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Alternative political spellings

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Alternative political spellings

A satiric misspelling is an intentional misspelling of a word, phrase or name for a rhetorical purpose. This is often done by replacing a letter with another letter (for example, k replacing c), or symbol (for example, $ replacing s, @ replacing a, or ¢ replacing c). Satiric misspelling is found particularly in informal writing on the Internet, but can also be found in some serious political writing that opposes the status quo.

K replacing c

Replacing the letter c with k in the first letter of a word came into use by the Ku Klux Klan during its early years in the mid-to-late 19th century. The concept is continued today within the ranks of the Klan.

In the 1960s and early 1970s in the United States, leftists, particularly the Yippies, sometimes used Amerika rather than America in referring to the United States.[1] It is still used as a political statement today.[2] It is likely that this was originally an allusion to the German spelling of the word, and intended to be suggestive of Nazism, a hypothesis that the Oxford English Dictionary supports.

In broader usage, the replacement of the letter c with k denotes general political skepticism about the topic at hand and is intended to discredit or debase the term in which the replacement occurs.[3]

A similar usage in Italian, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese is to write okupa rather than ocupa (often on a building or area occupied by squatters,[4] referring to the name adopted by okupación activist groups), which is particularly remarkable because the letter "k" is rarely found in either Spanish, Portuguese or Italian words. It stems from Spanish anarchist and punk movements which used "k" to signal rebellion.[5]

KKK replacing c or k

A common satiric usage of the letters KKK is the spelling of America as Amerikkka, alluding to the Ku Klux Klan, drawing to a perceived notion of an underlying or inherent racism in American society. The earliest known usage of Amerikkka recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary is in 1970, in a journal called Black World. Presumably, this was an extrapolation from the then already widespread Amerika.

The spelling Amerikkka came into greater use after the 1990 release of the gangsta rap album AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted by Ice Cube, also used by rapper Spice 1 for his album AmeriKKKa's Nightmare and by shock rock band Undercover Slut for their album Amerikkka Macht Frei.

The letters KKK have been inserted into many other words, to indicate similar perceived racism, oppression or corruption. Examples include:

Currency signs replacing similar letters

The dollar sign ($) can be inserted in the place of the letter S, the euro sign (€) in place of e, the yen (¥) sign in place of Y, the won (₩) sign in place of W, or the pound (£) sign in place of L to indicate plutocracy, greed, corruption, or the perceived immoral, unethical, or pathological accumulation of money. For example:

  • App£e for Apple Inc.:[10] used in a similar way as Micro$oft, but with the Apple company. Relates to the allegation that the company charges high prices for their products. Also criticized for taking advantage of loyal customers and upgrading products annually for an expensive price, and for pervasive use of software patents as a means to corner the market and stifle innovation (patent trolling). Similarly, $teve Job$ is used for the company's former chief executive just like "Bill Gate$" is used for Microsoft's former chief executive. See also Criticism of Apple Inc. for a full list.
  • Co$ or $cientology for the Church of Scientology: Used by opponents to the Church of Scientology to imply that the religion is founded solely on financial rather than spiritual motives.[14]
  • kla$$ (for class): Used to draw attention to the belief that American citizens are widely and unfairly ranked solely on terms of their material wealth[15]
  • Micro$oft, M$, M$FT for Microsoft:[16] used to emphasize the allegation that Microsoft has business practices that focus on making money rather than producing good products or looking after the end user's needs and interests. Microsoft was found to have violated United States anti-trust law by taking unfair advantage of its monopoly position by giving Internet Explorer away for free to anyone who purchased a Windows or Macintosh computer and pre-installing it on Windows computers. See also: Criticism of Microsoft.
  • Orac£e for Oracle Corporation): Used by critics of Oracle Corporation after they acquired Sun Microsystems and their habit of being a patent troll (used in a similar way as M$ and App£e). "£arry €££i$on" is also used to insult Oracle Corporation in a similar way as "Bill Gate$".[17]
  • Ru$$ia for Russia: Used in reference to perceived corruption in the country.[18]
  • $ocialism for Socialism): Critics have pointed out that the idea of socialism has been exploited for profit, by politicians, corporations and artists. In particular as a criticism of Michael Moore.[19][20]
  • Ke$ha: Pop music artist. She specifically began styling her name this way to show that she would not work without compensation after Flo Rida failed to do so for her part on "Right Round".

"@" replacing "A", "at", or "O"

Since at least 1980, people have used the "at sign" ("@") as a representation of the circled letter A. This has been extended to substituting it for the letter "A" as in the crass fanzine Toxic Gr@fity[25]

It is often used to combine feminine and masculine words in Spanish in an attempt to form a gender neutral alternative. For example, Latin@ might be used in place of Latino/Latina.[26]

O, or A in place of one-another

Typically names ending in O are the masculine equivalent of feminine names ending in A. But in other cases, there are different reasons for this. In other cases, o is in the middle of a word when the pronunciation of an ending "a" or hard-vowel U is in place of a hard or soft O sound.

  • Californ-I/O', a nickname for the San Francisco Bay Area since places like San Jose have heavy computer industry in which I/O refers to the input/output mechanics of computers, and that California itself is also referred to as Californ-I-A with surf culture.

