(Simplified Speling Sosiëty Pamflet Nr. 3.)

DHE ETIMOLOJIKAL ARGUEMENT

BIE WILLIAM ARCHER, M.A.


Publisht on behaaf of dhe Simplified Speling Sosiëty
bie Sur Isaac Pitman & Sunz, Ltd., Lundon.
Janueary 1941. Furst publisht March, 1909.
"Cette raison qu'il faut garder aux mots tout leur appareil afin de maintenir leur étymologie est parfaitement vaine; car pour une lettre de plus ou de moins, les ignorants ne sauront pas mieux reconnaître l'origine du mot, et les hommes instruits la reconnaîtront toujours." - Sainte-Beuve.
In dhe yeer 1569, "J.H., Chester Heralt" (hiz naem woz John Hart) publisht a book entietld: "An Orthographie, conteyning the due order and reason how to write or paint thimage of mannes voice, most like to the life ov nature." On dhe tenth paej ov hiz kueryus litl treetis, Hart sets forth dhe objekshonz to simplifikaeshon komonly urjd, eeven in dhat distant dae, bie dhoez huu "maintaine our superfluitie of letters in writing." He atribuets to dhem "foure arguments wherein is some likelyhood of reason"; and dheez arguements he staets az foloez -
"The first is under pretence to shew the derivation and spring of some wordes borrowed or taken forth of strange tongues.
"Another is that it should be lawful to abuse some letters to put a difference betwixt equivoces or wordes of one sounde.
"The thirde is for the time of vowels.
"But their strongest defence (which comprehendeth all) and that wherein they most triumph is use."
Dhus we see dhat dhe etimolojical arguement iz noe nue wun. If antikwity wer a mezher ov truuth, dhis opinyon wood at leest be respektabl. Unfortuenetly it haz nuthing but antikwity to komend it.

John Hart's replie iz not, from dhe modern point ov vue, very efektiv. He understandz dhe objektorz simply to meen (az indeed dhae probably did meen) dhat eech wurd aut to karry about widh it dhe baj ov its nashonality, "even as every Gentilman is knowne by his armes, which are duely belonging to him." It duz not enter hiz miend dhat dhe nolej ov a wurd'z history mae giv us an egzakter aprehenshon ov its meening, and enaebl us to uez it widh mor akuerasy and fors. Yet dhis iz surtenly dhe hoel strength ov dhe arguement az uezd in our dae. It wood undoutedly pozes a surten validity if it wer truu, az a mater ov fakt, dhat simplifikaeshon wood imperil, or eeven restrikt, etimolojikal nolej. But, az we hoep to shoe, dhis iz not truu.

It iz skaersly wunderfool dhat dhe siksteenth-sentuery reformer did not atempt to meet dhis aspekt ov dhe etimolojikal arguement. Dhe filolojikal siëns ov dhat tiem woz soe ruudimentary dhat dhe derivaeshonz aksepted eeven bie a skolar liek Hart wer ofen kalkuelaeted to leed to an inakueret raadher dhan to a mor akueret ues ov wurdz. For instans, he ashuurz us dhat dhe naem ov hiz oen profeshon, "Heralt," as he spelz it, "is wholly a Dutch word compounded of Herr and Alt, which is Olde Maister . . . Yet some doe compounde it with one Dutch word and another French, writing Herhault, signifying a high Maister." It need skaersly be sed dhat niedher etimolojy wil baer egzaminaeshon.

Our nolej ov dhe history ov wurdz haz advaanst enormusly sins Hart's dae; and it haz enaebld skolarz to realiez mor and mor kleerly dhe fuetility ov dhe etimolojikal arguement. Dhe averej man, huu haz noe filolojikal nolej wurth menshoning, stil fiendz in dhe blesed wurd "etimolojy" a konveenyent ekskues for hiz instinktiv repugnans to reform. He hoeldz dhat our konvenshonal speling kontaenz sum trezher ov historrik instrukshon which wood be lost to dhe wurld wer it amended; and he paez noe heed to dhe fakt dhat not a singgl kwolified stuedent ov dhe history ov langgwej atachez dhe smaulest importans to dhis arguement. Dhe apeel to living authorritiz he meets bie a referens to Archbishop Trench and Deen Alford, huu surtenly gaev sum kountenans to dhe historrikal or etimolojikal falasy. Let us, then, look breefly into its merits.

