Grammar Moses: I spell tomato and you spell tomahto

  • A woman buys tomatoes at a street market May 11, 2022, in Rio de Janeiro.

    A woman buys tomatoes at a street market May 11, 2022, in Rio de Janeiro. AP File Photo

Updated 8/6/2022 5:38 PM

An outfit called decided to mine Google's search function data to determine which words we seem to have the most trouble spelling.

After seeing many of them, I'm truly terrified for our future. Please share in my grief.


"Tomato," "cheese" and "Idaho" are among America's most misspelled words for 2022, according to the study.

Yet these are primary ingredients in most Burger King meals, if you count potatoes as Idaho's chief contribution to the culinary world. I know this about Burger King from doing plenty of market research.

Do we really not know how to spell these words?

In defense of Alaska, where the biggest stumbling block is "cheese," let's consider that in the entire state there are only 10 dairies. So, like many of us, Alaskans probably eat Cheez-Its by the box and put Cheez Whiz on corn chips.

Former Vice President Dan Quayle's darkest hour was in 1992 when he led a sixth-grade spelling bee and, ahem, corrected a student who had spelled "potato" correctly by insisting he put an "e" on the end.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                  is primarily a website that will help you cheat at Words With Friends and Scrabble. Pro tip: Don't let your Scrabble partner bring a computer to the table.

But this is an interesting study, based on looking at "How do you spell" searches by state:

Alabama: exercise

Alaska: cheese

Arizona: scientist

Arkansas: therapy

California: tomato

Colorado: choice

Connecticut: schedule

Delaware: daughter

Florida: separate

Georgia: little

Hawaii: Kauai

Idaho: Idaho

Illinois: anniversary

Indiana: awesome

Iowa: cousin

Kansas: princess

Kentucky: again

Louisiana: gray

Maine: actively

Maryland: bearable

Massachusetts: picture

Michigan: impatience

Minnesota: paparazzi


Mississippi: independent

Missouri: dessert

Montana: beautiful

Nebraska: beautiful

Nevada: seizure

New Hampshire: their

New Jersey: thousand

New Mexico: bologna

New York: listening

North Carolina: multiplication

North Dakota: sorry

Ohio: choir

Oklahoma: business

Oregon: awkward

Pennsylvania: reimbursement

Rhode Island: months

South Carolina: college

South Dakota: beautifully

Tennessee: pneumonia

Texas: normal

Utah: boutonniere

Vermont: gray

Virginia: prank

Washington: experience

West Virginia: West Virginia

Wisconsin: lose

Wyoming: autumn

I have several observations:

• I would think a number of the most nettlesome words are also foreign to many of the denizens of these states: Alabama (exercise); Indiana (awesome); New York (listening); and Texas (normal).

• I give credit to Utahans for fumbling with a truly difficult word to spell: "boutonniere."

• But I am astonished by these three states and their biggest head-scratchers: Hawaii (Kauai); West Virginia (West Virginia) and Idaho (Idaho).

As New Mexicans would say, that's a bunch of baloney.

Write carefully!

• Jim Baumann is vice president/executive editor of the Daily Herald. You can buy Jim's book, "Grammar Moses: A humorous guide to grammar and usage," at Write him at and put "Grammar Moses" in the subject line. You also can friend or follow Jim at

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