Satiric misspelling

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A satiric misspelling is an intentional misspelling of a word, phrase or name for a rhetorical purpose. This is often done by replacing a letter with another letter (for example, k replacing c), or symbol (for example, $ replacing s, @ replacing a, or ¢ replacing c). Satiric misspelling is found particularly in informal writing on the Internet, but can also be found in some serious political writing that opposes the status quo.

K replacing c[edit]

Replacing the letter c with k in the first letter of a word came into use by the Ku Klux Klan during its early years in the mid-to-late 19th century. The concept is continued today within the group.

Barcelona squat and anarchist centre, labelled "OKUPA Y RESISTE"

In the 1960s and early 1970s in the United States, leftists, particularly the Yippies, sometimes used Amerika rather than America in referring to the United States.[1][2][3][4][5] It is still used as a political statement today.[6][7] It is likely that this was originally an allusion to the German spelling of the word, and intended to be suggestive of Nazism, a hypothesis that the Oxford English Dictionary supports.

In broader usage, the replacement of the letter c with k denotes general political skepticism about the topic at hand and is intended to discredit or debase the term in which the replacement occurs.[8]

A similar usage in Italian, Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese[citation needed] is to write okupa rather than ocupa (often on a building or area occupied by squatters,[9] referring to the name adopted by okupación activist groups), which is particularly remarkable because the letter "k" is not part of the Spanish, Portuguese or Italian alphabets. It stems from a combination of English borrow words with k in them to those languages, and Spanish anarchist and punk movements which used "k" to signal rebellion.[10]

Replacing "c" with "k" was at the centre of a Monty Python joke from the Travel Agent sketch. Eric Idle has an affliction that makes him pronounce the letter C as a B, as in "bolour" instead of "colour." Michael Palin asks him if he can say the letter K? Idle replies that he can, and Palin suggests that he spell words with a K instead of C. Idle replies, "what, spell bolour with a K? Kolour. Oh! I never thought of that before! What a silly bunt!"[11]

The video game franchise Mortal Kombat is another example of this trend.

KKK replacing c or k[edit]

A common satiric usage of the letters KKK is the spelling of America as Amerikkka, alluding to the Ku Klux Klan, drawing to a perceived notion of an underlying or inherent racism in American society. The earliest known usage of Amerikkka recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary is in 1970, in a journal called Black World. Presumably, this was an extrapolation from the then already widespread Amerika.[clarification needed][citation needed]

The spelling Amerikkka came into greater use after the 1990 release of the gangsta rap album AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted by Ice Cube, also used by rapper Spice 1 for his album AmeriKKKa's Nightmare and by shock rock band Undercover Slut for their album Amerikkka Macht Frei.[citation needed]

The letters KKK have been inserted into several other words and names, to indicate similar perceived racism, oppression or corruption. Examples include:

Currency signs[edit]

The dollar sign ($) can be inserted in the place of the letter S, the euro sign (€) in place of e, the yen (¥) sign in place of Y, the won (₩) sign in place of W, or the pound (£) sign in place of L, or the rupee sign (₹) in place of R to indicate plutocracy, greed, corruption, or the perceived immoral, unethical, or pathological accumulation of money. For example:

@ replacing A, at or O[edit]

Since at least 1980, people have used the "at sign" ("@") as a representation of the circled letter A. This has been extended to substituting it for the letter "A" as in the Crass fanzine Toxic Gr@fity.[35]

In Spanish, it became informally common (but not accepted by the RAE, due to @ being a symbol and not a letter) to use @ in place of "o/a" to denote both genders. For example, "señorit@" can be used to mean "señorita and/or señorito" instead of using "señorita/o."


Occasionally a word written in its orthodox spelling is altered with internal capital letters, hyphens, italics, or other devices so as to highlight a fortuitous pun. Some examples:

  • After the controversial 2000 U.S. Presidential elections, the alleged improprieties of the election prompted the use of such titles as "pResident" and "(p)resident"[36][37] for George W. Bush. The same effects were also used for Bill Clinton during and after Clinton's impeachment hearings. These devices were intended to suggest that the president was merely the resident of the White House rather than the legitimate leader.
  • Similarly, the controversial United States law, the USA PATRIOT Act, is sometimes called the "patRiot Act", "(pat)Riot Act", "PAT Riot Act", "PAT RIOT Act", or "You Sap At Riot Act"[38][39] by its opponents.
  • Feminist theologian Mary Daly has used a slash to make a point about patriarchy: "gyn/ecology", "stag/nation", "the/rapist".[40]
  • In French, where con is an insulting word meaning "moron", the word conservateur (conservative) has been written "con-servateur",[41] "con… servateur",[42] or "con(servateur)".[43] The American English term neo-con, an abbreviation of neo-conservative, becomes a convenient pun when used in French.[44] In English, the first syllable of conservative can be emphasized to suggest a con artist.[45]
  • The British political satire magazine Private Eye has a long-standing theme of insulting the law firm Carter-Ruck by replacing the R with an F to read Carter-Fuck. The law firm once requested that Private Eye cease spelling its name like that; the magazine then started spelling it "Farter-Fuck".[46] Likewise, Private Eye often refers to The Guardian as The Grauniad,[47] due to the newspaper's early reputation for typographical errors.[48]
  • Netizens often called Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. as "MandaramBONG" (Filipino word for plunderer) to highlight allegations that he pocketed pork barrel funds through the use of fake non-government organizations.[49]

Other significant respellings[edit]

Along the same lines, intentional misspellings can be used to promote a specific negative attribute, real or perceived, of a product or service. This is especially effective if the misspelling is done by replacing part of the word with another that has identical phonetic qualities.

Some place names are also spelled differently in order to emphasize some political view. For instance, Brasil (the Portuguese spelling of "Brazil"), is sometimes misconstrued as a typo for Brazil in English texts.[50] Alternatively, the English spelling Brazil is used in Portuguese pieces of text as a way to denote anti-Americanism or anti-globalization sentiment.

Journalists may make a politicized editorial decision by choosing to differentially retain (or even create) misspellings, mispronunciations, ungrammaticisms, dialect variants, or interjections.


Plays on acronyms and initialisms are also common, when the full name is spelled out but one of the component words is replaced by another. For example, Richard Stallman and other Free Software Foundation executives often refer to digital rights management as "digital restrictions management",[51] a reference to the tendency for DRM to stifle the end user's ability to reshare music or write CDs more than a certain number of times. Likewise, the National Security Agency is often referred to as the "National Surveillance Agency"[52][53][54][55] and sometimes "National Socialist Agency"[56][57] by opponents of its PRISM program, who view it as dystopian encroachment on personal privacy.

See also[edit]


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