We mae thank Archbishop Trench [1] for giving dhe antidoet along widh dhe baen - dhat iz to sae, for staeting very admirably dhe arguement he profest to kontrovurt. Nuthing kood be beter dhan dhe sentens in blak tiep in dhe foloïng pasej. It antisipaeted bie thurteen yeerz dhe fraez ov Sainte-Beuve'z kwoeted at dhe begining ov dhis paeper, and serpaasez it in pointed kondensaeshon -
"It iz urjd, indeed, az an aanser to dhis, dhat dhe skolar duz not need dheez indikaeshonz to help him to dhe pedigree ov dhe wurdz widh which he deelz, dhat dhe ignorant iz not helpt bie dhem; dhat dhe wun noez widhout, and dhe udher duz not noe widh dhem; soe dhat in iedher kaes dhae ar profitabl for nuthing. Let it be freely graanted dhat dhis in boeth dheez kaesez iz truu; but between dheez tuu ekstreemz dhaer iz a multitued ov pursonz niedher akomplisht skolarz on wun sied, nor yet hoelly widhout dhe nolej ov aul langgwejez saev dhaer oen on dhe udher, and I kanot dout dhat it iz ov graet value that dheez shood hay aul helps enaebling dhem to rekogniez dhe wurdz which dhae ar uezing, whens dhae kaem, to whot wurdz in udher lansggwejez dhae ar neerly relaeted, and whot iz dhaer properest and striktest meening." - English Past and Present, 9th edishon, p.316.
To dhis dhaer iz a very plaen aanser - naemly, dhat dhe Archbishop iz prefuring a very smaul gaen, afekting a very limited klaas ov peepl, to an enormus gaen, afekting aul dhe kuming jeneraeshonz ov Inglish-speekerz thruout dhe wurld. We mae admit dhat nuthing iz to be had for nuthing, and dhat agaenst dhe graetest advaantej dhaer iz aulwaez sum disadvaantej to be set of. But in dhis kaes dhe draubak iz aulmoest infinitesimal kompaerd widh dhe gaen. Dhaer ar noe dout sum thouzandz, perhaps eeven tenz ov thouzandz ov eduekaeted peepl huu okaezhonaly taek sum plezher in having dhaer etimolojikal memoriz jogd bie a suepur-fluüs leter or a kumbrus kolokaeshon ov leterz. But dhis plezher, raet it at dhe hiëst, iz a very trivyal and inesenshal afaer; kan it for a moement be held wurth purchasing at dhe kost ov from wun to tuu yeerz ov unnesesary toil inflikted on aul lurnerz ov Inglish, naetiv-born or forren, duering aul dhe sentueriz to kum? Waed in dhe balansez ov reezon, whot iz dhe okaezhonal plezher ov a fue thouzandz agenst dhe inevitabl and teedyus toil ov inuemerabl milyonz? Remember dhat we hav not to konsider dhe interests ov wun jeneraeshon or tuu, but dhoez ov an ilimitabl multitued. It iz hard to see hou eniwun huu pozesez an imajinaeshon, and iz not pozest bie a bliend spirit ov egoîstik pedantry, kan relie for a moement on dhe etimolojikal preetekst.

