deliberate misspellings

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Mar 26 07:30:51 UTC 2001

At 2:36 PM -0800 3/26/01, leslie savan wrote:
>Has anyone written about deliberate misspellings and letter
>substitutions, especially in Hip Hop-influenced culture? I'm not
>asking about "eye dialect" (at least I don't think I am), but
>rather, for example, about substituting Z for S (skillz, boyz) and
>other kinds of respellings (stoopid, sucka). Companies have been
>doing this for years to gain attention (from Beanz Meanz Heinz to
>Miller Lite), but has anyone looked into the history of deliberate
>misspellings in Hip Hop and possibly in earlier AAVE?

Note that these examples are not parallel.  "Beanz meanz Heinz" may
well be a "deliberate misspelling" for commercial effect, but "lite"
(as in beer and other food and drink) meaning 'low in calories' is a
well-established spelling and, arguably, a distinct lexical item from
"light".  For example, if you explain that you want light beer (=
pilsener) rather than dark (= porter, stout), you can't spell this as
"lite".  More recently, this has extended to metaphorical uses (=
'not serious').    The examples with "skillz" and "boyz" are
motivated on sociolinguistic grounds and are distinct from both the
commercial misspellings--or less judgmentally, novel spellings (Kool
cigarettes, Beanz means Heinz, E-Z Pass)--and the "lite" example.


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