or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, August 07, 2006


Yeah, you can spell "goldfish", but can you spell the dog?

In a recent Slate.com article, Jill Hunter Pellettieri writes about what's wrong with the current crop of talking-animal animated movies, and I couldn't agree more. What I don't agree with, though, is one of the words in this paragraph:

Other basic elements: a villain, who's typically human—Cruella De Vil in 101 Dalmations; the diabolical niece, Darla, in Finding Nemo. And, of course, a happy ending: Call it the triumph of the inhuman spirit.

I hesitate to say that there's no such word as "Dalmation", because if you Google it you'll find very nearly a million hits. But the fact is that it's wrong.

The correct spelling is "Dalmatian". The suffix "-ian" means "of or relating to", and it's often used to describe residents of countries and regions, such as "Canadian" and "Bohemian". And Dalmatia is indeed a place: formerly an Austrian province, now part of Croatia, identified as the original breeding place of the dog.

The suffix "-tion", on the other hand, is what we use to convert a word (it can be a noun, verb, or adjective) into a noun, as in "abstract/abstraction", "populace/population", or "demolish/demolition".

It's pretty easy to see how the mistake can be made, of course: when pronounced, "Dalmation" and "Dalmatian" sound exactly the same, and the "-tion" ending appears in thousands of English words, so we're used to it. But any reputable spell-checker would have caught the error, and despite its Google-demonstrated popularity, "Dalmation" is still wrong. In a hundred years? Who knows? But for now, entirely wrong.


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