Hidden puns

Occasionally a word written in its orthodox spelling is altered with internal capital letters, hyphens, italics, or other devices so as to highlight a fortuitous pun. Some examples:

  • After the controversial 2000 U.S. Presidential elections, the alleged improprieties of the election prompted the use of such titles as "pResident" and "(p)resident"[27][28] for George W. Bush. The same effects were also used for Bill Clinton during and after Clinton's impeachment hearings. These devices were intended to suggest that the president was merely the resident of the White House rather than the legitimate president of the US, though all US presidents in general were a "r"esident of the United States in the beginning.
  • Similarly, the controversial United States law, the USA PATRIOT Act, is sometimes called the "patRiot Act", "(pat)Riot Act", "PAT Riot Act", "PAT RIOT Act", or "You Sap At Riot Act"[29][30] by its opponents.
  • The perception that membership in the United Nations is counter to US interests and sovereignty is denoted by the terms "Un-ited Nations" or "EU-nited Nations" (similarity to EU - European Union). Similarly, the perception that the United Nations is ineffectual (castrated) is denoted by the term "EUN-ited Nations" (similarity to eunuch).
  • Feminist theologian Mary Daly has used a slash to make a point about patriarchy: "gyn/ecology", "stag/nation", "the/rapist".[31]
  • In French, where con is an insulting word meaning "moron", the word conservateur (conservative) has been written "con-servateur",[32] "con… servateur",[33] or "con(servateur)".[34] The American English term neo-con, an abbreviation of neo-conservative, becomes a convenient pun when used in French.[35] In English, the first syllable of conservative can be emphasized to suggest a con artist.[36]
  • animated gears are superimposed over a cartoon brain to imply "cog"native reflexes.
  • f(r)iends; sometimes the so-called "friends" of some people possess qualities of fiends.
  • The British political satire magazine Private Eye has a long standing theme of insulting the law firm Carter-Ruck by replacing the R with an F to read Carter-Fuck. The law firm once requested that Private Eye cease spelling its name like that to which the magazine, true to form, started spelling it "Farter-Fuck".
  • (p)leather, though itself is not as pejorative as the other aforementioned examples here.
  • f(r)ee, what is sees as a "free" product has external costs that defeat the status of it being free. For instance, when somebody wins a free ocean cruise with Carnival or Caribbean Cruise Lines, certain expenses like airplane tickets, or cost of gasoline for getting from places miles away from the coast to the cruise ship port can negate the deal.
  • C(h)itroen (actually C is an S in this case), a term used to insinute that Citroen cars are "shit".
  • WinDO(w)S and Windows N(O)T (DOS), just simply drop the w before the s, and its easy to extend MS-DOS both as a play on words and as a merger of operating system API. Versions of Microsoft Windows below 64-bit editions are generally compatible with MS-DOS applications, of which is why Windows 95 was a valid replacement to MS-DOS since it was a transitioning point between Windows as a "DOS-extender" and as an independent operating system albeit with MS-DOS as a "bootloader". But when Windows NT was introduced, it was the first version of Windows that could boot fully independent of a DOS kernel hence the hidden pun of "Windows N(O)T DOS", but it would be some years before Windows XP would finally close the gap between Windows NT, and "consumer Windows".

Along the same lines, intentional misspellings can be used to promote a specific negative attribute, real or perceived, of a product or service. This is especially effective if the misspelling is done by replacing part of the word with another that has identical phonetic qualities. Examples:

  • The term "Windoze", which emerged on Usenet in the early 1990s and was subsequently added to the Jargon File, is used in reference to Microsoft Windows. Doze is a paraphrase of DOS, the operating system that Windows used until Windows 95, which was considered negative compared to other "real" multitasking operating systems. "Winblows" and "Winbloze" are also similar to "Windoze" in reference to Microsoft Windows as well. A similar one for Linux is "Linsux".
  • Another way is to transpose letters (pronunciation is less important). For example, "" has been set up for critics of United Airlines.
  • There are also various misspellings like this for specific Windows versions as well. For example, "XPee" for Windows XP, "Vi$ta" or "$hista" for Windows Vista, and "$leven" or "$levin" for Windows 7 are all widely used on various Web forums and other sites (such as Additionally, people having bloatware and incompatibility problems with Windows Vista refer to it as Windows Hasta La Vista, satirizing the problems it introduced.[37]
  • The British daily newspaper The Guardian is sometimes referred to by its anagram, "The Grauniad" (as originated with the satiric journal Private Eye), satirizing the newspaper's poor proofreading and frequent typographical errors.
  • On the cases where the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile favours Scuderia Ferrari in Formula One, the FIA is often referred as FIArrari.
  • It is quite common for users of rival social networks to refer to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg as "Suckerberg"[38] to make fun of Facebook's strong network effect and vaguely Microsoft-like business practices.
  • "Viacock" is also common in YouTube for criticism by YouTube users that when certain videos were taken down and deleted by Viacom for copyright reasons.

Some place names are also spelled differently in order to emphasize some political view. For instance, Brasil (the Portuguese spelling of "Brazil"), is sometimes misconstrued as a typo for Brazil in English texts.[39] Alternatively, the English spelling Brazil is used in Portuguese pieces of text as a way to denote Anti-Americanism or Anti-globalization sentiment.

Journalists may make a politicized editorial decision by choosing to differentially retain (or even create) misspellings, mispronunciations, ungrammaticisms, dialect variants, or interjections.

Intentional misspellings, or spellings used to emphasize dialect, are often used to suggest illiteracy or ignorance. Witness such permutations as "pubblik skoolz", or "public screwels", the latter initially associated with talk radio. A similar phenomenon would be T-shirts saying "I is a kollege stoodent," "Hookt on Foniks Wurks Fur Mee!" or some such, suggesting that college students are ignorant.

Misspellings may also be used to indicate a speaker's accent, when the writer finds that accent worthy of ridicule. A well-known example is nucular, perceived as a regional or uneducated pronunciation of nuclear; Hahvahd is meant to reflect the local pronunciation of Harvard University. Another example would be Americker to highlight the use of the intrusive R.

See also


External links

  • On de spelling and use of various words by Mangwiro A. Sadiki-Yisrael
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