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January 2, 2014

The Internet's most variously spelled word

(Continued)

The expression is now exceedingly common, and in 2013 the continuing ascension of its usage overlapped with the advancing popularity of social media to create an unstoppable force of media momentum. With so many people using the word on Facebook, Twitter and other networks that drive Web traffic these days, it appears as though editors and writers this year felt they had little choice but to join the parade. By using "whoa" in headlines, as the opening word of published articles, and pretty much everywhere else online, they seemed to be hoping that readers would see it and think: "Hey, what comes next must be really exciting, because there's that same 'whoa!' all my friends use on Twitter when interesting and important things happen." But people were so busy writing that there was no time, apparently, to agree on how we all should be spelling it.

Merriam-Webster, a host of style guides, 238 likers of the Facebook page "It's 'Whoa' not 'Woah,' " and rapper Earl Sweatshirt all support Amira's take on the proper and preferred contemporary spelling of "whoa." But don't tell that to hundreds and hundreds of headline writers who worked on articles published in 2013. In January, for instance, the Daily Mirror ran a story online titled "Woah! Rochelle Wiseman's Baby Bump Pops Up Out of Nowhere." Wonkette posted a story and video accompanied by "Woah: Fox & Friends Nearly (Accidentally?) Practiced a Tiny Smidgen of Journalism." (As if to prove that "woah" headlines transcend all party lines and political ideologies, Glenn Beck's the Blaze, in late autumn, trotted out "Woah: America's Youngest Voters Have Turned on Obama in a Big Way.") Just a few weeks ago, the Apple news website Cult of Mac ran with "Woah! Check Out the Beautiful Curved Front at Apple's Refurbished Stonestown Store."

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