Without wanting to start an editing war, I would prefer to mark miniscule as an alternate spelling.
I know it's not etymologically correct.
If I get time, I'll write this up a bit, but I would distinguish
- Alternate spelling (used everywhere interchangeably)
- Regional spelling (used predominantly in a given region)
- (maybe) Regional alternate spelling, or regional variant
- Common misspelling
- Not worth noting
As an indication of the criteria for this, here's why I would change "miniscule" to one of the top three
- Relative prevalence. Google is only a rough guide, but "miniscule" seems to get the same order of magnitude of hits as "minuscule". By contrast, "develope" got about two orders of magnitude fewer than "develop" and the various random mispellings a couple of orders of magnitude fewer yet.
- Sources. I would count stories from major news or government agencies and official publications of major universities (but not, say, someone's term paper or class notes). As I said, ABC news and UC Santa Cruz both used "miniscule", and I'm sure I could find any number of other such citations. I'm not surprised that these are both American. I suspect that American editors just don't mind "miniscule" as much.
- Currency. This is a guess, but I suspect that usage of "miniscule" is on the increase. Unlike "develope," it is driven by pronunciation (short unstressed vowels tend towards "barred I" in many if not most American dialacts), and likely to be adopted by people who see it as an isolated entity meaning "really small" and not as part of "minuscule/majuscule/minus/minute/..." Which would be most non-lexicographers.
For my money, prevalence and authorative sources are enough to make this
"regional variant (US)"
- www.m-w.com agrees it's a variant spelling. Ortonmc 16:49, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)
- Perhaps we could include a comment to the effect that it probably comes about from the assumption that it is related to "mini" -- Paul G 17:30, 18 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Seen in BBC online
This article begins "Wasps fitted with miniscule radio tags have helped scientists shed light on the insects' behaviour." Let's give them a couple of days to correct it (they sometimes do, but they might be happy with it as it stands). -dmh 06:45, 24 January 2007 (UTC)
- It has been corrected (now: “Wasps fitted with minuscule radio tags have helped scientists shed light on the insects’ behaviour”). † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 22:20, 21 July 2007 (UTC)
miniscule var of MINUSCULE (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth ed. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster, Inc., 1993.) In the explanatory notes, the dictionary indicates that var means, "...the two spellings are equal variants. Both are standard, and either one may be used according to personal inclination" (11a). 220.127.116.11 22:46, 6 February 2007 (UTC)
- Likewise dictionary.com (several dictionaries.) --Connel MacKenzie 20:46, 21 July 2007 (UTC)
- Namely WordNet, the American Heritage Dictionary, and Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1). However, the latter sits on the fence somewhat, referring the reader to minuscule’s usage note, which reads: “MINUSCULE, from Latin minus meaning “less”, has frequently come to be spelled MINISCULE, perhaps under the influence of the prefix mini- in the sense “of a small size”. Although this newer spelling is criticized by many, it occurs with such frequency in edited writing that some consider it a variant spelling rather than a misspelling”. † Raifʻhār Doremítzwr 22:31, 21 July 2007 (UTC)