When I tell people I spent over a decade in academia studying, writing about, and teaching English literature, a common response is something like, “Oh, I’m terrible at spelling.” While I’m personally fastidious about spell-checking, there are perfectly ordinary words that I still have to look up every time I use them. The word “rhythm” gives me no end of bother, for instance, so I don’t consider spelling difficulties to be a personal failing in anyone. In any event, it’s just as bizarre to spend 10 years sitting in a library staring at books that nobody reads as it is to misspell words.
That said, in the time I’ve been writing for Dogster, I have been amused at how often I encounter spelling errors related to some of the most popular dog breeds. The breeds that are most pervasive in commercials, on magazine covers, and in major mass media are the ones whose names are most frequently misspelled. In my research, I’ve found that five of the most commonly misspelled dog breed names belong to the Chihuahua, Shih Tzu, Dachshund, Doberman Pinscher, and Schnauzer.
Repeated media exposure can catapult the smallest dogs onto the biggest stages, increasing both interest and spelling errors. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, for example, the Chihuahua was one of the most visible and popular dog breeds in America. There’s no doubt that the breed reached iconic status due to the ubiquity of Gidget the Chihuahua in advertisements and merchandising for Taco Bell. The small dog breed’s prominence in the Reese Witherspoon Legally Blonde film franchise ensured that the Chihuahua had staying power in popular culture.
The Chihuahua was easily recognizable before; fossils and artworks trace this unique-looking and exceptionally long-lived small dog breed back to the ancient Mexican Toltec and Aztec civilizations. Interest has remained high in these tiny dogs long after those fast-food commercials disappeared. Named for the Mexican state of the same name, the Chihuahua is not only highly popular, but also erroneously referred to as the “Chiwawa” or “Chiwawa dog.”
Looking at the list of misspelled dog breed names, you’ll notice that each derives from languages other than English. Chihuahua is from Spanish Dachshund, Doberman Pinscher, and Schnauzer are from German; and Shih Tzu is from Chinese. These are also five of the most popular dog breeds in the world, and each has an immediately recognizable profile.
In the case of the Shih Tzu, when he’s groomed for dog shows, his hair style is hard to mistake. Native English speakers curious about these dogs may feel a bit embarrassed or slightly vulgar when they search for information on the “Shitzu.” One great thing about the English language is that, like many of our favorite dogs, it is a mongrel tongue, drawing on words from every language its speakers have come into contact with.
The most common misspellings of these dog breed names tend to be phonetic and based on the sounds that people perceive. Thus it is that we find countless instances of people looking for information on “Dotsons,” “Dotson puppies,” and “Miniature Dotsons.” The same phenomenon turns a Doberman Pinscher into a “Pincher” or “Pinchers” and a Schnauzer into a “Shnauzer” or “Shnauzers.”
Popularity is a major factor in the frequency of spelling errors. Xoloitzcuintle is perhaps my favorite name for a dog breed, but as beautiful as this hairless Mexican dog breed is, it is not one we tend to see frequently on television shows, in movies, or read about in magazines. As this dog is little known and uncommon in the popular imagination, it is likewise not very frequently misspelled.
I encourage people to misspell names of dog breeds when they’re searching for information about them online. If you see a cool dog in a commercial or in a film, it’s a natural expression of curiosity to want to find out more about them. One of the best things about resources like Google and Wikipedia is that even if you input a phonetic approximation, the correct result will show anyway. And who knows? The breed that caught your fancy might turn out to be your next best friend! Stay curious and never stop learning!
Learn more about popular dog breeds and names with Dogster:
About the author: Melvin Peña trained as a scholar and teacher of 18th-century British literature before turning his research and writing skills to puppies and kittens. He enjoys making art, hiking, and concert-going, as well as dazzling crowds with operatic karaoke performances. He has a one-year-old female Bluetick Coonhound mix named Idris, and his online life is conveniently encapsulated here.