“Aargh!” But how do you spell it?

(Click here to skip straight to the visualization.)

In the late nineties, I tried using internet search as a spelling corrector. (I think I was using AltaVista at the time. It was the latest and greatest search engine, supplanting — was it Lycos?)

At the time, for the words I tried, there were about two orders of magnitude between a misspelling and the correct word. A spelling variant, such as “color” and “colour”, were typically less than one order of magnitude.

In 2002 I used Google to figure out the most common spelling for “closable”, for use in the OpenLaszlo API. It had been “closeable”; why use a spelling that most people would guess wrong the first time, I figured. [Update: This paragraph originally said the word was “resizeable”, which is a straightforward misspelling.]

Here’s what this looks like today. First, a common misspelling:

compatible 170M  
compatable 2M 1.3%

And a couple of spelling variants:

closable 137K  
closeable 101K 73%
sizable 8.3M  
sizeable 6.8M 81%

(The percentage is the ratio of the page count to the page count of the most common variant, which is the form in bold above it.)

Some other misspellings:

commit 73.9M  
comit 0.8M 1%
resizable 1.74M  
resizeable 0.18M 10%
misspell 466K  
mispell 55K 12%

And some other acceptable variants:

color 434M  
colour 63.0M 16%
gray 125M  
grey 73M 59%
judgment 77M  
judgement 24M 32%

(What’s the difference between an acceptable variant, and a misspelling? An interesting topic for another posting. Maybe.)

What got me thinking about this again, was, of all things, thinking about how to spell “aargh!” One ‘a’, two, three…? And how many ‘r’s?

This is an interesting problem, first, because so many repetition counts are attested. There’s not just “mispelling” (1s) and “misspelling” (2s), but “argh”, “aargh”, “aaargh”, etc. And second, because the space is two-dimensional: not just “argh”, “aargh”, “aaargh”, …, but also “argh”, “arrgh”, “arrrgh”, … — and the product, with “aarrgh”, “aaarrrgh”, etc.

It’s clear that a wide range of spellings are acceptable. What’s the most common?

Without further ado, I created this page to help me find the answer.