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You'd think so, but no
Wednesday, January 30, 2008   1:40 PM

Earlier this week Errata pointed me to a New York Times article on what he called "the official New York State misspelling of pot" — that is to say, the state's preference for marihuana over marijuana.

(The Online Etymology Dictionary, not citing any sources as usual, informs me that marijuana is "1918, alt. by influence of Sp. proper name Maria Juana 'Mary Jane' from mariguan (1894), from Mex.Sp. marihuana, of uncertain origin." So the crazy spelling is older, but I'm hip enough to know that these days, marijuana has supplanted marihuana in most contexts.)

You usually see marihuana only in statutory and legal writing. Here's my favorite example:

An indictment charging defendant with possession of marihuana was not defective because it spelled the narcotic with the letter "j" while statute denouncing possession of marihuana spelled the narcotic with an "h," since the two methods of spelling the drug sounds the same and are "idem sonans."

(Aside: I've already defended the technically/supposedly improper use of narcotic seen above. Basically, that ship has sailed.)

For copy editors, the marihuana spelling probably won't come up unless you're talking about legislation — it's the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, Lancaster Intelligencer (how embarrassing!) — but it's another reminder that with names, all bets are off.

Another good example: for my first month editing casino mystery shopper reports, I repeatedly and mistakenly spelled it Caesar's Palace, not realizing that the omitted apostrophe is deliberate: we're all Caesars at Caesars Palace. It's a very good place to find Caesars.

(See also: Jucy Lucy, Johns Hopkins, and the countless places forced to take a side in the ever-present theater vs. theatre controversy. The world isn't always spelled the way we'd like it to be.)

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or Schieks strip club.

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