Eeven if simplified speling wood obskuer dhe etimolojy ov evry wurd in dhe langgwej, its manifoeld advaantejez wood stil enormusly outwae dhis disadvaantej. But, az a mater ov fakt, it iz oenly in a very smaul persentej ov wurdz dhat eny sort ov obskueraeshon wood taek plaes. Look at dhe laast tuu sentensez we hav riten; dhae kontaen 47 wurdz, choezen widhout eny thaut ov dhaer individueal baering on dhis arguement. In hou meny ov dhem duu we fiend dhe etimolojy in dhe slietest degree disgiezd? In presiesly wun: to drop the l from would wood noe dout render it a litl les eezy to remember its relaeshon to wil. [2] It will skaersly be pretended dhat if we substitueted i for the furst y in etymology, eniwun huu had ever noen its derivaeshon wood dhaerfor fiend graeter difilkulty in remembering it. Let dhe reeder, sinseerly and faethfooly, aplie dhe sujested test to dhis paej, or to eny number ov paejez. Let him noet (a) in hou meny wurdz pekuelyarritiz ov speling realy giv dhe edukaeted man (az distinkt from dhe speshal stuedent) eny etimolojikal informaeshon wurth having; and (b) in whot persentej ov dheez wurdz dhat informaeshon wood be obskuerd bie eny rashonal simplifikaeshon ov dhaer speling. He wil fiend dhe persentej very smaul indeed; and if he wil dhen aask himself hou ofen, az a mater ov fakt, dheez etimolojiz ar realy prezent to hiz miend, or hav eny apreeshyabl value for him, he wil shuurly aanser (if he be kaepabl ov intelektueal sinserity) dhat dhe gaen to him and hiz klaas implied in dhe retenshon ov dhe irashonal spelingz iz az nuthing kornpaerd widh dhe gaen dhat wood akruu from dhaer amendment to inuemerabl jeneraeshonz ov Inglish-speekerz, aul dhe wurld oever.

Az regardz dhe relaeshon ov speling to etimolojy, dhe wurdz ov dhe langgwej seem to faul into three klaasez -

(1) Dhe smaul klaas in which a simplifikaeshon ov speling wood aktuealy maek it a litl mor difilkult to remember dhe derivaeshon.

(2) Dhe imens klaas in which simplifikaeshon wood leev dhe etimolojy presiesly az kleer, or az obskuer, az befor. Dhis klaas mae be konsiderd under tuu sub-hedingz: (a) dhoez wurdz in which dhe Latin, Greek or Tuetonik sors iz, and wood remaen, faerly kleer to eny eduekaeted purson; (b) dhoez wurdz ov which noe wun kood posibly divien dhe orrijin widhout speshal study, and which simplifikaeshon wood render niedher mor nor les obskuer.

(3) Dhe konsiderabl klaas in which dhe speling iedher sujests a fauls etimolojy, or iz founded on a misspeling ov dhe Latin orijinal.


(1) It wood not be difikult to maek out a kompleet list ov dhe wurdz in which simplifikaeshon wood, in fact, render dhe etimolojy les apaerent. In such a wurd as daughter, for instans, dhe omishon of dhe gh wood render a litl les obvyus dhe relaeshonship to dhe Jurman Tochter and dhe Greek θυγάτηρ. Soe in night the omishon ov dhe gh wood maek les kleer dhe relaeshon to dhe Latin stem noct- and dhe Greek νυκτ-. Agaen to spel pneumonia and pneumatic widhout a p wood maek dhe Greek orrijin ov dhe wurdz slietly les perseptibl; but neume (a muezikal turm) iz, and aulwaez haz been, spelt widhout dhe p, dhoe dhis wurd reprezents dhe substantiv itself, from which pneumatic iz a meer derivativ. Paean, noe dout, jogz our memory ov dhe Greek form ov dhe wurd, az pean duz not; but we hav long agoe seest to spel "pedagogue" paedagogue and "phenomenon" phaenomenon widhout having dhaerbie lost aul rekolekshon ov dhaer orrijin. In nun ov dheez wurdz, ov kors, duz dhe speling releev eniwun ov dhe trubl ov asertaening dhe etimolojy. It kan at moest remiend: it kan not inform. Hou ofen, in rieting dhe wurd "night" duu we think ov nox and νύξ? And when we hav wuns lurnt dhe history ov dhe wurd in its simplified form (whotever dhat may be), shal we be very much mor liekly to forget it for lak ov dhe gh?

Eeven az regardz dhis very smaul klaas ov wurdz, dhen, dhe etimolojikal arguement maeks a mounten out ov a moelhil. Fue ov us gaen enithing at aul bie dhe retenshon ov dhe suepurfluüs leterz, and dhe gaen to dhoez fue iz very sliet indeed.

