Spelling: -o(u)r

February 14, 2018

One of the most well-known splits between US and UK spelling is the ending –o(u)r found in colour/color, honour/honor, valour/valor and so on. Whatever your opinion of either spelling, it should be noted that the forms are French and Latin and therefore should probably be taken out of Anglish. However, short of getting rid of every single word in the tongue which has this ending, which may not be possible, we need to face the need to make these forms more English. But how should we do this?

Broadly speaking, –our is French whereas –or is Latin. See the history from http://www.etymonline.com below. The English form for this sound in the position is almost always –er, as in teacher. Now, folk might not want to spell words like “colo(u)r” the logical English way, “culler”, as this Anglish movement is not primarily about spellings. But spellings are a part of the language. And many words simply cannot be taken out of the speech; even Icelandic and German have many outland borrowings. But there is no reason why the outland spelling should stay. Bear in mind that spellings like “onner” (for “hono(u)r”) are attested.

Folk may also complain that –er makes agent nouns (a “teacher” is one who teaches), and so spelling it “culler” might confuse issues with one who culls. But in any case, –er isn’t exclusive for agents, unless “butter” is someone who butts. And indeed, “butter” being one who butts is a perfectly legitimate word — none-the-less, context tells us what we mean.

So how’s this for an Anglish proposal? Where we cannot get rid of –o(u)r words, change the spelling to –er, particularly where the rest of the word doesn’t need changing at all: so maybe maybe not “culler”, but definitely “governer”. 

© 2017-2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

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NOTES

http://etymonline.com/index.php?term=-or&allowed_in_frame=0

-orword-forming element making nouns of quality, state, or condition, from Middle English -our, from Old French -our (Modern French -eur), from Latin -orem (nominative -or), a suffix added to past participle verbal stems. Also in some cases from Latin -atorem (nominative -ator).

In U.S., via Noah Webster, -or is nearly universal (but not in glamour, curious, generous), while in Britain -our is used in most cases (but with many exceptions: author, error, senator, ancestor, horror etc.). The -our form predominated after c. 1300, but Mencken reports that the first three folios of Shakespeare’s plays used both spellings indiscriminately and with equal frequency; only in the Fourth Folio of 1685 does -our become consistent.

A partial revival of -or on the Latin model took place from 16c. (governour began to lose its -u- 16c. and it was gone by 19c.), and also among phonetic spellers in both England and America (John Wesley wrote that -or was “a fashionable impropriety” in England in 1791).

Webster criticized the habit of deleting -u- in -our words in his first speller (“A Grammatical Institute of the English Language,” commonly called the Blue-Black Speller) in 1783. His own deletion of the -u- began with the revision of 1804, and was enshrined in the influential “Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language” (1806), which also established in the U.S. -ic for British -ick and -er for -re, along with many other attempts at reformed spelling which never caught on (such as masheen for machine). His attempt to justify them on the grounds of etymology and the custom of great writers does not hold up.

Fowler notes the British drop the -u- when forming adjectives ending in -orous (humorous) and derivatives in -ation and -ize, in which cases the Latin origin is respected (such as vaporize). When the Americans began to consistently spell it one way, however, the British reflexively hardened their insistence on the other. “The American abolition of -our in such words as honour and favour has probably retarded rather than quickened English progress in the same direction.” [Fowler]

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Word of the Week: Eyeblink

June 22, 2015

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As you may have picked up on, I am a lover of Swedish (see here and here). Going through the Duolingo Swedish course is providing me with a lot of delight and inspiration right now. For example, the Time module has  reminded me of a few lovely Swedish words.

There’s årtionde “decade”, lit. ‘year-ten’, and århundrade “century”, lit. ‘year-hundred’. There’s the particularly lovely årstid “season”, lit. ‘year’s-time’.

But my favourite is ögonblick “moment”: literally, ‘eyes-blink’.

Notice that all of these Swedish words are what I call “phrase-words“: phrases which have been condensed into a word. I propose using such phrase-words more often in English. I consider such formations to be “implied English”; that is, they don’t happen to exist in any dictionary, but they are implied by the mechanisms of the language.

