You Readers are Getting a Bargain

Apparently Yale's Econ 109 Microeconomics class has been assigned my post on Business Relocation and the Prisoner's Dilemma as part of this week's reading.  They are paying tens of thousands of dollars to read this site, while my 17 regular readers are getting it for free!  I'm not sure I am a huge Yale fan, given I attended Princeton and later Harvard, but I may have underestimated them now that I know what discriminating taste they have in blog reading.

Interesting Arcana:  The actual reason I think the professor found my article is probably because he used the spelling "dilemna" rather than "dilemma" when Google searching, as I did in the post title.  For some reason, I have always gravitated to this funny spelling with an "n" rather than a second "m".  I don't seem to be the only one - Google has hundreds of thousands of hits for dilemna.  What is the deal here?  I can't find dilemna as an alternate spelling anywhere in a dictionary, but it gets used a lot.  Hell, its in a CNN headline here.  A bunch of the Google hits for "dilemna" are in articles written by university professors.

So here is where you really have to love the web.  It turns out that this has actually been a discussion board topic in a number of places.  Here is part of a thread, for example, on dilemna vs dilemma.

John's note about being certain the word was spelled "dilemna" really hit home for me. It's almost as though at some point in my life I learned that was indeed the correct spelling and somehow had an edge on the masses. As with John, when I write I tend to pronounce words in my mind the way they are spelled - ie. FebRUary, WedNESday, etc. And as a champion speller in my younger days, it only seemed natural that I would be in the know.

As it happens, I'm writing a book right now, and the word came up. Though I spelled it the way I always knew was correct, I decided to double check with the dictionary and suddenly it was as though I was in the Twilight Zone. It was gone. Since dilemna is not as the word sounds, I can't figure out how the situation developed. I'm still convinced the spelling has changed somewhere along the way (ha!). I also recently had this same revelation with the word "pom-pom" (as in cheerleader's) which I always thought I was so smart in spelling as  "pompon." At least pompon is in the dictionary, though it has a slightly different meaning as the head of a chrysanthemum.

The only thing I can conclude is that I must have been living a parallel life in which these words were indeed spelled this way, and somehow made a crossover in recent years ....  (Twilight Zone Theme: do-do-do-do do-do-do-do)

There is a whole string of conjectures like this, but no real answer.  I will admit, now that this guy has, that I too had a certain Ivy-League-smarter-than-the-masses confidence that I had it right.  Ooops.


  1. DaveJ:

    I just assumed you were right, and that perhaps the spelling had been dropped, so I went to my Webster's 2nd Edition Unabridged 1968 Dictionary and ... it's not there.

    I'm crushed by the error, disillusioned in a hero, and now that you've admited your Ivy League attitude I must consider reducing your reader base to 16.

    Ok, I considered. Nope, you're stuck with me.

  2. Dennis Foster:

    Reminds me of a colleague who put the phrase "smoking mirrors" into the notes of a meeting we attended. I asked if he meant "smoke and mirrors" and he said, "No, I've never heard of that one."!!!

  3. LL:

    These type of "dilemnas" happen all the time...

    I had a co-worker who was speaking to me, and as as she was describing something surprising that happened, she said, "and Lauren Bacall!" and then told me what happened. It took me awhile to figure out what she meant was "lo and behold!"

  4. GF:

    As you can see from my URL, this is not a new idea for me. I first noticed the missing dilemna in 86-87. Shortly after noticing dilemma being used in a newspaper and finding no reference to the dilemna spelling, there was a question in the Boston Globe from a reader asking to settle an argument on the spelling. The Globe said there was no reference to the dilemna spelling. Since this time I have brought the subject up with a number of people from different locations throughout the US and UK. People either have very certain memories of being taught to spell it with the mn combination because it was used as a mnemonic, OR no strong feeling on the subject.

    After much thought on the subject, I have come to the conclusion that a massive shift in the underlying fabric of reality occurred in the early 80's and some, but not all, people here now (myself included) are from an alternate reality and have somehow ended up in someone else's reality. Presumably back in the reality where all the dictionaries say dilemma is spelled DILEMNA, there are people who are adamant about having been taught that it was spelled with 2 M's!

  5. BG:

    Hmmmm.....did anyone ever read 1984?

    Perhaps someone in the Big Brother Ministry has corrected this little dilemna, and gone back and corrected history too! Certainly the newspapers will be corrected. Pretty soon they will catch up and erase these blogs too. Google will repair itself 6 weeks later.