(2a) In dhe vaast majorrity ov wurdz simplifikaeshon wood not in dhe leest tend to obskuer whotever etimolojikal informaeshon dhae mae, az a mater ov fakt, konvae. It must be rememberd, in dhe furst plaes, dhat under eny rashonal sistem ov simplifikaeshon a larj number ov wurdz wood remaen kwiet unchaenjd; and it iz manifest dhat in uezing dheez wurdz our etimolojiezerz kood enjoi at dhaer eez dhe raptuerz ov ruutrekognishon. In aul probability, noe chaenj wood be maed in wurdz kompoezd ov whot mae rufly be kauld short vouëlz and ov dhoez konsonants ov which dhe value iz unambigueus. We hav aulredy uezd in dhe prezent parragraaf a konsiderabl number ov wurdz ov dhis klaas: in, it, not, tend, must, remember, under, number, an, and, at, manifest. Dhe wurd unambigueus hapenz (bie puer chaans) to be dhe hundredth wurd ov dhe parragraaf: twelv wurdz out ov dhe hundred, dhen (or nienteen if we kount repetishonz), wood aulmoest surtenly remaen unchaenjd. But, for dhe purposez ov dhe prezent arguement, it iz mor important to obzurv dhat dhe majorrity ov dhe chaenjez kontemplaeted under eny reezonabl sistem wood be ov a kiend which wood leev dhe esens ov dhe wurd kwiet unaulterd. Dhis iz truu ov hoel klaasez ov simplifikaeshonz. For instans, whot etimolojikal obskuerity kan ariez from dhe substitueshon ov -t or -d for -ed in preterits and paast partisiplz - mist for missed, hamperd for hampered? Dhis chaenj mae, indeed, obskuer a point in dhe history ov gramar; but dhat iz a toetaly diferent mater. Dhe hipokrisy ov konsurvatizm duz not goe soe far az to pretend dhat dhe eevolueshon ov Inglish aksidens iz prezent to dhe miend ov eny apreeshyabl number ov dhoez huu uez dhe langgwej. Agaen, iz dhe etimolojy ov definit obskuerd bie dhe droping ov dhe e? When dhe tiem kumz for dhe konsistent ues ov s for dhe voisles and z for dhe voist sibilant, whot etimolojiz wil dhaerbie be konseeld? If we spelt surprize az we spel prize, or if we spelt rize and wize az we spel size, wood eniwun be dhe les wiez az regardz dhaer etimolojy? Instansez miet be indefinitly multiplied. Dhe plaen fakt iz, az we staeted in dhe preevyus sekshon, dhat oenly in a smaul mienorrity ov wurdz wood simplifikaeshon plaes eny nue difikulty in dhe wae ov dhe amatuer etimolojist. Oenly in a fue skor wurdz wood he run eny risk ov mising dhat joi which he fiendz (it wood seem) in being remiended ov dhaer derivaeshon bie dhaer "ruudimentary" leterz. Hou monstrus, dhen, iz hiz klaem dhat, for dhe saek ov dhe plezher he taeks in dheez fue skor signifikant aberaeshonz, dhe Inglish-speeking wurld shood be burdend for aul tiem widh ten thouzand sueperfluitiz and anomaliz which hav noe etimolojikal signifikans whotever!

Heer it mae be wurth whiel to drau a distinkshon which iz ofen oeverlookt: dhe distinkshon between etimolojikal history and dhe history ov speling. It iz kleer dhat simplifikaeshon wood duu awae widh inuemerabl evidensez ov dhe shifts to which oeld rieterz and printerz wer poot in order to reprezent dhe soundz ov dhe langgwej widh an impurfekt alfabet, and dhe meny inkonsistent deviesez dhae adopted to dhat end. Dheez shifts and inkonsistensiz ar very interesting and hav been thurroly studid bie meny skolarz - espeshaly bie stuedents ov dhe history ov pronunsyaeshon. In remuuving or minimiezing dhoez which serviev in modern Inglish, we shal noe dout luuz a surten element ov kwaentnes in our langgwej, which sum peepl fiend pleezing. But dhat kwaentnes haz nuthing to duu widh etimolojy, and duz not eeven pozes such value az mae rashonaly be blaemd for anomaliz ov etimolojikal signifikans. Dhis noe wun wood theoretikaly denie; but meny peepl oeverlook dhe distinkshon, and think dhae ar argueing for dhe prezervaeshon ov etimolojikal evidensez, when in fakt dhae ar meerly klinging to dhe haphazard or obsoleet fonetik deviesez ov our ansestorz.