The literal English oversetting of the above Swedish words doesn’t quite work in English. “Year-ten”, “year-hundred”, “year’s-time”, and “eyes-blink” have a distinctly Germanesque smack to them. However, we can make phrase-words of “ten years”, “hundred(s of) years”, “time of the year”, and “blink of an eye” in a style most English. I put forward:

ten-year, hundred-year, year-time, eye-blink (with or without the dashes as one sees fit).

Of course, there is nothing wrong with the phrases “ten years”, “time of the year”, and so on. And I would definitely advise people to use “In the last ten years”, and its ilk, instead of “In the last decade”. But when one needs to use a single word to encompass this phrase, as one does from time to time, let’s use the impled English phrase-words instead of complex Latinate jargon.

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© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry


New Blog

November 2, 2012

Hi folks,

I’ve set up a new blog. Don’t worry, I haven’t given up on this one! It’s just that I want to keep this one for Anglish / Germanic English stuff, and put all “other” language stuff in the other blog: The Tungmaker.

Check it out: http://thetungmaker.wordpress.com/


Phobias, Philias, Manias

May 18, 2012

Three words that I quite like from Englandish are ‘phobe’, ‘phile’, and ‘maniac’. They’re very productive and really succinct. Also, they offer us a useful set of specific medical terms. However, they do come from Greek, and therefore we should try to replace them in Anglish. So let’s think about the meaning of these words and what we could therefore replace them with.

Phobias

A ‘phobia’ is an irrational fear and/or hatred of any given thing. So ‘arachnophobia’ is literally the irrational fear and/or hatred of spiders. So how to translate this affix?

We could simply use the word “fear”, e.g., “spiderfear”. But “fear” doesn’t quite capture the meaning of “phobia”. For example, maybe your fear of spiders is not irrational but healthy and well-founded, knowing as you do a great deal about their physiology and venomous capacities. How are we to make this distinction between rational and irrational fears? On top of that, “fear” does not by itself contain the “hatred” element that is often extant in the state of phobia.

We could, then, say “hate” or “hatred” (from now on in, when I say “hate” in this context, I am also referring equally to “hatred”). However, the same problems arise. That is, we are not marking this out as an irrational hate, and neither are we indicating the fear aspect of phobias.

So why not put the two together and say “fearhate” or “hatefear”? The problem is that this is longish, and we are still not indicating the key point that what we are dealing with is not a well-founded, reasonable fear, but an irrational, medical one.

We could, given these points, say, “unfoundedfearandorhatred”. But this doesn’t quite work, although I can’t put my finger on why…

Having said all of that, I’ll probably end up shocking you now. I don’t believe using “fear”, as a sort of pseudo-suffix, is inadequate a replacement for ‘phobia’. Indeed, I think it is more than up to the job. The reason I think this, despite everything I have just said, is because if you wish to say that you have a fear of a certain thing, whether this fear is objectively well-founded or not, you would not naturally say, for example, “I have spider-fear”. You would use one of the following: “I’m scared of spiders”, “I’ve got a fear of spiders”, “I’m afraid of spiders”, and so on. Thus I feel that using “fear” in this compound-cum-suffix way would not be confusing and, in fact, could clearly be used to indicate a more specific, technical sense; that is, phobia. Why isn’t this confusing? Because “fear” isn’t used syntactically in this way at the moment, thus such use of it would stand-out and indicate a potentially different meaning to the listener. Therefore, we could readily use “fear” as a kind-of suffix to indicate the specific sense of “phobia”.

Given what I’ve just said, you might want to suggest “-hate” instead of “-fear”. But I feel that “fear” works slightly better, meaning-wise. Mainly this is because a phobia may involve hate, but then again it may not, whereas it seems to invariably involve pathological fear.

Thus, for “phobia”, “phobe”, “phobic”, we have “-fear”, “-fearer”, and “-fearing”. Arachnophobia, arachnophobe, arachnophobic: spiderfear, spiderfearer, spiderfearing.

Philias

The form –philia indicates (i) “a tendency towards”, such as in “haemophilia”, and (ii) “love of or liking for”, especially with a sense of “sexual interest in”.

Natural self-suggestions are “-love” and “-liking”. But these don’t quite do it for me. I think we need a more extreme word. We could use the intensive prefix “for-“, to make “forliking” or “forlove”. Or we could go down a simpler path and use a readymade word: hankering, yearning, lust.

