We miss you, Micheal
A year ago today, Michael Jackson died. Across the world, people are paying their tributes. All nine Madame Tussauds attractions across the globe have wheeled out eerily waxwork-like Jackson figurines and stationed them in the lobby. In Tooting, I’m listening to Rock With You while drumming my fingers on the desk in time to the music. In Tokyo, fifty Jackson obsessives have paid over $1000 each to spend the night with some of his belongings, including awards, gloves and a car. (I’m not even joking.) And on Twitter, messages have been pouring forth all morning, saluting the King of Pop. 19 year-old Claire from Brooklyn submitted a typically breathless, punctuationless tribute: “RIP Micheal Jackson today marks one year since you’ve been gone we miss you”. Moving stuff.
As a result, “Micheal Jackson” is now the top trending topic on Twitter. “Michael Jackson”, whoever he might be, is nowhere to be seen. It’s hard to know how this state of affairs has come about. I mean, if you read “Micheal” as it looks, it just sounds wrong. Mike-eel. If they’d stuck an accent on it and put “Micheál”, at least that would be a real name – but Michael Jackson wasn’t Irish, not even a little bit. (Try singing “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’” with an Dublin accent – it’s disappointing.) If you ponder it, phonetically, for more than a second, “Michael” clearly makes more sense. But this is Twitter. People don’t ponder anything for more than a second. And, as not that many English words have the dipthong “ae” in them, force of habit has to account for it. Then again, there’s only one word in English that ends with a double G, and misspelling of “egg” generally isn’t considered a major problem in the English-speaking world.
A certain amount of the blame might be laid at the door of R&B star Ne-Yo, who was one of the first to tweet his feelings about Micheal on this special day. He realised his mistake a few minutes later and submitted this sombre apology: “My bad….spelled Mike’s name wrong!! MICHAEL Jackson!! See? That’s what happens sleepy n’ typing fast at 4 in the morning. LMAO!” But by that stage his tweet had been reposted by thousands of people who probably think that “heamoglobin” looks alright, and wouldn’t raise a quizzical eyebrow if they saw a book with “Easop’s Fables” written on the front.
And, as is often the case with Twitter, this is now becoming a self-perpetuating state of affairs. Those who rail against the misspelling of Michael are expressing their indignation by posting references to “Micheal Jackson” too, thus keeping it buoyant in the list, thus allowing more people to become aggrieved by it.
If people had a passing knowledge of Hebrew, as I obviously don’t but can reasonably pretend to having spent 15 seconds referring to a website, they’d know that Michael comes from the Hebrew name מִיכָאֵל (Mikha’el) meaning “who is like God?”. This is a rhetorical question, implying that no-one is like God. “Micheal” is also a rhetorical question, roughly translated as “for crying out loud, why can’t people spell?”
Photo: Getty ImagesTagged in: grammar, michael jackson, spelling
Recent Posts on Notebook
- World Aids Day 2013: No time for complacency
- Barking Blondes: The health of the Hound Pound
- On the ground in the Philippines: It will be years until there’s even a semblance of normality for the people affected
- Barking Blondes: Chewing on technology
- The true cost of divorce: The growing problem of hidden assets
Latest from Independent journalists on Twitter