(2b) In sekshon 2a we konsiderd dhe wurdz ov which dhe derivaeshon iz faerly kleer to eniwun huu pozesez eeven "smaul Latin and les Greek," and wood remaen soe aafter simplifikaeshon. For egzaampl, it needz noe graet lurning to traes simplifikaeshon to simplex and facio, and eeven to karry a step fardher dhe analisis ov simplex. Soe, tuu, in dhe furst sentens ov dhis parragraaf, dhe orrijin ov dhe wurdz konsider, derivaeshon and remaen iz paetent to eniwun huu haz a smatering ov Latin, and remaenz soe under eny reezonabl sistern ov simplifikaeshon. But dhaer iz aulsoe a larj klaas ov wurdz (dhe subjekt ov dhe prezent sekshon) ov which dhe orrijin kan be asertaend oenly bie speshal study, and wood be az eezily asertaend aafter simplifikaeshon az befor.

It iz difikult to selekt from dhe sueperabundans ov egzaamplz. If assassin wer spelt asasin, wood its relaeshon to hashish be in eny wae obskuerd? If allow wer spelt widh one l wood dhaer be eny graeter difikulty in traesing it to dhe Oeld French alouer, and in remembering dhat dhis wurd reprezents a blending of Latin ad-laudare and ad-locare? If allay and alloy dropt dhe sekond l, and soe returnd to dhaer urlyer form, wood dhaer very kompleks history be eny mor difikult iedher to traes or to remember? If bronze dropt its e, shood we noe eny les ov its orrijin, which, az a mater of fakt, iz unsurten? If buccaneer dropt its suepurfluüs c, wood its relaeshon to dhe French boucanier, and ultimetly to a Brazilyan or Karrib wurd boucan, a barbekue, be in eny degree konseeld? Spel buttress az it woz spelt in dhe 14th sentuery, butres, and U duu not disgiez its probabl konekshon widh dhe French bouter, to poosh. Spel cabbage widh wun b, az it woz komonly spelt in dhe 15th, 16th and 17th sentueriz, and U surtenly duu not disgiez its konekshon widh dhe Latin caput. Spel "hammock" hamok, and U obvyusly duu not obskuer its derivaeshon from dhe Karrib-Spanish harnaca. Spel harbor widhout its u, and its konekshon widh dhe Jurman herberge, widh our oen harbinger, and ultimetly widh here-beorg, a shelter for an army, iz in noe wae disembld. Indeed, our etimolojikal enthuezyasts aut to insist on dhis chaenj, in order to distinggwish dhe wurd from dhe labour and favour gruup, in which dhae kling to dhe u az a sien ov French orrijin. Spel scourge az it iz pronounst, and its ultimet konekshon widh dhe Latin excoriare iz niedher mor nor les obskuer. Spel shallow widh wun l and U surtenly duu not disgiez its relaeshonship to shoal, Jurman scheel and schielen, and (kueryusly enuf) to dhe Greek wurd familyar to skuulboiz in dhe turm "scalene trianggl." [3]

Udher egzaamplz wil okur to eniwun huu haz maed eny study ov etimolojy. Unfortuenetly dhis klaas duz not inkluud dhe pursonz huu ar loudest and moest persistent in advaansing dhe etimolojikal arguement.

(3) We kum nou to dhe nuemerus wurdz in which dhe kurrent speling, far from afording a gied to etimolojy remiendz us oenly ov dhe eroenyus theoriz which obtaend when etimolojikal siëns was in its infansy. Dhe insinserity, or at eny raet dhe perfunktorines, ov dhe etimolojikal argument bekumz apaerent when we fiend dhat dhoez huu relie on it kling kwiet az rezoluetly to spelingz which sujest a fauls, az to dhoez which sujest a truu etimolojy. Soe long az dhae kan retaen a suepurfluüs leter, in fakt, dhae kaer very litl whedher dhe derivaeshon it impliez be riet or rong.