Certainly in the second sense of –philia, I very much like “lust”. It can have both sexual and non-sexual connotations, just like –philia, whilst also indicating an element of strong, almost insatiable desire. Thus, we have “childlust” (paedophilia), “frenchlust” (francophilia), and “animallust” (bestiality).

In the first sense of the suffix –philia, that is, ‘an inclination towards X’, we could use various forms. For example, “haemophilia” is literally a sickness where one cannot stop bleeding. Thus, “bleedingsickness”. Other possibilities suggest themselves, such as “bleedsickness”, “forbleed(ing)sickness”, and “bleedishness”. I’m sure you can think of others besides.

Manias

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “mania” primarily as, “madness, particularly of a kind characterised by uncontrolled, excited, or aggressive behaviour”, and “a personal obsession … excessive enthusiasm … a collective enthusiasm, usually short-lived, a ‘craze’”. It also lists the specific psychological meaning referring to a particular aspect of bipolar mood disorder.

I believe that madness or mindsickness are good ways of translating the mental illness type of “mania”, whilst craze is a good way to treat the merely excessive though not quite mentally unsound type of “mania”. I think this because whilst “craze” doesn’t needfully express mental derangement, it can, whereas “mad” and “mindsick” needfully betoken a mental unsoundness. Alternatively, we could use craze for both, because it does, like “mania”, have a shade of aggressiveness and also treads the line between merely the excessive and mental illness.

Wordlist

So, for your delight and quick perusal, I have prepared a list of words set over into Anglish. Enjoy!

NOTE: I haven’t supplied a full list of derivatives (e.g. “acrophobe” and “acrophobic” alongside “acrophobia”), as I think the derived forms are obvious; I have, instead, listed the forms that I reckon will be most useful.

Acrophobia                         Heightsfear

Agoraphobia                      Openspacefear

Anglophile                          Englishluster

Anglophobe                       Englishfearer

Arachnophobia                 Spiderfear

Francophobe                     Frenchfearer

Homophobia                      Gayfear

Kleptomania                      Theftlust, Theftmadness

Necrophilia                         Deathlust (Note: “necrophilia” does not solely mean a sexual desire for corpses, as it is often taken to be, it also includes a non-sexual but psychologically disturbed fascination with them)

Nymphomania                  Sexlust, Sexmadness, Overlust

Paedophile                         Childluster

Paedophilia                        Childlust

Paedophilic                         Childlusting

Pyromania                          Firemadness, Firelust, Firecraziness

Xenophobia                       Outland(er)fear

Xenophobic                        Outland(er)fearing


In the House of Sickness and Health

April 26, 2012

In this post I’m going to talk a little about words relating to sickness and good health. I will also speak about the word “house” and its uses in this topic area.

Death

House” is a pretty handy word. It doesn’t just mean “place where you live”. It can also mean, amongst other things, “a building associated with or used for a specified activity, purpose, or occupation”. In this way, it often (in effect) functions akin to Latinate –ary and is very productive:

courthouse, dosshouse, guesthouse, lighthouse, workhouse, warehouse, slaughterhouse.

However, it seems to be shied away from these days, with formations in –house often being replaced. For example, the above mentioned “slaughterhouse” is often rendered “abattoir”. [NOTE 1] Likewise, what were known in the nineteenth century as “deadhouses” are now euphemistically called “mortuaries”.

Now, I understand the sensitivity to death which gives rise to euphemistic formations such as “mortuary” (and “casket”, “deceased”, “abattoir”, and so on). And Anglish must also provide euphemisms, as euphemisms are a legitimate and important part of language. However, the problem is that “mortuary” has taken over and is no longer even euphemistic. I’d rather call a “spade” a “spade” and just say “deadhouse”, but if we feel the need to use a euphemism we could easily form them on English roots. Perhaps “gonehouse”, “lefthouse”, “Hereafter’s waiting room”; it isn’t difficult to think of potential alternatives.

Mental Illness

Let’s move on now from death to sickness. Firstly, to the phrase “mental illness”. “Mental”, of course, is Latin, and therefore no good for Anglish. So what can we call it? Let’s start by not trying to simplistically make a morpheme-by-morpheme translation of this phrase; let’s instead think about what the phrase “mental illness” actually means. Well, it is sickness of the mind, not the body. So it seems to me that “mental illness” can easily be glossed as “mind-sickness”. “Mentally ill” would therefore be “mind-sick”.

