaning "a flowing through."

2. Middle English diaria, from Medieval Latin, from Late Latin diarrhoea, from Greek diarroia, from diarrein, to flow through : dia-, dia- + rhein, to flow, run; see sreu- in Indo-European roots.]

3. diarrhoea U.S. diarrhea noun the runs, the trots (informal) dystentery, looseness, the skits (informal) Montezuma's revenge (informal) gippy tummy, holiday tummy, Spanish tummy, the skitters (informal)

4.  "oe" / "ae / "e": Common diphthongs like “oe” / “œ” (e.g. “diarrhoea”, “oestrogen”) and “ae” / “æ” (e.g. “encyclopaedia”, “leukaemia”, “anaesthesia”) in British and Canadian spelling "diarrhea", “estrogen”, “encyclopedia”, “leukemia”, “anesthesia”). are usually simplified in American usage to “e”

5. 1398, from O.Fr. diarrie, from L. diarrhoea, from Gk. diarrhoia "diarrhea" (coined by Hippocrates), lit. "a flowing through," from diarrhein "to flow through," from dia- "through" + rhein "to flow." Respelled 16c. from diarria on Latin model.

RESPELLED? Why? What happened in the 16th century that would have caused such a word to be respelled?

A direct quote from The Spelling Society

"English is said to be a Germanic language because the high frequency function words are of German and Norse origin. On this backbone of several hundred Anglo Saxon words, English has absorbed thousands of words from other languages such as French, and Latin, and Greek. One can find Sanskrit words such as guru and pundit.

"After the Norman French conquest in 1066, English acquired a duplicate vocabulary consisting of hundreds of French words. Although the Norman French scribes tampered with the spelling it remained highly phonemic. Words continued to be spelled as they were pronounced.

"In the 15th Century there was a dramatic shift in the pronunciation of the long vowels in over half of the words in the language. Pronunciation shifts are not unusual and all languages experience them to some degree. The cumulative effect of the shift and the failure to respell the affected words was, as Webster noted, the destruction of the alphabet. These words were not respelled.

"Because many of these words arrived in the 16th Century just after the alphabet had been effectively destroyed by the Great Vowel Shift, most of them were not respelled as they typically are in other languages where words are spelled as they are pronounced."

Spelling Dearest's take

"In 16th century England, lawyers and their clerks added extra letters to words because they were paid by the length of their documents. No one knows for sure whether adding these surplus letters has affected the spelling we have today, but it certainly contributed to the tumultuous spelling in the 16th century. These individuals also spaced lines ridiculously far apart and created huge margins to elongate their manuscripts, so there's little doubt about what they were up to. Lucky for them they weren't paid by the shortness of their integrity or they'd have gone bankrupt! And the legal profession wonders why it gets the reputation for being money-grabbing!"

Spelling Reform's list of 16th century English reformers

During the 16th Century in England, there was a huge movement towards spelling reform, inspired by the humanistic revival of classical influences inspired by the Renaissance.

These men had great influence on English orthology:

Claude Holyband 1576 'the great strife betwene them that would haue our tongue written after the auncient orthographie, and those that do take away many letters as superfluous in writing'

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Richard Mulcaster 1582 aimed to 'rip vp the hole certainties of our English writing' so that he 'maie wipe awaie that opinion of either vncertaintie for confusion or impossibilitie for direction, that both the naturall English maie haue wherein to rest and the desirous stranger maie haue whereby to learn'

John Hart 1569 An Orthographie
4 forms of corruption: diminution - 1 letter 2 sounds; superfluity - not sounded but used for quantity; usurpation - one takes the place of the other g/j/; misplacing - proper order is violated
omissions: y, w, c, silent e; no capital letters (but slant before letter)
additions: 5/6 new characters for consonantal i, ch, vocalic l; dot under vowel to show length

Sir John Cheke (ca 1542 as described by Strype 1705)
'1. He would have none of the letter E put to the end of Words, as needless and unexpressive of any Sounds as in these Words Excus, giv … Vnless where it is sounded and then to be writ with a double E, as in Necessitee
2. Where the Letter A was sounded long, he would have it writ with a double AA in distinction from A short as in maad, Straat, Daar
4. Where the Letter I was sounded long, to be writ with double I, as in Desiir, Liif
4 He wholy threw out the Letter Y out of the Alphabet, as useless, and supplied it ever with I, as mi, sai, awai.

Personal common knowledge approach

DIA means Denver International Airport.

RHEA was the MOTHER of Gods and from her flowed all the elements of the Universe.

Thus, in common language, diarhea would be the correct spelling and would indicate that DIA embodied Rhea, meaning from our parachute-like airplane runways flow all the elements of the Universe.

