WP article on English-language spelling reform
Posted: 22 April 2014 05:25 AM   [ Ignore ]
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-language_spelling_reform

From the 16th century onward, English writers who were scholars of Greek and Latin literature tried to link English words to their Graeco-Latin counterparts. They did this by adding silent letters to make the real or imagined links more obvious. Thus det became debt (to link it to Latin debitum), dout became doubt (to link it to Latin dubitare), sissors became scissors and sithe became scythe (as they were wrongly thought to come from Latin scindere), iland became island (as it was wrongly thought to come from Latin insula), ake became ache (as it was wrongly thought to come from Greek akhos), and so forth.[6][7]

These are fascinating and somewhat comic examples. Is this paragraph accurate?

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Posted: 22 April 2014 05:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Yes.  I guess I don’t see the comedy because the examples are so familiar to me.

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Posted: 22 April 2014 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Particularly in the cases where there is no actual etymological connection, I see a sort of Gus Portolakas risibility to it, though it would seem to be based more on the desire to appear highbrow than on simple linguistic chauvinism.

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Posted: 22 April 2014 07:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Well, it seems humorous to me: making English spelling even more complicated by introducing silent letters into words solely to better represent an etymological connection that was never there? Come on, that’s worth a wheeze.

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Posted: 22 April 2014 09:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Abhominable for abominable is another example, although I’m not sure whether the h was silent, as often then in English, or voiced. From OED:

Forms with medial -h- in post-classical Latin, Middle French, and English arose by a folk etymology < classical Latin ab homine away from man, inhuman, a derivation which has also influenced the semantic development of the word in English and French. Forms with -h- were common in English until the 17th cent., when they began to be criticized by orthographers;

The actual root was Classical Latin ”abōminārī to avert (an omen), to loathe, abhor, detest < ab- ab- prefix + ōmen

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Posted: 22 April 2014 01:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Come on, that’s worth a wheeze.

I tend to agree (wheezes repeatedly)

Today’s Non sequitur: There are many words in which the “p” is silent, as in bathing.

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Posted: 23 April 2014 04:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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There are many words in which the “p” is silent, as in bathing.

In the version I grew up with, it was ‘as in pswimmingpool’.

A Londoner, I lived for many years in Marylebone, which was originally ‘[St]Mary at le Bourne’ - the bourne in question being the Tyburn Brook, which runs through the parish from north to south down to the celebrated Tyburn Tree (very close to where Marble Arch is now). In the 18th century the notion arose that the original name had been ‘St Mary-la-bonne’ , and many people diligently wrote it that way well into the 19th century. But I bet they still pronounced it ’Marl’b’n’, as the present-day natives do.

(BTW, am I right in thinking that the 17th-century genitive construction ‘John Smith his book’ was an antiquarian attempt to rationalise the S in ‘John Smith’s book’? If so, I do wonder how they accounted for the S in ‘Mrs Smith’s book’.)

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Posted: 23 April 2014 06:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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As the French say, Don’t piscine my pool.

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Posted: 23 April 2014 08:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Syntinen Laulu - 23 April 2014 04:41 AM


(BTW, am I right in thinking that the 17th-century genitive construction ‘John Smith his book’ was an antiquarian attempt to rationalise the S in ‘John Smith’s book’? If so, I do wonder how they accounted for the S in ‘Mrs Smith’s book’.)

Wikipedia has a very interesting article on the folk-etymological His genitive, which I’ve just read myself. I remember when I was a lowly gunner in the RA attempting to argue this with a Major in the Education Corps who had been filling the heads of his class with this John his book origin of the possessive s (known as the Saxon genitive apparently, I wasn’t aware of that). Needless to say I had to make a diplomatic retreat from the field of battle. He knew what he knew and there an end of it!

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