What is the name of the place where we often put mentally ill people? In Englandish we call it a “mental asylum” – more Latin! – but in Anglish we can already say “madhouse”. The problem is that “madhouse” seems somewhat pejorative (just as “whorehouse” seems to be; “brothel” being the “respectable” word [NOTE 2]). I personally have suffered mental health issues, and I have no qualms using the word “mad” of my own predicament; it was (is) my way of using humour to brush off the situation (‘Oh, I’m quite mad, don’t you know(!)’). But I appreciate that not everyone would want to handle their experience of mental illness in the same way. So let’s try to think of another word to replace “mental asylum”. Well, why not let’s, instead of saying “mad”, use what we have already come up  with – mindsick – and use “house” as we have been (that is, “a building associated with a specific activity, purpose, or occupation”): thus, a mental asylum is a “mindsickhouse“.

Physical Illness

Now, sicknesses of the mind are one thing, and another thing is sicknesses of the body. So where should these bodily sick people go? Well, a sickhouse“, no? Or, as Englandish would have it, a “hospital”.

Incidentally, “sickhouseis the word used in Swedish (sjukhus from sjuk ‘sick’ + hus ‘house’ [NOTE 3])

 One person who tends to you in sickhouses is the doctor. The word “doctor” entered our language around 1300, and by the late 14th century had come to mean “medical professional”. It essentially ousted our own word, “leech”, which has also stuck around in Swedish to the present day as läkare. I must confess that I’m so addled with Old and Middle English, so full of ye-diddly-de and hast thou-speak, that I’m not sure if “leech” is too far gone from our language so as to be unrehabilitatable. It does seem to have had some serious use until the nineteenth century, and continues even now as a jocular form amongst somewhat bookish types. However, “doctor” is, I would say, pretty well understood, and I’d reckon that 99 per cent of people on the street would never have heard of “leech” with the doctorly meaning.

The word for “doctor” is important as it leads us onto terms for other health professionals. For example, what do we call “dentists”? In Swedish the one says tandläkare, “toothleech”. But, as I say, I feel that leech is probably too far gone, and “doctor” is now so normal a word that we might be best to say “toothdoctor”. What about other types of medical professional, the podiatrists, psychiatrists, and even vetinarians? We should really think about these groups of professionals as a whole instead up coming up with individual terms piecemeal, but it is easy enough to see how plain English alternatives could be found; for example, footdoctor, minddoctor, and animaldoctor.

But let’s leave the names of professions for a separate posting, and instead move back to houses.

Spiritual Maladies

Sickness of the mind? Check. Sickness of the body? Check. Sickness of the soul?

The word “house”, unqualified and plain, can actually mean “religious building, house of God”. However, in this meaning it is usually put in the phrase “house of god”. The natural compound noun is, therefore, “godhouse” or “godshouse”. This is a good example of where using English roots can give us a neat word that we do not have an equivalent for in Englandish. What term do we have that covers churches, cathedrals, mosques, masjids, temples, and so on, if not “house of god”? Thus, godhouse.

General Health, Diet

Moving away from ailments and on to aspects of life which may or may not have health implications, I want to list some more formations using “house”.

Alongside “slaughterhouse” and “deadhouse” (as being “house” words ousted from English) are “bakehouse” and “deyhouse” which have now completely been replaced by “bakery” and “dairy”. The ending -(e)ry is from French. I find “bakehouse” quite a strong and admirably plain word; it is, if nothing else, a house of baking. But what is a “dey”? You might as well ask what a “dairy” is (which uses the same root, “dey”, but with a minor spelling change from <y> to <i>).

A “dey” is a female servant or maid (particularly one working in dairy), and the word is related to “dough”. The Oxford English Dictionary says “dey” is still around in “parts of Scotland” (how delightfully vague!) But anyway, the point is that bakehouse and deyhouse are good, plain, Anglish alternatives to current “bakery” and “dairy”.

There are several other extant -house words which have some bearing on our diet:

teahouse, coffeehouse, curryhouse.