We shal giv in alfabetikal order a list ov wurdz in which dhe kurrent speling iz iedher baest on, or inevitably sujests, an eroenyus derivaeshon, a fauls analojy or a misreeding ov history. Dhe list duz not pretend to be egzaustiv, but mae neverdheles be uesfool for purposez ov referens.

ACHE: Eroenyusly derievd bie Johnson from Greek άχος. Dhaer woz an oeld vurb ake and an oeld substantiv ache, and it woz dhe pluural ov dhis oeld substantiv which Shakespeare uezd in dhe lien "Fill all thy bones with Aches (aechez), make thee rore." Dhe pronunsyaeshon ov dhe vurb haz servievd and dhe speling ov dhe noun. Manifestly ake iz dhe mor historrikal, and les misleeding, form. It mae be noeted dhat dhe Inglish substantiv which iz realy konekted widh άχος is not ache, but awe. [4]

AGHAST: See Ghost.

AISLE: Orijinaly from dhe Latin ala, a wing, Oeld French ele, eele. Dhe s haz kum in thruu konfuezhon widh isle, Latin insula. Eeven Johnson, dhoe unsurten whedher to deriev it from ala, or from allée, a paath, sujested dhat it aut to be riten aile.

CINDER: Dhe c in dhis wurd eroenyusly sujests derivaeshon from dhe French cendre. It iz realy from dhe Oeld Inglish sinder, dros or slag ov iern.

DEBT: Dhe b in debt and doubt sujests, not egzaktly a fauls etimolojy, but a fauls history. Dhe Midl Inglish formz wer dette and dout. Detter okurz in Coverdale, Latimer, Shakespeare and dhe Inglish Biebl (1611), dettor in Milton; dout okurz in Latimer, Spenser, ets. Dhe b woz gratueitusly insurted under dhe mistaeken impreshon dhat dhe wurdz kaem direkt from dhe Latin.

DELIGHT: Heer dhe gh iz kwiet meeningles. Dhe New English Dictionary sez: "Dhe kurrent eroenyus speling aafter light, ets., aroez in dhe 16th sentuery and prevaeld about 1575: dhe Biebl ov 1611 okaezhonaly retaend delite." Dhe Midl Inglish substantiv woz delit, dhe vurb deliten.

DOUBT: See Debt.

FOREIGN: Heer dhe g iz entierly meeningles. In Chaucer'z translaeshon ov Boethius, dhe wurd iz spelt foreine or foreyne. It kumz thruu dhe Oeld French forain from foraneus, aplied to a kanon huu iz not in rezidens, or to a traveling pedlar. Dhe insurshon ov dhe g woz a puer blunder.

GHOST: In dhis wurd, az in aghast and ghastly, dhe h iz purfektly gratueitus, and haz les dhan noe etimolojikal value. It did not maek its apeerans until dhe 15th sentuery, when Caxton introduest it, probably on dhe analojy ov dhe Flemish gheest; and it woz not thurroly establisht until dhe end ov dhe 16th sentuery. Langland spelz dhe wurd goste, Wycliff goost, Chaucer gost and goost. Agast okurz in Wycliff, in Chaucer and in Shakespeare. Dhe saem intruusiv h, due to Duch influens, iz found in gherkin, which, akording boeth to etimolojy and komon sens, aut to be spelt gurkin. Dhe h haz aulredy been simplified awae in ghuest, ghospel, ghossip, ets.

HAUGHTY: Dhe gh iz a meer korupshon, sujesting a Tuetonik orrijin. Az a mater ov fakt dhe wurd kumz from dhe French haut, and dhe gh woz dragd in laet in dhe 16th sentuery, on dhe baesles analojy ov caught, taught, ets.

ISLAND: Dhe s haz krept in bekauz dhe wurd woz beleevd to be derievd, liek isle, from dhe Latin insula, whaeraz dhe i realy reprezents a kwiet independent Oeld Inglish wurd, which servievz in ey-ot, Batters-ea, Angles-ey, ets.

NICKNAME: We hav heer a kueryus instans ov an intruusiv and deluesiv c, which meerly survz to obskuer dhe fakt dhat dhe wurd woz orijinaly eke-name, a naem aded or tagd on.

