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Nov 22 2012   3:44PM GMT

Spelling holiday terms: What’s that ubiquitous red plant?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore


Which is correct?
How do you spell the name of that red plant you see everywhere during the holiday season?
a. pointsetta
b. poinsetta
c. poinsettia
d. pointsettia

Answer: c.

This is a tricky one, unless you pronounce it correctly — which I freely admit I never did, growing up. I thought it was pronounced “pointsetta” and spelled it accordingly. Maybe that was the common pronunciation in my area or maybe everyone but me got it right. Let’s see how everyone’s doing with this one these days. Time for another Google poll:

pointsetta: 1,270,000
poinsetta: 6,790,000
poinsettia: 8,610,000
pointsettia: 2,430,000

Well, I feel better now. Way more people got this wrong than right, even if they took three different misspellings to accomplish it. And, lord knows, there are undoubtedly misspellings I didn’t think of.

Peggy Hazelwood discusses poinsettias and other commonly misspelled holiday words. Like me, she doesn’t pronounce the “i” — I have managed to drop the extra “t” from my poinsettia but saying “poyn-set-ee-a” still sounds to me like a pronunciation that would invite mockery. Altogether too correct.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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