Interestingly, there are a profusion of words for “place where primarily coffee is consumed”, and I am going to go off on a slight tangent now to discuss them. These words are: coffeehouse, coffee shop, café, caff/caffie and its synonym “greasy spoon (café/caff/caffie)”. The difference in meaning between these words is quite interesting and I believe not fully settled – an opportunity to set them in an Anglish mould, perhaps(!)

In my area (working classWest London), a caff/caffie, known as a “greasy spoon” by some, is the “traditional” English café with tea, breakfast, and so on, primarily focusing on food. “Café” refers more to a coffee house of some good quality (or supposed good quality); say, café rouge. And a “coffee shop” is a populist coffee drinking house which is not primarily for food (as a caff is), such as Costa, Nero, or Starbucks. All three types (caffs, cafés, and coffee shops) collectively are known as “coffee houses”.

Now, like I say, this is not a settled or universal usage, but it is an understanding of the terms which seems to extend beyond my own bedroom rooms and close friends, at least. In any case, it is three quite different, albeit closely related, types of establishment. So how we would render these words (concepts) into Anglish? Well caffs are already known as “greasy spoons”, which is pure English; Starbucks et al are already “coffee shops”, the latter word being English and the former being the word borrowed by a great deal of languages; and café could remain “café” or else become “European coffee shop”; and “coffee house”, the overterm for all three things, could remain as it is.

Final Thoughts

House is a useful pseudo-suffix whose use can be extended beyond just places relating to sickness and health. For example, “library” could easily be rendered “bookhouse”, “restaurant” could be “foodhouse”, and many other words besides are already attested: brewhouse (brewery), playhouse (theatre), filmhouse (cinema), distilling-house (distillery), eating-house (restaurant), bath-house, tap-house, and so on.

Often, a subtly different word can be made by using “shop” versus “house” where this is appropriate (e.g. coffeeshop vs. coffeehouse), or by using “room” (e.g. bookroom vs. bookhouse, where the latter is perhaps a public library houses in a building, whereas the former is a private or subscription-only library based in a room or a small number of rooms).

I see no real need for -ery or -eria (pizzeria, cafeteria, and so on) when we have words such as “house”, “shop”, and “room” to take their stead. 

 

Bryan Parry

April 2012

 

Wordlist

abattoir slaughterhouse

bakery bakehouse

brewery brewhouse

cafe coffee shop; coffeehouse; greasy spoon

cinema filmhouse

dairy deyhouse

dentist toothdoctor, toothleech

distillery distilling-house

doctor leech

eria house

ery house

hospital sickhouse

library bookhouse, bookroom

mental asylum mindsickhouse

mentally ill mind-sick

mental illness mind-sickness

mortuary deadhouse

prostitute whore; (euph.) working girl, working man

restaurant foodhouse, eating-house

theatre playhouse

vet animal-doctor, deerleech [NOTE 4]

 

[NOTE 1] “Abattoir” is a euphemism I find rather distasteful since it further removes us from the reality of what is going on, that is, the slaughter of animals. And I do not mean to say that I am against the slaughter of animals, for I am not, but I think it’s important to recognise, respect, and remember where these little parcels of meat come from. Dressing it all up in words like “abattoir” smacks of being an animal equivalent of something like “collateral damage”.

[NOTE 2] We do also have other euphemisms and humorous formations such as “knocking-shop” and “knocking-house”, of course.

[NOTE 3] They also say “läsaret”, the etymology of which I do not know. Someone care to enlighten me?

[NOTE 4] Deer is the homeborn word for “animal”, still used in other Germanic languages (e.g. Swedish djur); the original word for “deer”, therefore, is actually hart.


Outlandish Words

April 20, 2012

The game being “English purism”, we often talk about “foreign” language features imported into English. Therefore the word “foreign” pops up quite a bit in our discussions. However, I just wanted to make some quick points about the word “foreign”, its derivitives, and how we gloss them in Anglish.

Johnny Foreigner

“Foreigner” is easily translatable as outlander, which is attested with that meaning.

“Foreign country” is likewise easy to set over into Anglish with attested outland.

But what about “foreign“? The attested form is “outlandish”. However, the meaning of this word has shifted so much as to be surely unrehabilitatable; I suspect it will now always retain hints of derisoriness even if we were to reappropriate it for the meaning of “foreign”.

A couple of options, therefore, present themselves to my mind.

