The basic spelling rule most of TikTok doesn't know: 'Wait, what?'

·2-min read

A video explaining an everyday spelling rule is blowing minds on TikTok - and the fact that thousands of people confessed to not knowing it is equally surprising to many viewers.

The rule was posted by mum-of-two Gemma Lou who conceded that she had only just discovered the reason why we abbreviate ordinal numbers 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and so on using specific letters.

For those who aren't aware, the suffixes are taken from the last two letters of the words as they are spelled, like so:

1st - first

2nd - second

3rd - third

4th - fourth

"At my big age of 32 I have just learnt that the 'st' in 1st, 'nd' in 2nd and 'rd' in 3rd are because they are the last letters of the words 'first' and so forth," Gemma wrote in her TikTok which has amassed 2.7 million views and over 75,000 likes since it was posted last week.

It’s also attracted tens of thousands of comments from people saying they had "no idea" this was the reason we write ordinal numbers the way we do.

"I am 50 and only learnt this now reading this TikTok," one person said.

"Omg how did I not know," said another, while many more simply commented, "wait, what?", "OMG", "huh", and "no way".

'Did people not know this?'

Equally shocked were the people who did know the reason behind the rule, with many saying they couldn't understand how so many people weren't aware of it.

Two screenshots of TikTok comments from people who did and did not know the ordinal number spelling rule
The majority of people commenting on TikTok were not aware of the reason certain letters are used in ordinal numbers. Photo: TikTok/@gemmawat89

"Wait, did people not know this?" one teenager commented, "I thought this was a common sense thing - I've known since primary and I'm 13".

"I am worried for everyone in the comments," said someone else, while another wrote, "this is a joke right?".

A few people who weren't familiar with the rule justified themselves by saying they'd just never thought about it before, while others acknowledged that it does make a lot of sense now that it's been brought to their attention.

"Wait now I feel really stupid but it all adds up," one person wrote.

The rule is the reason why all numbers that end in "one" when written out, like "twenty-one" and "thirty-one" take the suffix "st" as ordinal numbers (i.e. "twenty-first" becomes "21st" and "thirty-first" becomes "31st").

The number 11 (which ends in the numeral 1 but is written as "eleven") takes the suffix "th" as an ordinal number, because we would write "eleventh" (11th) rather than "elevenst" (11st).

11th - eleventh

21st - twenty-first

31st - thirty-first

The more you know.


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