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]


Break #Anglish #PlainEnglish

July 27, 2017

Sadly, I haven’t posted anything new on Wrixlings for more than month. Lack of time and a bunch of personal commitments were responsible. But it was nice to be busy with other stuff and have a hiatus. Or should that be break? I can’t really see the point in the word hiatus myself — but to make the user sound clever.

Break is actually quite a useful word, coming up in all sorts of compounds.

Breakup (noun) or break up (verb) means “to disintegrate / disintegration” and comes from the literal sense of breaking up plough land.

Breakdown (noun) or break down (verb), of course, means “collapse”: a mental breakdown, a machine breaking down.

Breakeven (adjective, noun) is the point outgoings and incomings meet.

Breakaway (noun, adjective) can mean succession, separation, departing from the normal routine, or a person who does any of these.

Breakout (noun): an escape, manifestation or appearance especially of a disease, an itemisaton; (adjective) sudden increase, advance, or success, as in “Tom Cruise’s breakout film was Top Gun

Break in (noun, verb): unlawfully getting into someone’s home, car, office, and so on.

Heartbreak (noun): great sorrow, grief, anguish.

Ground-breaking (adjective): originating or pioneering new work or ideas.

What a fruitful word!

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.movieposter.com/posters/archive/main/36/MPW-18388


Shrewsbury

June 19, 2017

The English town “Shrewsbury”. How do you say it? Some, like me, say it as “shrowes-bury”, to rhyme with “owes”. Others say “shroos-bury”, to rhyme with “shoes”?

This town’s name is quite interesting as it shows how the Norman’s mucked our speech up.

In the beginning, the town was “Scrobbesbyrig”.

The Normans couldn’t pronounce “scr-“, which was said more-or-less like the modern “shr”. So they spelt it, and said it, as “sr”. That also proved too hard for them, though, so they then changed it to “sar”. To make things worse, the sounds /n/, /l/, and /r/ often change their positions (“metathesis”) or swap for each other, hence Latin parabola but Spanish palabra and English palaver, or Spanish playa but Portuguese praia. Thus, Normanised “Saropesberie” became “Salopesberie” — and remember, the Old English form was “Scrobbesbyrig”! This is also why the shortening of the shire’s name, Shropshire, is “Salop.”

Lay folk carried on saying it as they always did. Throw in a few regular sound changes from the Middle Ages, such as b–>v–>u, and we got the modern pronunciations and spelling around 500 years ago.

Wow, did the Normans muck our speech up!

But what of the “right” way to say the town’s name: “Shrowesbury”, or “Shroosbury”? The simple answer is that both are right; enough folk say both to warrant both being considered right, and that includes folk who grew up in the town itself! But I reckon “Shrowesbury” might better represent the continuation of ancient “Scrobbesbyrig”, whereas “Shroosbury” looks to me like a spelling pronunciation based on the animal “shrew”. Look at the northern spelling pronunciations of “tong” (to rhyme with “long”) set against the southern pronunciation which rhymes with “young” and which represents a continuation of the original “tung” of Old English.

The moral of this tale is twofold. One, there isn’t always one right way of saying a word. Two, don’t get scribes who can’t speak the language to devise or modify a spelling system for it!

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.aeroengland.co.uk/shrewsbury.jpg

 


Per

June 6, 2017

This is a really short post but, seriously, why say “miles per hour” or “once per day” when you can say “miles an hour” and “once a day/daily”?

The “a/an” we see here is not a corruption of “a/an”, but rather comes from the Old English for “on” which was an. It first meant “on (each)”, but in the end the meaning spread from times to measures, prices, places, and so on.

In other phrases, we might feel we still need “per”, but honestly, be brave! We don’t need it! Per annum, per diem, per capita, per se: all Latin. Just use the English when speaking English: a year/every year/once a year/by the year/yearly. And the same can be used of the others, too: a day, by (the) head, by itself.

So what is the point of “per”? Let’s chuck it.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.helpful-baseball-drills.com/images/100mph.jpg

 


Coward

May 16, 2017

Short post this fortnight.

Coward is from Old French coart which comes from coe ‘tail’ from the Latin coda/cauda which also means ‘tail’. It has the agent affix -ard (as in “sluggard”, “drunkard”, and so on). The idea is the same as when we say “turn tail and run”, or how a dog will put its tail between its legs. So a good Saxon alternative to “coward” is surely tail-turner.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

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Poetry #Anglish #PlainEnglish

May 5, 2017

Poetry, poem, and poet feel like such basic words, and Old English had such a great poetic tradition. Therefore, it’s a little sad to realise that we borrowed these words.

The word poetry ultimately comes from the Greek root ποιεω poieō meaning ‘I make’. In Old English, we had the words metergeweorc “meter-work” meaning ‘verse’ and metercræft “meter-craft” meaning ‘art of versification’.