(1) Change the pronunciation. Outlandish with its current main sense to stay as it is; with the sense of “foreign” it could be pronounced with the first, not the second, syllable stressed.

(2) Use the wordoutland instead which has an attested adjectival meaning of “foreign”, attested up till this very day, indeed (so sayeth the OED (pbui)).

I suspect strategy two is more likely to suceed.

We do of course also have the word “abroad”. Abroad, abroadland, abroadish? Perhaps, but maybe not. I think I’ll stick with outland (adj. and noun, country) and outlander (noun, person).

Foreign Foreign vs. Anglosphere Foreign

A final note before I wind this quick post up.

I often find myself, much to the confusion of others, referring to “English” but meaning “anglospheric”; that is, ‘of the worldwide Anglo-saxon culture, community, history, and language’. This is a kind of “foreigner lite”, I suppose, where Spaniards, Brazilians, and Chinese are all ‘foreign foreign’, and Aussies, Americans, and Canadians being kind of ‘home foreign’.

I don’t really find “anglospheric” to be satisfactory; and certainly, on Anglish grounds it is unacceptable. So what to say? “English speaking lands” doesn’t quite tickle my linguistic g-spot. English outlands? Not sure. Need to think on it a bit more…

Bryan Parry

April 2012


Spellings

April 18, 2012

I haven’t seen the subject of this post get given any real treatment by Anglish enthusiasts, so I thought I’d give it a (cursory) go. And that subject is spelling.

The English spelling system has been profoundly influenced by 1066 and its aftermath. I’ll give a couple of sets of examples before moving on to talk briefly about what this all means for “Anglish”.

The Great Vowel Shift & Anglo-Norman Scribes

Let’s look at the vowel sound in sound, found, and cow.

Over a very long period of time, the vowels in English shifted around quite a lot; the so-called Great Vowel Shift. [Notes 1, 2] Old English “long” i, as in the word min ‘mine’, which was pronounced like Modern English (ModE) <ee> as in “keep”, changed to the “eye” sound it has now. min –> mine, win –> wine, lic(an) –> like. And so on. However, the spelling of the vowel stayed the same. [Note 3] That is, we do not write <main>, <wain>, and <laik>. This reflects the inheritance of ModE “long” i from Old English (OE) long i.

A similar thing happened with OE “long” u which was pronounced as “oo”; after the great vowel shift it diphthongised, coming to be pronounced as “au”, or the <ow> of ‘cow’. The OE word was cu. Likewise, Old English mus, hus, and tun, pronounced “moose”, “hoose”, and “toon”, became, can you guess? Mouse, house, and town. Notice that, unlike with OE long i, the long u did have a spelling change. Namely, to <ou>. Why?

Simple answer, really. Let’s just say: bijou, Anjou, and Petits Filous. Yes, that formidable swinehoard France was to blame. Again. Basically, the Anglo-Norman scribes spelt English as they spelt their own language; thus “u” became “ou”.[Note 4]

If this change from <u> to <ou> seems trifling and marginal, then I would just say that it is the tip of the iceberg, an iceberg that we’ll come to look at from up a little closer later in this post.

Hypercorrective Spellings (Hyperactive Monks?)

Many spellings were wrixled [Note 5], mostly to the effect of worsening the correspondence between sound and symbol, due to scribes attempting to make words look more like their (supposed) Greek or Latin forebears. In this way, “debt” acquired a <b> (despite coming from French dette), “receipt” acquired a <p> (altho the same root did not acquire a <p> in “deceit” or “receive”, none of these three words having a <p> in the French, in any case), and “admiral” acquired both a <d> and, ultimately, a spelling pronunciation /d/ sound [Note 6], to make it resemble the Latin word from which it doesn’t come; it actually comes from the Arabic amir-ar-rahl, by way of French amirail(!)

Now if this isn’t sheer idiocy, I don’t know what is. But I contest that this obsession with Latin and Greek antecedents, this fetish of the foreign, had and has its origins in the Norman Conquest and the culture-change it has ever stood for.

Anglish and Modern Old English

There are, in line with my previous analysis [Note 7], two main ways you could go with all of this (so far as Anglish is concerned). You could either go the “Modern Old English” route, or you could go a more “Anglishy” way. Let’s look at the possibilities.

