Stephen King ruined a generation's ability to spell "cemetery".


The poster of the film Pet Sematary and the cover of the book.

Photo illustration by Slate

In the mid-90s, when I was about 11, I noticed a pocket copy of Stephen King's book Pet Sematary on my mother's bedside table, the green eyes of a screaming cat calling me a blanket. I discovered "adult books" and my mother had left it for me, as long as I did not tell my father. It was already serious enough. A few months later, she praised Mary Lambert's terrifying film adaptation in 1989 as a "treat". At the time, an undead toddler giggled and slashed Herman Munster's ankle up a flight of stairs.

But I have come to believe that Pet Sematary I left with a deeper scar, a psychic affliction deeper than that of flashbacks on the emaciated sister, multiple deaths of the cat or "No fair!" Not fair! No fair! "The damage is in the title itself: Sematary. An obvious spelling mistake, maybe most of us probably know that the real word starts with a word. C. But can you spell the rest? This is not Cairo or graveyard. His graveyard. And it's a word that I will never be able to write with confidence because of my fateful early exposure to King's macabre vision (the spelling abilities of his characters). I've learned since I'm not alone. Like Ludacris and Santa after that, Pet Sematary has polluted the minds of a generation, from 1983 to today.

Already, the new film adaptation, which is due out in theaters this weekend, inspired the confusion, new and old:

This horror is real. And it's international. In France, where children should write the word as graveyard, posters tell them it's Pet Sematary. In Portuguese, it should be properly written Cemitériobut the posters are advertising Samitério de Animais. (Strangely, Germany and Spain seem spared, I guess some countries still care about their young people.)

Petatary movie posters in Portuguese and French.

Photo illustration by Slate

In Pet Sematary, we learn that the sign on the titular graveyard is misspelled by the children who created it as a resting place for their fallen pets, an error reproduced by King in the title. (In the new version, an 8-year-old girl somewhat improperly emphasizes the typo.) But if you're inclined to tune to one of the great writers of horror, I do not know, "Artistic license," I submit He knew exactly what he was doing. Please note this parenthesis, later in the novel:

Rachel would call the vet this morning, they would be repaired by the Church and this would put all this foolishness of Pet Semataries (it was funny to see how this typo got you through the spirit and started to seem fair) and the fears of death behind them.

Hmm! It is not difficult to find other people suffering from this disability. When I asked my colleagues – people who write and proofread for a living – they shared my problems, it was clear that it was a widespread problem. Some types of orthographic bees proudly unchecked graveyardbut it does not matter to them. Most people have the C and first E correct but were confused by the final vowel and went with a A, maybe because of words like secretary, or because it just sounds like it should be a A. Or maybe! Because they've spent their entire lives looking at the misspelled word on their mothers' bedside tables and in the scraps of horror movies. As one correspondent acknowledged: "Now that I'm looking at it, it's perhaps the" ataire "at the end of the title that has affected my memory. I've certainly looked at the cover of this book in adolescence more often than in real cemeteries. "Indeed!

The cycle is about to start again with the arrival of the new, stylish version of the story, perpetuating a curse that has already infected too much. Disgusted, I decided to contact King directly to see if he had words of explanation or contrition. He sent a quick response to my e-mail. It read in full:

Peter Straub, the novelist, called me after receiving the manuscript. Very shyly, he says, "Stevie, you misspelled the graveyard." I laughed and told him to read the book.


Of course, read the book. Watch the movie. But do not say you have not been warned.

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