Some senses of the word meter are ultimately from Greek, but some senses are from Old English. The homeborn, Germanic word is mete + er, mete meaning to measure (as in “mete out justice”). Thus meter is also Saxon word.

Poetry isn’t really about riming, but about the metre, that is, the rhythm and stresses. Therefore, meterwork and metercraft work really well for the word poem and poetry respectively.

A poet is clearly a meterworker or meterwright and/or a metercrafter/metercraftsman.

We also have the word skald which refers to a Scandinavian poet or singer of the Middle Ages — but we can easily take this word and update it for modern use (after all, “electric” comes from the Ancient Greek word meaning “amber”!) We might wish to spell this “scald” to show we have made the word English (and yes, the English word “scald” is indeed the same word as the Norse word skald! The link? Think how poets (and rappers) scald their opponents in verse).

Unlike in many languages, there is no deedword (verb) in English such as “poetrise”; that is, to do poetry. But with our Saxon forms about, we have no issue: both work and craft can be deedwords as well as namewords (nouns). So “I write poetry/I poetrise” could be “I meterwork/metercraft”.

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://images5.fanpop.com/image/photos/31100000/poetry-poetry-31167131-998-783.jpg


Obey #Anglish #PlainEnglish

April 17, 2017

This post is a lesson in how hard it can be to think clearly and come up with pithy plain, Saxon English wordforms.

I watched the wonderful film 3096 Days on Netflix last night. No spoilers, but the film featured the word obey prominently. It got me thinking: how would we say “obey” in Plain English?

Now, as far as French borrowings go, “obey” isn’t bad. It’s quite a short word and pretty much obeys(!) the sound structure of English. But it’s not plain English.

Do as you’re told, do what so-and-so tells you to do, follow (after): try to use these and similar phrases when you can.

But what about when we need a shorter expression? What Saxonism could we use?

We could make a phraseword on the analogy of words like wannabe (from the phrase “want(s) to be”). So how about… Tell-do? Say-do? They don’t quite work, do they?

Obey ultimately comes from the Latin meaning “listen to, pay attention to, give ear”. So… Give-ear/ear-give? Listen-do? Forheed? Nice, but I’m not sure they work 100%.

So let’s look to older English words.

Old English had the great word hiersum ‘hearsome’ (like handsome). Why not use this? Or better still, “listensome”? Why? Because listen is distinguished from hear in that it implies that your attention has been directed, whereas hear just means (passively) taking sound into your ear.

So if hearsome or listensome are the adjective, and the abstract noun would clearly be hearsomeness or listensomeness, what would the verb be? Old English had hiersumnian: hiersum with the verb ending, no longer in English. We could follow other -some words and use a phrase with to be. So, “Obey me!”, would be, “Be hearsome/listensome!” And, “You have to obey your father” might be, “You have to be hearsome/listensome with your father”.

As it happens, the root is the verb. Set side-by-side “He is tiresome” and “He tires me”. But there’s a problem: “hear” and “listen” don’t mean “obey”! Interesting, we say “listen to“, so maybe “listen” alone might be “obey”: “Listen to your father” and “Listen (=obey) your father”.

Maybe hear-listen to emphasise the point. “You have to hear-listen (to)   your teachers”.

…but in that case, I feel myself drawn back to “listen-do”. Do is the key, as obey mean do it, whatever it is. But compare: Obey your father and Do your father(!) No, it’s Do the thing that your father says. Using do changes the desired object of the verb.

Maybe swap the order around? Do-hear your father, hear-hear, listen-listen, forlisten/forhear, full-listen, fullhear. To-listen? Cf. Overdo, do over mean different things even tho bring in and in-bring don’t. So why can to-listen mean something different to listen to? You must to-listen your father.

We might use the words “hark” and “heed” in some way. Say, “full-heed your father!”. But this doesn’t work for me either.

We often say a word again to emphasise we mean a “real” or “legitimate” version of the thing: “I want to eat food food, not hamburgers” (that is, real, nourishing food); “I’m talking about football football, not American Football” (in a British context, likely meaning “soccer”). So: Listen-listen meaning to really listen, that is, listen and do… AKA obey.

In short, I am struggling to find a Saxon English form which is Plain English enough and which is short. My best ideas in this post are likely listensome (obedient), listen (without “to”) or listen-listen or listen-and-do (obey), listensomeness (obedience).

EDIT: Danny Scwartz left a comment below putting forward “befollow” on the German analog. Not quite perfect, but an outstanding suggestion. Many thanks, Danny!

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-ah9DaT1FNkM/UsvC-IxBUpI/AAAAAAAAC4I/T8ra-r9twuc/s1600/3096+Days+2013+(4).jpg


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