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I asked a question about the spelling of the word 'vacumn'. As far as I was concerned, this was the accepted spelling of the word 'vacuum'. I was not alone in this belief and someone else had asked a question about it.

The topic was closed down with the comment that 'vacumn' was a misspelling, and that there were more common misspellings of such as 'vaccuum' that were not worthy of a question, let alone an open question.

Furthermore that if anyone wanted to find out how to spell 'vacuum' they could simply refer to a dictionary.

It was also pointed out by one person that I had misspelt another word, I had used an 'e' instead of an 'a'.

A word in which 'a' and 'e' are used interchangeably is 'Grey' or should that be 'Gray'.

Another example of alternative spellings is 'swap' or should that be 'swop'.

I did not find that the answers on Stack Exchange before the question was closed, that convinced me that 'vacuum' should be spelt 'vacuum'.

However I did find something on Wikipedia. Wikipedia stated that the Latin root word for vacuum contained two 'u's'.

I found this explanation quite acceptable. The question on Stack Exchange was closed down before this explanation was reached. Instead we were just left with an authoritarian response along the lines of "I am right and you are wrong".

Interesting, Wikipedia stated that words with two 'u's' are very unusual in English, which explains why a variant of the spelling without two 'u's' is quite common.

I also like to ask, why the topic is listed under 'orthography' rather than the more common and understandable English word - 'spelling'.



From Latin vacuum (an empty space, void) noun use of neuter of vacuus (empty) related to >vacare (be empty).

"Vacuum" is one of the few words in the English language that contains two consecutive >'u's.[6]

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  • Which question are you talking about? This one? – tchrist Aug 24 '12 at 13:33
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    Several words in English contain separate u's, but only vacuum is held to be fully assimilated; the rest are foreign words still. Non-Latin examples include Anschauung,bestuur,puukko,spuugslang, Weltanschauung,zuur-veldt. Latin examples include caput mortuum, carduus, continuum, duumvir, fatuus, ignis fatuus, individuum, in perpetuum, lituus, menstruum, nomen ambiguum, nucleus ambiguus, obliquus, perpetuum mobile, residuum, triduum, of which probably only continuum is in even semi-common use. No one spells it *vacumn. You just got it wrong, and seem to seeking sanction. – tchrist Aug 24 '12 at 13:57
  • I realised that I had got it wrong. I got it wrong in the context of today, and this community. However it is possible that when I was at school I was taught the wrong spelling. Furthermore it is possible that the wrong spelling was quite widely used. So, it is not just a simple mistake, like two 'c's instead of two 'u's. – Robin Michael Aug 24 '12 at 21:57
  • @tchrist: The definition of "[semi-]common use" is somewhat subjective, but I for one would say that with almost 9M instances in NGrams, "continuum" is a relatively commonplace word today. – FumbleFingers Sep 9 '12 at 17:29
  • @Robin Michael: Granted, you've acknowledged the basic point above. But it's worth mentioning the actual numbers from NGrams - *vacuum:32,700,000; vacum:24,800; vaccuum:15,900; vacumn:3060. The fact that you personally might have been "mistaught", or that you might think there's some "justification" for your particular misspelling, doesn't somehow make it more "discussable" here than other far more common misspellings. – FumbleFingers Sep 9 '12 at 17:39
  • ...the "orthography" tag is thus named because it covers much more than just spelling. Technically speaking, I would consider it to include "punctuation", although that particular sub-component has its own tag here simply because we get so many questions about punctuation. Note that I've downvoted this question because I think the original on main was correctly closed, and that's what you mainly seem to be taking issue with here. My downvote here doesn't mean I don't think you should have asked this question here. – FumbleFingers Sep 9 '12 at 17:43
  • @tchrist Triduum is in semi-common use in the circles in which I move. With a capital T, it's the only word which accurately describes the period between Maundy Thursday evening and the morning of Easter Day. – Andrew Leach Sep 10 '12 at 10:09

It was closed because it's "general reference", meaning you could have easily looked it up in a dictionary. The site wouldn't be very useful if it was cluttered with simple questions and answers that just duplicate the dictionary, so questions of this kind are deemed off topic are removed.

If you had asked instead why "vacuum" has two u's (which you seem to be interested in based on your Wikipedia reference), perhaps the question would have remained open, but that's not the question you submitted.

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