Besides, remembering DIA Rhea in this way helps me put the R before the H, which was the point of this entire examination; I wanted to spell the word correctly!

So... why the extra R...?

© 2009 Barbara


chester on February 10, 2014:

I love this page

khalie on February 10, 2014:

This page doesn't answer my question which was how is diarrhea correctly spelt

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on October 21, 2010:

What a fun and informative hub! Thanks.

Helen Lewis from Florida on September 16, 2010:

Your title captured me and made me laugh before I had read any of the hub. I agree, this is a heck of a word to spell and I constantly get it wrong. Wow, you sure did your research.. well done on an amusing and interesting hub!

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on September 06, 2010:

RFox, they do give us a laugh, don't they! Thanks.

RFox on September 01, 2010:

lol...enjoyed this....oh those olde english blokes and their letters!

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on September 01, 2010:

hahahaha, Dolores you crack me up!!! Thanks. You are awesome.

Dolores Monet from East Coast, United States on September 01, 2010:

Story, excellent hub. I love how they used to be so individual and creative with Spelling, how they would capitalize a word just because they felt that it was important. If not fore spel chek, aul mi hubs wood look lik ths.

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on August 21, 2010:

lsg, thank you for being the second person to clarify this- see Cobra's comment above. I hope my addition to that section clears up ANY suggestion that I wrote it. Have a good day!

learn spelling games on August 20, 2010:

Although this is a great hub, the comment regarding "the shortness of lawyer’s integrity" was written by Niall McLeod Waldman, the author of Spelling Dearest. That part of the hub was a quote, out of quotation marks, not actually written by Storytellersrus.

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on July 11, 2010:

Mr. Happy, you've put me on notice. My work will be a bit devilish until someone blesses me with a sign up! Beware!

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on July 11, 2010:

lol Just saw you are at 666 followers ... hurry up and get a new one (or you might get a really weird one) rofl Cheers!

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on July 11, 2010:

An honest laugh is appreciated even by an "always" happy guy like me. I am great, thank you. All the best to you :)

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on July 09, 2010:

Mr. Happy, how are you? It has been a long time! I am glad I can make you laugh considering you are ALWAYS happy, right? lol

Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on July 08, 2010:

lol Your blogs always make me laugh (in a good way). Awesome, thank you!

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on April 29, 2010:

hahaha, PaulieWalnuts, you silly man. Thank you for this run of words, far far from amok...

PaulieWalnuts from Chicago on April 28, 2010:

Awesome Hub, this is not "diarrhea of the mouth" pen! When I need to use this word written in a sentence, I always tend to "fudge" (no pun intended) the word. I avoid it at all costs. Misspelling it on purpose to get away from associating myself with it. As if I would "catch" something from its proper definition and spelling, but Webster's definition is too gross. Diarrhea is a "mojo" word with evil powers. lol! Diarrhea...cha cha cha, Diarrhea....cha cha cha!

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on September 06, 2009:

Yes, and I actually did cite this if you click on the link beside it. Thanks for the clarification, Cobra.

Cobra on September 06, 2009:

Although this is a great hub, the comment regarding "the shortness of lawyer’s integrity" was written by Niall McLeod Waldman, the author of Spelling Dearest. That part of the hub was a quote, out of quotation marks, not actually written by Storytellersrus.

Jaspal from New Delhi, India on August 09, 2009:

Great hub Storytellersrus, and so very well written! Your turn of phrase had me in splits: I'm still laughing at the lawyers "not being paid by the shortness of their integrity..." :)

In India we are a little slow to change, and I think the loosies are still spelt with an o: diarrhoea.

Why cannot the UK and the USA reach an agreement on English Language spellings and make life simpler for the rest of the world? Or, should the question have been, "Why do the Americans have to be so contrary?" After all, the Britishers had their English language long before the pilgrim fathers set sail for the New Land. The rest of us might as well follow their idiom and spelling. Why should grey become gray on the other side of the pond? Or tyre become tire, and yet the original tire still continue to remain tire? To say nothing of humour and humor or centre and center?

bingskee from Quezon City, Philippines on August 09, 2009:

this amused me. hubbers can really write about anything under the sun. it is how you write it that makes it interesting. good one!

Dave McClure from Worcester, UK on August 08, 2009:

Amanda - I'll never forget that! Brilliant :)

(Nice hub too!)

Barbara (author) from Stepping past clutter on August 08, 2009:

Lol, Amanda too funny.

Amanda Severn from UK on August 08, 2009:

Fascinating stuff. Whenever I hear this word, I always think it should be spelt Dire Rear because that's what it gives you!

Susan Keeping from Kitchener, Ontario on August 08, 2009:

Interesting :) I always have trouble with that word and have to look it up every single time I have to use it.

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