Twenty-five years ago I was writing an M.A. thesis on separatist fundamentalism in twentieth-century America. One of the key figures in my research was a mid-century fundamentalist named Carl McIntire. (I actually published an article about him in 1994).
As I read secondary sources that mentioned McIntire I was struck by how so many scholars–very good scholars–misspelled his name “McIntyre.” But I digress.
I thought about the McIntire-McIntyre issue when I saw the title of Thomas Kidd‘s recent post at The Gospel Coalition: “The History of Misspelling George Whitefield’s Name.” Kidd, of course, is the author of George Whitefield: America’s Spiritual Founding Father.
Here is a taste:
Whenever the topic of George Whitefield comes up in my classes, I always have to tell the students, “I know it looks like you’d pronounce his last name White-field, but it is pronounced Whit-field.” Therein lies the reason why Whitefield, the greatest evangelist of the 18th century, also has one of the most misspelled names in history. In one of the odd accidents of English pronunciation, Whitefield’s name was not pronounced the way it is spelled. Thus from the beginning of his public career, people have been misspelling Whitefield’s name as “Whitfield….”
…One of the first misspellings of Whitefield’s name came in one of his first published sermons. In 1737 in London, a publisher produced an edition of what would become one of his signature sermons, The Nature and Necessity of the New Birth, but misspelled his last name. After that, most publishers were clued in to the correct spelling as he became arguably the most famous man in Britain and America during the mid-1700s.
But misspellings continued to pop up occasionally. Sometimes the name would be spelled correctly on the title page but wrongly within a publication. A 1771 Boston edition of John Wesley’s memorial sermon for Whitefield misspelled the name on the title page. (Ironically, Whitefield died in the Boston area in 1770. When word arrived in London, Wesley gave a memorial sermon at Whitefield’s Tottenham Court Road chapel, and the text of it made its way back across the Atlantic, where it was published in Boston, with Whitefield’s name misspelled.)
Read the rest here