tumeric/turmeric & donut/doughnut

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Mon Oct 16 18:29:22 UTC 2000

 > From the comments received I would think "tumeric" should be the
preferred form in North American dictionaries simply because it could be
the most frequently used form.

And perhaps the adjective 'principal' should appear as 'principle'. The
singular of 'species' of course should appear as 'specie'. Most words with
'ie' will have variants with 'ei' and vice versa. Perhaps the possessive
pronoun 'its' should be replaced with 'it's'. And probably 'hermaphrodite'
should be listed (if at all) as an archaic variant of the preferred
'morphodite'/'morphadite'. 'Masonry' will be pronounced /meis at neri/,
'nuclear' /nukj at l@r/. I don't think I'll be investing in such a dictionary

If the dictionary is based upon a consensus taken from the illiterati, or
even from somewhat educated persons who are not interested in words, the
dictionary will be very small: the popular consensus for the majority of
the OED lexicon, I'm sure, will be "no such word exists."

I don't recognize 'tumeric', but, like many, I've seldom or never discussed
turmeric at all.

One should be able to rely on the dictionary to provide him with a
'correct' spelling/pronunciation/meaning which is a consensus derived from
educated persons who have considered the matter; the dictionary should not
be merely a grab-bag of offhand notions of the foolish and careless. If I
want to speak or write in a sloppy and ignorant manner, I can do it very
well (as all can see) on my own; it comes naturally, and I don't need a
dictionary to help me in this.

I don't see 'tumeric' even as a variant in my standard dictionaries (RH,
M-W, AH, OED). I don't find it in a quick survey of Web-based dictionaries,
except once as an apparent typographical error in the 1913 Webster's (not
as a headword).

Do those who know of the existence of 'turmeric' often use 'tumeric'
instead? Or is it just a common careless error? If it's common enough, or
if it's used in respected literature, it should appear in the dictionary --
labeled as a variant, or as a popular error (the distinction a matter of
lexicographic judgement).

BTW, a naive Web search finds the two spellings almost equally.

'Donut' is (IMHO) a very different case. It's in all the conventional US
dictionaries. It is (like 'catalog' vs. 'catalogue') a time-honored variant
which is commonly used deliberately by educated persons who are fully aware
of the alternative 'doughnut'.

-- Doug Wilson
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