'Manoeuvre' Is Simply A Difficult Word To Spell

Not many words in English use the vowel sequence 'oeu', which goes a long way to explaining why the word manoeuvre is tricky to get right. This is definitely case where a spell checker is your friend.

Manoeuvre picture from Shutterstock

In US English, the slightly simpler spelling maneuever is generally used instead. While I wouldn't be surprised to see the 'o' being dropped eventually from the Australian version, that US spelling still follows the American pattern of using 'er' as an ending rather than 're'. As such, I'm not convinced it will take hold elsewhere in a huge hurry.

Certainly right now maneuvre isn't acceptable in any kind of formal context involving Australian (or UK) English. It's also not hard to find examples of the equally incorrect for everybody manuver popping up as well. (As always at Mind Your Language, we're largely concerned with Australian spelling. But if you are choosing to deploy the US spelling, you need to be accurate and consistent with that as well.)

The only other vaguely common word in English with the 'oeu' sequence is oeuvre (the body of work of a writer, artist or composer). When you learn both words, learn them well. Accuracy matters. It's an important linguistic manoeuvre.

Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.


Comments

    Should have done French lessons then !
    In english the pronunciation of Manoeuvre seems a lot more complicated than in French, the "oeu" combination is the same you find in oeuf (egg), or like the "i" in "sir"
    This gives:
    Man - oeu - vre

    Bureaucracy - it's the other word I always, absolutely always, have to use spell checker for.

    And just for the record the US spelling of looks plain wrong. Especially when you consider this is based on a french word.

    the real spelling in french is manœuvre with e in the o like œuvre :) but if you get the spelling right, no french speaking person will make a remark :)
    Also, we have to write connoisseur in english while the original french spelling is connaisseur :)
    Cheers,
    Ben the Frenchman

    Last edited 14/04/14 3:28 pm

      I too hate the "connoisseur", gets me all the time.
      Jules the Frenchman.

      Incorrect. The original French spelling is connoisseur. However, after the word had transferred to English, the French spelling changed to connaisseur.

    I have no problem keeping manoeuvre in my lexical oeuvre. Manoeuvring terms like hypoeutectoid into conversation is much harder.

    Manuver, conasur, burocrasy - the easier the better.
    The age of the internet is for future spellers and readers.
    Cut out unnecessary letters (6%) and misleading letters (4%) exept for keeping the spelling of 36 very common words which make up 12% of everyday text - and then everyone can lern to read with no dificulty once they hav lernd sound-simbol correspondence and keep ALL ALMOST ALWAYS AMONG AS COME SOME COULD SHOULD WOULD HALF KNOW OF OFF ONE ONLY ONCE OTHER PULL PUSH PUT THEY THEIR TWO AS WAS WHAT WANT WHO WHY, .and word-endings -ION/-TION/-SION, which make up 12% of everyday text. One or two spellings should be allowd for each speech sound, insted of up to a scor at present to be lernt. This still remains easily readabl by present readers. Test how meny ar helpd, including dislexics, indigenus, adult iliterats, and lerners of English. This experiment can be impruved.

      Not as simple as that. For one thing, a certain level of distinction tends to emerge in language to aid comprehension (e.g. the commonest verbs are generally irregular). And manuver doesn't tell you that the pronunciation is different to manuscript.

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