The Guardian newspaper used to be a byword for typographical errors of one kind and another, which is where its nickname the Grauniad comes from.
Those days are gone. But occasional errors remain, here as elsewhere. (And as someone who commits the odd typing error from time to time myself, I’m in no position to throw stones.)
It is when a spelling mistake is repeated several times in the same article that one begins to feel critical. Yesterday’s paper had a health article by Patrick Kingsley devoted to macular disease, the eye condition that can lead to blindness.
Although the disease is correctly referred to as macular, the part of the eye affected is the macula. We nonrhotic speakers pronounce the two terms identically, but the noun is correctly spelt without r, the adjective with.
Patrick Kingsley got it wrong, spelling both terms macular.In the version now available on the website the spelling has been corrected and there is an embarrassed apology.
The fact that even highly literate university graduates such as Guardian journalists still have difficulties with English spelling supports the view that it ought to be reformed. However any reform intended to apply to English as a whole would have to retain the letter r in those positions where rhotic speakers (who are the majority) retain it. So nonrhotic speakers are still going to have to learn and apply spelling differences that from our point of view are unpredictable, arbitrary: perhaps cawt (caught) vs. cort (court), even though they are homophones for us.
Even if we reform our spelling it’s going to have to be marimba but timber, Virginia but linear, necrophilia but familiar, and umbrella but cellar, not to mention lava and larva. Tough.
So it is with macula and macular, and likewise for the exactly parallel uvula – uvular, peninsula – peninsular. Classicists will recognize Latin first-declension nouns in -ă and their corresponding adjectives in -ār(is).
Still on spelling: today’s paper has a piece mentioning the Welsh historical figure Owen Glendower, or Owain Glyndŵr as he is spelt in Welsh.
The Guardian journalist who contributed it is keen to use the Welsh form of his name, but unfortunately writes it Owain Glyndwyr, not once but twice. So far this error hasn’t been corrected on the website….