Jul 13, 2015

Meeteetse is country's most misspelled town, survey finds

If you can correctly spell Meeteetse, you're doing better than most.

A recent national survey of 1,000 adults found a whopping 70 percent could not figure out how to spell Meeteetse, making the town the country's toughest place to spell.

Meeteetse proved just slightly trickier than Kaumalapau, Hawaii, along with places like Skaneateles, New York, and Pflugerville, Texas.

Tex-Edit Plus doesn't know what to make of Meeteetse.
The survey was designed by the PR firm Ketchum Global Research & Analytics as part of a promotion for a spelling-themed video game and administered online by the polling company Ipsos. Participants were presented with four possible spellings for each city and asked to pick the right one.

Meeteetse emerging as the most misspelled surprised some locals.

Tess Fremlin, the events coordinator at the Meeteetse Visitor Center, said when she provides her address, “I always have to spell it out, but it's not that difficult, I think.”

“Honestly, people don't ask here about the spelling so much as the pronunciation,” Fremlin said.

Of the many phone calls she's fielded during her 13 years in Meeteetse, she can recall only a couple who've correctly said Ma-teet-see. (Saying something like Mee-teets is a common mistake, Fremlin said.)

The town name does baffle some automated spell checkers. For example, the Macintosh program Tex-Edit Plus suggests replacing Meeteetse with “Meatiest” and the web browser Firefox suggests “Meetinghouse.”

Meeteetse is an old Native American word that's been roughly translated to mean “where chiefs meet” (that's the town's slogan) or “meeting place.”

While “the toughest town to spell in America” isn't going to make it as a marketing slogan, “at least it puts us on the map at some point for some reason,” Fremlin said.

She said it's also better to be known as tough-to-spell than as the place where a high-profile fugitive was caught. (An Arizona prison escapee was nabbed outside a Meeteetse church in 2010, drawing a lot of national attention.)

“I'd much rather be known as that weird town with the weird funky spelling,” Fremlin laughed.

Here's the list of the 10 toughest-to-spell places, according to the survey:
  1. Meeteetse, WY – Misspelled by 70% of respondents
  2. Kaumalapau, HI – Misspelled by 69%
  3. Saguache, CO – Misspelled by 68%
  4. Skaneateles, NY – Misspelled by 67%
  5. Champaign, IL – Misspelled by 63%
  6. Pflugerville, TX – Misspelled by 63%
  7. Worcester, MA – Misspelled by 62%
  8. Ketchikan, AK – Misspelled by 61%
  9. Winnemucca, NV – Misspelled by 60%
  10. Aquebogue, NY – Misspelled by 56%
The survey was commissioned by King Digital Entertainment to promote its new game AlphaBetty Saga. (A press release announcing the results suggests improving your spelling, in part, by testing “your spelling skills with word games like AlphaBetty Saga to improve daily.”)

The survey found towns in the West were generally tougher to spell than other regions of the U.S.

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