POSTHUMOUS: Dhis wurd iz in reality dhe Latin postumus, dhe laast, aplied espeshaly to a laast-born chield. Dhe h iz due to a fauls beleef dhat dhe orrijin woz post humum, "aafter dhe ground," and dhat dhe wurd ment a chield born aafter its faadher'z beryal.

REDOUBT: Dhis wurd iz derievd thruu dhe French from the Italyan ridotto, eksplaend bie Florio (1611) az a "widhdrauing plaes." Dhis agaen iz a substantiv ues ov dhe paast partisipl ridotto, which Florio translaets az "reduced . . . brought back safe and sound againe." Dhe word was orijinaly ridutto, paast partisipl ov ridurre, to bring or leed bak. Redoubt haz noe konekshon widh doubt.

SCENT: Heer dhe c iz intruusiv and misleeding, az it uest to be in dhe nou simplified scite and scituate. Sent, from dhe Latin sentire, iz korektly spelt in dhe Furst Foelyoe Hamlet: "I sent the mornings ayre." Our etimolojiezerz miet az wel riet scense az scent.

SCHOONER: Dhe h in schooner iz due to a fauls impreshon dhat dhe wurd iz derievd from dhe Duch. Az a mater ov fakt, dhe Duch wurd iz derievd from dhe Inglish. Dhe silabl scoon iz in reality a Nue Ingland wurd, imported from Skotland, whaer scon meenz "to maek flat stoenz skip along dhe surfes ov dhe wauter." It iz alied to Oeld Inglish scunian, to shun, to flee awae. Dhe naem skooner iz sed to hav orijinaeted at Gloucester, Mass., in 1713. Az a vesel went of dhe stoks into dhe wauter, a biestander kried out, "Oe, hou she skuunz!" - dhat iz, gliedz, skimz along - whaerupon dhe bilder replied "A skuuner let hur be." Such etimolojikal anekdoets ar jeneraly to be regarded widh suspishon; but dhis wun wood seem to be truu.

SCISSORS: Dhaer iz absoluetly noe etimolojikal justifikaeshon for dhe c in scissors, which haz krept in bekauz ov a fauls beleef dhat dhe wurd woz derievd from dhe Latin scindere. Its truu baesis iz caedere, to cut (kp. caesura). Dhe Oeld French form iz cisoires (Latin cisoria). An alied form iz ciseau (Latin cisellus, whens aulsoe our chisel).

SCYTHE: Dhe c in dhis wurd iz meeningles, eeven if it duz not, az in scissors, sujest dhe fauls derivaeshon from scindere. It iz spelt sithe in Piers Plowman, sythe in dhe Furst Foelyoe Shakespeare.

SOVEREIGN: Dhe g haz krept into dhis wurd from a mistaeken dezier to konekt it widh reign, Latin regnare. It iz realy from dhe Loe Latin superanus, and iz spelt bie Chaucer souerain, bie Milton sovran.

SPRIGHTLY: Heer dhe gh haz not dhe slietest etimolojikal justifikaeshon. Dhe Midl Inglish formz ar sprit, sprite or spryte, French esprit. Dhe gh haz krept in on a fauls analojy, and "jogz dhe memory" oenly to sujest sumthing kwiet eroenyus.

SURROUND: Dhe dubl r in dhis wurd kanot but sujest, on dhe analojy ov surreptitious and surrogate, dhat dhe furst silabl standz for dhe Latin sub. It kumz in fakt from Oeld French suronder, Loe Latin superundare, meening "to oeverfloe." "By the increase of waters divers landes and tenementes in grete quantite ben surounded and destroyed." - Statuet ov Henry VII, 1489.

VICTUALS: Dhis speling sujests a fauls history. It disgiezez dhe fakt dhat dhe wurd kumz to us, not from dhe Latin victualia, but from dhe Oeld French vitaille. It iz soe spelt in Chaucer; and dhe pronunsyaeshon rekordz dhe history which pedantik speling obskuerz. Dhoez huu kling to dhe u in labour az a sien dhat it kaem to us thruu dhe French aut to maek it a point ov onor to riet vittles (or vitlz) in plaes ov victuals.



