Brussels Sprouts, Anyone?

What is it about “Brussels Sprouts,” the name of the vegetable with small cabbage-like buds along a stalk, that seems to confuse many people when they try to spell it?

Most people leave off the final “s” of the first word and pronounce the words as if that letter isn’t part of the name of the city in which (many people believe) this cabbage was first cultivated.

Others—for instance, the vendors at the farmers’ market we attended last weekend—find their own way to spell it. Of the 15 or so vendors selling this vegetable at the market, only two spelled the name correctly. (See the photo above.)

Most vendors, adhering to the common mistake, simply eliminated the final “s” in “Brussels.”

One farmer, not going along with that spelling at all, decided to add an extra “l” and cut the final “s” in “Brussels,”change the name of the vegetable to an adjective, and call his produce a tree. Eliminating the final “s” in “sprouts” is considered a correct spelling of the name, but maintaining it is preferred.

Taking a wild guess at how to spell this name, a daring farmer eliminated an “s” from the middle of “Brussels,”dropped the final “s” in the word, and for some unknown reason doubled the “l.”

Another farmer—perhaps the worst speller at the farmers’ market or maybe the most independent thinker there—decided to go his own way, and chose to spell the name as one word, while also eliminating the final “s” on “sprouts.

It’s one thing if I, as a consumer and potential customer, were to misspell the name of this vegetable. But a farmer selling Brussels sprouts on the public square, or even a supermarket selling it along side other vegetables, should know how to spell the name of this product.

A fundamental of every business should be correctly spelling what it sells. After all, you wouldn’t want your wireless carrier to announce its sells cel phones, rather than cell phones, or your car dealer to call his product an audo, instead of an auto. If they did, many potential customers would point a disapproving finger at the companies’ grammar, question whether their products also suffer serious mistakes and, of more consequence, decide to buy from somewhere else.

Spelling makes a difference. Last weekend, we chose to buy our Brussels sprouts from one of the two farmers who paid attention not only to growing a good crop and presenting it well, but also to knowing how the name is spelled.

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