Modern Old English

Here we try to undo all or almost all influence resulting ultimately from 1066 and all that . In this way, spellings may be even better at times: <qu> would be replaced by <cw>, such that we have something like <cwene>, <cwick>, and <cwoþ>. Which leads us onto <th> getting the old heave-ho in favour of <þ>; an “improvement”, perhaps, as it cleaves to the alphabetic principle of “one sound one symbol”: <þis>, <faþer>, and <wiþ>.

Some other times, spelling might not improve, but actually get worse!

Why not let’s re-instate the silent <w> in “lisp” which was probably lost from the spelling due to most <wl-> words themselves being lost from English, ousted by foreign counterparts! Thus, <wlisp>. After all, we still have the silent <w> in <write>, <wrong>, and <wretched>, a fairly analogous case.

How about shifting:

<house> and <louse> to <hus> and <lus>;

<boat>, <road>, and <stone> to <bat>, <rad>, and <stan>;

<yellow> and <yes> to <gellow> and <ges>;

<church> to <circe> and <chin> to <cinn>;

<ice> to <is>?

 

This is fun, actually!

But perhaps pointless.

Anglish

I think simply keeping the current system as it is, with all its French influences intact, is the plainest and therefore best thing to do. I would merely remove etymological and pseudo-etymological spellings which were designed to resemble Latin or Greek. Thus, we would write <stomack> and <anker> or <ancor>, not <stomach> and <anchor>. The reason? English spelling, despite having a French side, is understood by ordinary people, and works, quite well; <ch> is, well, ch, not k [Note 8]! Problems arising in the English spelling system are mostly due to three areas, areas I will not discuss further as that is a topic for another post: (1) spellings of the sort I have been discussing, (2) reduction of vowel sounds in English, usually to schwa, and (3) a lack of adequate representation for the “ow!” sound versus the “oh!” sound; does <row> mean an “argument”, pronounced “r-ow!”, or does it mean the thing you do on a boat, pronounced “r-oh!”?

Thus, I personally take the spelling system as it is, prefering instead to alter individual spellings which do not work from a phonemic point of view due to their being, in my mind, spuriously altered or modelled along French, Latin, or Greek lines; thus, I write <dout>, <det>, <ancor>, and <receit>.

But I feel I am now sliding towards a separate post on the merits of the English spelling system, so I will stop myself there. I hope this has been an interesting beginning to the debate, if only a beginning.

 

Bryan Parry

April 2012

 

 

[Note 1] The Great Vowel Shift at wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Vowel_Shift

[Note 2] The Great Vowel Shift didn’t become “completed” in all English-speaking areas, however. In parts of the UK, specifically the north, “long” u didn’t diphthongise; or to put it another way, “There’s a moose, a-loose, aroun‘ this hoose! danDAHdanAH aDANAHdana adundundunnadun!”

[Note 3] Arguably, and it is actually my view, but the non-contiguous sequence <i…e> is in fact a single grapheme; thus, the spelling of the vowel did change, from <i> to <i…e>. But this is a complication stemming from a separate issue which obscures the matter at hand.

[Note 4] Note that we write <cow> not <cou>; the reason is the same as why we write <oil>-<toil>-<toy>. Essentially, <ow> is what I call an allograph of <ou> when representing the sound /au/ used in final position: <out>-<bout>-<bow>.

[Note 5] “Wrixled” means “changed”, remember?

[Note 6] A “spelling pronunciation” is when people pronounce a word as it is spelt despite this not being the ‘true’ way of saying the word. Essentially, the usual thing that happens is people believe that the way they grew up saying this word is wrong, the correct way being in line with the spelling. Which is actually a fairly reasonable assumption, and given the stigma and ill effects associated with “poor speaking”, it’s easy to understand how such things happen. And so they hypercorrect , thus resulting in things like “admiral” and foreign-ese “receipt” (with a /p/ sound). Interestingly, I’ve even heard some native English speakers, without joking, say “receipt” with a /p/. Hmm. A hundred years from now…

[Note 7] See my blog entry “1066 Wrixled Everything”

[Note 8] Or, more precisely, the grapheme <ch>, by default, represents the voiceless palato-alveolar affricate, whereas the voiceless velar plosive is represented usually by either <c>, <k>, <ck>, or <q>.


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