Pop Quiz: Dilemna or Dilemma?

Quick, think back to how you were taught to spell the word and then check out the discussion here.

Daryl and I were both taught to spell it wrong.  It seems there are a lot of people who swear they’ve been spelling it right all of these years and were similarly misled.

I get a kick out of the people in the discussion who were taught wrong and still insist they use the “correct” spelling, despite the fact that it is not spelled that way in a single dictionary (even as an alternate spelling).  But the dictionaries are wrong, of course, if so-and-so was taught that way.  😉

So did you learn it right?  Weigh in!


23 thoughts on “Pop Quiz: Dilemna or Dilemma?

  1. I just knew it as dilemma, I never saw that other spelling until now. Weird. I would say that from the time frame it had to be a textbook error, but then in 3 different countries?


  2. Wow. I’ve never, ever seen the spelling “dilemna” before. I grew up between Minnesota and Iceland (where I attended the american school on the base). I’m 46, so I began public school in the late 60’s and finished in 1981. Never saw it in college, either! I enjoyed reading the posts, though! You always find interesting things to blog about, Alicia!! I love it!
    .-= Barbara´s last blog ..Animal School =-.


  3. Dilemma, but I never really thought of it until now. I have seen the other spelling now that you mention it.

    Kind of reminds me of *rediculous*. It surprises me to see it misspelled every time. Only because I think it looks silly. I’m also amazed at how many people spell it that way. I’m not exactly a spelling whiz though, so I guess I shouldn’t talk haha!


  4. I am a native Minnesotan and I was taught dilemna … somehow. I didn’t realize I was wrong until you pointed this out. And I pride myself on my spelling!!? How humbling….. Anyone know why we were taught it this way? (I was a big Nancy Drew reader when I was young and I noticed today that one of the original books in the series has a title with the word Dilemma. Must have missed the correct spelling when I was a kid….)


  5. They taught me right on that one. I don’t think I’ve ever come across “dilemna” before or noticed anyone pronouncing it that way. Guess it just doesn’t stand out. Huh.


  6. Just reading this post now and weighing in. I’m with the “dilemma” camp — I’d never seen it spelled otherwise and I went to school up and down the West Coast.

    So interesting!!


  7. Hi- I am researching where people learned to spell the word Dilemna and dilemma. I was born in 1954 and learned to read/write in Western PA, and have always spelled it as dilemna. Someone (much younger!) recently corrected me and I thought I was going a bit crazy. Now, I’m trying to make sense of it.

    I see Shawnna, above, learned it as dilemma in West. PA, but then she also learned to mis-spell her first name 😉 So it wasn’t dilemna necessarily a West. PA spelling. So….maybe it is a Catholic primary education where I learned to spell dilemna? I can’t say. I keep looking for more people’s experience.

    I googled it and even some professional journalists use the dilemna spelling. I saw it as dilemna in the Wash. Post and on CNN. The Huffington Post used it both! ways!!

    Such a dilemna!!!!


  8. LOL Shauna! You can blame my parents for the creative name spelling 🙂 I learned to spell dilemna just like you did though. Now, thanks to my google toolbar, I’ll never do it that way again.


  9. I have always spelled it “dilemna”, and when my 9 year old used it in her grammar homework, my 11 and 15 year old, and my mother all got in on the disagreement. I had never before seen it in the dictionary as “dilemma”…guess it had never been and issue since I was always in Spelling Bees and good at spelling in general. This is how I was taught….right or wrong! Personally, I like it better with the “n” in it. 🙂


  10. I grew up on Long Island, NY, had a mother who doled out spelling quizzes over breakfast every day (thanks, mom!), and consider myself an excellent speller. I was definitely taught to spell it as “dilemna”! I even recall repeating it to myself as dil-em-NA as a trick for remembering the proper spelling (I did the same thing with beautiful – would sing it as “B-E-AAAAAA-YOU-TIFUL!).

    So perhaps it was a Northeast thing?


  11. I have been spelling it with the N my whole life. I am 33, from St. Louis and fairly well educated. I pride myself on having good grammar and being an excellent speller. Imagine my surprise today when I got a little red line under my word.
    I would like to point out that language is an ever growing and changing discipline. By the mere fact that there are so many people spelling this word this way it has become an alternate spelling (even if the folks at Merriam Webster don’t yet agree).
    Dictionaries are a resource for language not the owners of it. The speakers and writers of a language are the ones that make the rules and drive change. Prime example: no one at Merriam Webster made the word internet up. Someone else did, they just recorded that it was being used and what it meant. They are the record keepers of our language, they can exert no power over how we speak or write.


  12. Ellie is correct~~language is an ever changing discipline. Think about Old English and how much has changed since then. Once a common spelling (or mispelling) of a word is considered the norm, it is often accepted as an alternative spelling, or replaces the original version altogether. I, too, was taught to spell it dilemna. We weren’t all taught wrong! We’re just falling victim to a younger society whose parents/teachers didn’t bother to correct their mispellings & now that they’re the decision makers, they find it easier to go with the accepted mispellings than to admit they’re altering the language even further. Makes me feel old! Another pet peeve of mine: preventative~~where’d that extra syllable come from? It’s preventive~~don’t get me started!


  13. Pingback: » Because Smart People Can’t Be Wrong Magic and Mayhem

  14. My wife and I were educated in the ’50s. My wife was raised in Seattle and Spokane. I’m from Detroit. We both spelled it with an ‘n’.
    Obviously, I can’t claim that we’re right and the rest of the world is wrong. But, we’re not making this up. If it was a random misspelling what are the odds that so many people would interject the same silent consonant? Meanings evolve, but spelling was standardized long ago. The spelling of words does not change just because it makes sense for it to do so. Something very odd is going on here.
    .-= Jerome ´s last blog ..A Trip to Alexandria =-.


  15. I grew up in Chicago. I’m 59 years old. I was shocked today when I spell checked an essay paper today and it showed dilemna spelled wrong. I’ve always spelled it that way. Sounding out the N each time. Had no idea we were taught wrong.


  16. I am from Ontario, Canada and I also learned to spell it dilemna. I now live in San Diego, CA and my husband who is from Los Angeles also learned to spell it dilemna. We are both in our early 30s. Very strange, I am shocked that the mn spelling is incorrect and that we haven’t realized it until now!


  17. I was brought up in Western Massachusetts in the early 70s and taught to spell it dilemna. I don’t understand when the n got changed to an m, even though it has always been pronounced “dilemma.” Where is my silent n?


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