Dheez ar perhaps dhe moest flaegrant egzaamplz ov spelingz which hav noe historrikal or etimolojikal justifikaeshon - which sujest iedher sumthing untruu or nuthing at aul. To dhis list aut to be aded dhoez wurdz ov which dhe kurrent speling iz founded on a misspeling ov dhe Latin or Greek orijinal. What duu our konsurvativz sae to such enormitiz az tyro for tiro, style for stile? We hav aulredy - aul ov us huu kaer about orthografy - korekted in our Latin teksts dhe speling ov sylva to silva, ov lachryma to lacrima, and lympha to limpha; but in Inglish sylvan, lachrymal, and lymph stil lingger on. Whie shood we not oenly toleraet but defend, in our oen langgwej, dhe "houlerz" - dhaer iz noe udher wurd for dhem - which az skolarz we hav aulredy diskarded in our edishonz ov dhe Latin klasiks?

Agaen, an interesting list miet be maed ov wurdz which ar sorsez ov etimolojikal konfuezhon, inazmuch az dhe saem ruut iz reprezented in tuu or mor arbitrarily diferent formz. Whie, for instans, shood receipt (Latin receptus) be spelt widh a p, whiel deceit (Latin deceptus) haz dropt dhe sueperfluity? Whie spel convey rashonaly and inveigh irashonaly? Whie flout etimolojy bie dhe spelingz deign and disdain? Dhaer iz noe lak ov authorrity for spelingz which shood remuuv dhe inkonsistensy. Chaucer riets deyne, Greene daine, Shakespeare deine, whiel on dhe udher hand Spenser givz us disdeign. Az dhe wurdz ar derievd from dhe Latin dignari (dignus), our etimolojiezerz aut to adopt widh enthuezyazm dhe Spenseeryan form.

We shal beleev in dhe sinserity ov dhoez huu taek dhaer stand upon dhe historiko-etimolojikal arguement, when we fiend dhem ajitaeting for a revizhon ov speling from dhat point ov vue - for dhe ejekshon ov leterz which kan remiend dhem oenly ov dhe blunderz ov ded pedants and printerz. Az a mater ov fakt, dhae ar kwiet az much opoezd to chaenjez which iluemin etimolojy az to dhoez which obskuer it. Not, ov kors, dhat we hoeld dhem to be wilfooly and konshusly insinseer. Dhae ar oenly tuu laezy, tuu weded to konvenshon and habit, to giv seeryus thaut to dhe mater. Dhae seez upon a fasiel fraez, and uez it widhout egzaminaeshon, az a preetekst for dhaer instinktiv konsurvatizm. Aul we aask iz dhat dhae shood realy giv sum urnest thaut to dhe kwestyon, and espeshaly dhat dhae shood bring into plae dhaer sens ov proporshon. We admit - for it wood be foly to denie - dhat no graet chaenj kan posibly be efekted widhout sum sliet diskumfort to dhoez akustomd to dhe oeld order ov thingz, and perhaps eeven a surten mezher ov aktueal los. But kan eniwun, waing dhis temporary diskumfort and trivyal los agenst dhe enormus gaen to aul fuetuer jeneraeshonz ov Inglish-speeking peepl, deklaer on hiz onor and konshens dhat dhe balans deflekts on dhe konsurvativ sied? It iz liek waing a split-pee agaenst a kanon-baul.


Footnotes.

[1] It iz oenly faer to remiend dhe reeder dhat Trench'ez English Past and Present daets from mor dhan aety yeerz agoe, and dhat he himself telz us dhat he woz obliejd to prepaer dhe lektuerz "in haest, on a breef invitaeshon, and under dhe presher ov udher engaejments." It bie noe meenz foloez dhat he wood nou stand to hiz arguement.

[2] And if dhis fakt afordz a sort ov ekskues for dhe l in would, the l in could, on dhe udher hand, oenly survz to obskuer its relaeshon to can.

Chris Upward comments in J27 about pamflet 3 include:

[3] "Archer was mistaken as to these German and Greek links with 'shallow'."

[4] "Here too Archer's Greek connection is unfounded."



Back to the top.