Crosby versus Crosbey: for anyone who thinks that spelling doesn’t matter…

I always find it mildly irritating that I get prompted by Facebook to Like the fan page for someone named “Sidney Crosbey”.

For those who aren’t aware, Sidney Crosby (note the spelling) is a star hockey player on my local team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. (It’s intriguing, and kind of amusing, that this page is listed under “local business” as well. He really is.)

What’s even more disturbing is that the number of people who Like the page keeps growing. Currently it stands at 134,892. However, if we look at the comments posted on the wall, most of them say things like the final comment on the screenshot above – that they Liked this page just to make fun of the creator for spelling the name wrong.

Some commenters express love for Crosby despite the misspelling of his name by the page creator, and there are inevitably a bunch of people who Like the page just to say that Crosby sucks (and/or Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is superior).

This reveals the complicated nature of the Like button on Facebook. When you click “Like”, you aren’t necessarily saying that you actually like someone or something. Blogs and giveaway sites often request that you Like a sponsor on Facebook in order to qualify for a contest. Sometimes you Like something to get access to content, not because you necessarily like it. And sometimes, as evidenced above, you can Like something in order to express your dislike.

I find it extremely interesting that the incorrectly spelled “Sidney Crosbey” page has more than half as many Likes as the more-official Sidney Crosby page borrowed from Wikipedia. That means that a large population has Liked the page despite or because of the misspelling. Spelling has a dual role in situations like this – at once, it both calls attention to itself by being misspelled and delegitimizes itself by demonstrating what many see as a lack of competence.

Spelling does matter, it seems — the question is: how, exactly?