Mos Defiantly

by Dave


I defiantly think we should go get ourselves some ice cream.


I definitely think we should go get ourselves some ice cream.


I see this one again and again, and I often wonder why. Well, no, that’s not quite true. Really what I wonder is what the world would be like if the writer actually intended to use “defiantly”. Take our problem sentence. In the terrible world that sentence presupposes, not only is it apparently a crime to go get ice cream, but it’s considered inappropriate—treasonous, if you will—to even opine that anyone should go get ice cream. Thus, in suggesting that the group get ice cream, the speaker is engaging in an act of defiance.

I suspect that what might be happening here is writers are misspelling “definitely” as “definately”, or perhaps “definatly”, and the word processing program they’re using, trying to make sense of what’s been typed, suggests “defiantly”. Without thinking, the writer approves the change (or perhaps the program sneakily changes it for them), and thus “defiantly” defiantly strong-arms its way into whatever’s being written.

This is one of the problems with smart technology. The writer must be smart enough to figure out how the program is going to use its smarts in a silly way, and then must take measures to prevent its smarts getting in the way of readability. For even though anyone reading the problem sentence above will likely figure out what the writer intended, the comical imagery the error conjures up in the mind of the reader is something that one will likely want to avoid in academic and formal contexts.