Tongue vs. Tounge

This is a common misspelling that you will see all the time on the internet. It almost feels like no one knows how to spell it. But why is it such a common mistake? Are people really that bad at spelling, or is there something wrong with the word itself?

What You Want: Tongue

Stories about it being the strongest muscle in the body have been massively exaggerated. I can bench more than any tongue, and I don’t even work out.

Still, it’s a versatile organ in our bodies. Not only does it help move food around our mouths so we can chew and swallow, it’s also the organ that lets us taste and enjoy that food.

By manipulating our tongues we are able to make different sounds: without it we wouldn’t be able to talk. And it allows us to create music – anyone who plays any kind of wind instrument will tell you that manipulating the tongue is vital to creating good sounds. Especially with an instrument like a harmonica where you can bend the notes.

But even more important that all of these things, our tongues help keep our airways open so we can breathe and not die.

What You Said: Tounge

Every time I read this I stumble. It looks like it just sounds wrong. “Townj”. I don’t like the sound it makes in my head.

Tounge isn’t a word that can be found in the Merriam-Webster or the Oxford English. Wiktionary defines it as a misspelling of tongue. The Urban Dictionary has some “interesting” definitions (NSFW warning).

Why It Happens

Why is this such a common misspelling? We can’t really know for sure but one interesting thing you may have noticed is that I neglected one of the definitions when I linked to Wiktionary:

  1. Obsolete spelling of tongue.

It actually used to be spelt a varying number of ways until it was standardised, and “tounge” was actually a pretty common spelling. Other spellings included tung, tong, tonge, toong, toongue, toung, toungue, and tunge.

It’s an interesting titbit, but I don’t think it’s the reason people misspell it today. It’s got to be all those vowels. They’re all wrong. If you go by pronunciation, it sounds more like tung than tong. It just feels like that “u” needs to be on the left side of that “ng”. I think that instinctively people want to spell it “tounge” because it feels a lot closer to how it actually sounds.

A Solution…?

Probably the best solution here is to just ignore it. When I said I don’t like the sound it makes in my head, that’s a me problem. I still know what the person meant to say. Besides, the person typing might not be a native speaker, or they could have issues with spelling, or they could have just made a simple typo. As long as they can be understood, it’s just nitpicking to get annoyed at such a common mistake.

Or fuck it. Let’s just change the spelling. It’s not like we haven’t before.

Featured Photo by Mona Eendra on Unsplash

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