Anne Curzan at Lingua Franca reports on a spelling challenge the graduate-student instructor for her introductory English linguistics course had given to students: Which irregular spellings are you willing to part with? One of the suggestions was supersede; Curzan is sold, and I find myself willing to accept the wildly popular (mis)spelling supercede. Sure, it’s historically unjustifiable (to supersede is, etymologically speaking, to sit on), but so what? Plenty of English words have opaque etymologies (to take one common example, the -h- in author has no justification other than 16th-century whimsy), and the model of words like intercede appears to be irresistibly attractive. So let people spell it that way if they like.
I also don’t mind indite for indict (particularly since the –ct is pronounced in interdict — it’s just too confusing). But vacume for vacuum? No, no, a thousand times no. Not only does it look stupid, there are still people who pronounce it with three syllables, including me when it isn’t part of the phrase vacuum cleaner (I picked up that particular bit of pedantry from the late Indo-Europeanist Warren Cowgill, who had the misfortune to try to supervise my wretched attempt at a dissertation four decades ago).