2885: Spelling

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Any time I misspell a word it's just because I have too much integrity to copy answers from the dictionary.
Title text: Any time I misspell a word it's just because I have too much integrity to copy answers from the dictionary.


Search engines like Google offer the correct spelling of most misspelled words. Some people get help with hard-to-spell words like "plagiarism" by entering their best guess into Google, then copy-pasting the correct version.

Cueball has an unusually strict interpretation of plagiarism in which copying the individual word "plagiarism" without attribution would be plagiarizing, and this misplaced integrity makes him morally opposed to doing so.

He also does not consider the option to cite his Google search of the often misspelled word as a source when including the correct spelling "plagiarism" in his document:

"plagerism - Google Search." Google, https://www.google.com/search?q=plagerism. Accessed 24 January 2024.

The title text implies that Cueball's absurdist view of plagiarism applies much more widely when he says he only ever misspells words because he has too much integrity to copy the spelling from the dictionary, an act he also considers to be plagiarism. Simply using the dictionary to spell a word correctly or lookup its definition is not plagiarism and does not require a citation. Any style guide or professional editor would advise Cueball that correct spelling is much preferred to incorrect spelling or superfluous citations.

Note that while spelling assistance should not be cited, citing a dictionary can be appropriate when using the entry associated with a word, for example:

  • Providing a definition: If you're using a definition from a dictionary to make a point in your writing. This is because the definition is serving as a source of evidence or support for your argument.
  • Etymology or historical usage: If you are discussing the etymology or historical evolution of a word.

"Plagiarise" rather than "plagiarize" is the common spelling in many parts of the English-speaking world. Search engines may localize(/localise) the appropriate spelling(s) based on the user's (presumed) location.

A common misspelling of "plagiarism" is "plagerism", perhaps because of the way the word sounds when pronounced.


[Cueball is sitting on an office chair at a desk and looking at a laptop while resting his hands on it. Megan is standing behind him and looking at the laptop as well.]
Megan: When I can't spell a word I usually just Google and copy and paste it from the results.
Cueball: Yeah, but I can't do that here!!
[Caption below the panel:]
Why spelling "plagiarism" is especially hard


Randall had previously commented on some other problems with using Google's suggestion feature as a spellchecker in the Color Survey Results post on the xkcd Blag.

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citing every word in an essay because I really, really don't know how to spell Mushrooms (talk) 13:00, 24 January 2024 (UTC)

Fungi. 14:17, 24 January 2024 (UTC) ;)
Spore way of going about things. 15:00, 24 January 2024 (UTC)
Yeah, the lack of a period at the end of that sentence, makes it read "really, really don't know how to spell Mushrooms" & that works great as a sentence\statement, in this case!
ProphetZarquon (talk) 15:49, 24 January 2024 (UTC)
curse my habit of not using periods online!!!! Mushrooms (talk) 07:39, 25 January 2024 (UTC)

Boo! at the spoilsport who took out my 'dilemna' easter egg. :oP 16:27, 24 January 2024 (UTC)

I like how someone misspelled "spell" until I corrected it. 1234231587678 (talk) 17:19, 24 January 2024 (UTC)

Funny, this setting doesn't look all that much like that of the Office of the President of Harvard University ... 17:31, 24 January 2024 (UTC)

Do you mean Claudine Gay, that Nazi Hamas sympathizer who couldn't answer a simple question about Harvard's code of conduct with respect to advocating for anti-Semitic genocide, and had to resign disgracefully after it was revealed she plagiarized more than half of her academic publications? Do you mean her? Yes. It looks nothing like that.

Re. the ask in the incomplete tag for citations about plajerism being mispelled - Merriam Webster claims that common misspellings are "plagarism, plagerism, plagirism", but, uh, doesn't cite its source for that... 10:16, 25 January 2024 (UTC)

Dictionary Copyright

Citing a dictionary is a great example of attribution: A portion is directly quoted, with its source stated for verification purposes. Attribution is a great practice; copying without attribution isn't literal theft, but it is lazy & irresponsible, & actually detracts from the real value of the copy. Copying with attribution, on the other hand, is difficult to show any real harm from, & is arguably beneficial to all but rent-seekers. Attribution is essential! What other works, are cited with attribution, as consistently as a dictionary? Even scholarly papers seem oft-quoted without attribution... This is a disservice to both the listener, & anyone who might value the original, & potentially to the one copying. 'News' is another example of having less value without attribution... What's another good example of something that isn't as useful unless the source is cited? ProphetZarquon (talk) 16:07, 24 January 2024 (UTC)

On the other hand, far too many lazy presenters, speakers, and best men have included the phrase "Webster's Dictionary defines [everyday word everyone knows the meaning of but you're about to poetically but incorrectly redefine] as..." RegularSizedGuy (talk) 04:33, 25 January 2024 (UTC)

I wonder if many people realise that in many ways using an AI to write an essay is a type of plagiarism engine? RIIW - Ponder it (talk) 07:51, 25 January 2024 (UTC)

I've been seeing EU directives about putting any work generated with AI into the copyrightist juristriction of the prompter, not the AI, so in the EU, it might not be like this. I guess some people see it as a tool, like a typesetting word processor or "put numbers in, get numbers out" industrial calculation software. 22:07, 25 January 2024 (UTC)

This is probably just a coincidence (I don't think Randall has any particular ties to Norway), but https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandra_Borch_and_Ingvild_Kjerkol_plagiarism_affair is quite recent. Villemoes (talk) 19:18, 24 January 2024 (UTC)

There's also this https://apnews.com/article/harvard-president-plagiarism-claudine-gay-14330935453134c7c9c9a9c496020568 and this https://www.nbcnews.com/tech/youtube-creator-james-somerton-plagiarism-accusation-response-rcna130860 which are fairly recent and in the English speaking world. I just think plagiarism is a common topic right now. 23:01, 24 January 2024 (UTC)

The explanation currently goes with the interpretation that makes sense based on the title text, but based on the drawing alone I figured Cueball didn't want "plagiarism" to appear on the search history of a shared computer or on shared network logs or something leading to him being circumstantially implicated in looking up ways to get away with plagiarism. Hence Cueball's concern with the location being "here" rather than the morals of the deed itself. AzureArmageddon 16:45, 25 January 2024 (UTC)