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Bruin Fisher

Alternative spellings and fashion

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Straitlaced or Straightlaced?

Vocal Cords or Vocal Chords?

Free Rein or Free Reign?

Sleight of Hand or Slight of Hand?

Fazed by or Phased by?

Bated Breath or Baited Breath?

Chaise Longue or Chaise Lounge?

Fount of Wisdom or Font of Wisdom?

Home in on or Hone in on?

Just Desserts or Just Deserts?

Shoe-in or Shoo-in?

Miniscule or Minuscule?

I found This article on the OUP website interesting.

In case you're interested the spelling I would have chosen is in each case the first of the pair in the above list - and I'd have been wrong on the last three. Having said that, several of them are now being accepted in dictionaries as alternatives.

A lot of the above are examples of an Eggcorn. An eggcorn is a word that has been mis-spelled, but the new mis-spelling catches on because in some way it works - Free Reign, for example, carries the sense of someone with freedom to act anyway they want because they're the monarch. The word Eggcorn originated when someone mis-spelled Acorn - and they're egg-shaped, of course.

Check out The Eggcorn Database

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The English language in all of its dialects and variants is constantly changing. Looking at Middle English spelling you'll find ask was spelled (and pronounced) aks or ax, adventure was aventure, wall was weall. There are changes happening to the English language today. The phrases Bruin listed are an example. Others are the use of anyways instead of anyway, I have proved instead of I have proven, I'm raising my children instead of I'm rearing my children. Fascinating!

Colin :lol:

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One of the most dramatic ways to see the changes in English at work, is too look up the original Shakespeare texts of his plays. Granted they were written in poetic form, but it is possible to gleam the differences of English usage in the 1600s as compared to today.

Not only is their a natural reduction (simplification) in the form of the words, but also there is a continuing effect of social filters that make some words and phrases less acceptable than they were in previous times, or gives them a different reference. In addition there is the influence of technology. I am sure if you said to Charles Dickens that you had a drive with thousands of millions of bytes, he would consider that you were either undernourished and therefore very hungry, or had a ferocious appetite which drove you to bite into your food many more times than was strictly, necessary. Some changes are beyond understanding outside the immediate experience of the culture.

Cultural differences between groups of people have also affected change in English (as well as other languages). Whilst England maintained the standard (in the face of the Cockney and similar alternatives) of the Monarch's English via their school system, the BBC and the Royal Shakespeare company to mention just three, both America and Australia had been deprived, because of the nature of the colonies, of essential grammar and punctuation in schools, or in the wider community usage. Neither country was particularly populated on the assessment of the convicts ability to speak and write excellent English. Across both continents, teachers (and others) attempted to teach the the 3 Rs: writing, reading and 'rithmatic. However many of those teachers were not well educated in remote areas and probably there was a severe level of illiteracy being adopted just to get some degree of English spoken let alone taught. This would explain why there are so many opposing rules of grammar and punctuation from one area to another, let alone the wide gulf of differences with 'proper' English.

I should also touch upon the area of accents. Basically an accent develops and is adopted, as a reticence to sounding different from those around you. In other words, local accents arise from originally, not having been taught pronunciation for a number of reasons, of which fear of sounding wrong, and laziness are most prominent in the absence of a knowledgeable teacher. This later, often gives rise to an 'appreciation' of cultural differences and respect for a given society's accent. From this arises new teachers who further the mispronunciation as not only acceptable but also, 'proper' and correct.

Hence, we sometimes have opposing rules of grammar and punctuation between cultures who consider English as their language.

The same thing happens to words and their meanings and spelling in conjunction with the cultural origins and customs influencing the changes.

In addition other languages (particularly those with Latin origin) can influence how English adopts new or different words and phrases.

The real problems only occur if one group insists its English is correct and the others are wrong.

English is a living language and constantly changing, probably without benefit if we cannot see the differences as a resource to enrich our understanding and communication with each other.

Educating people to understand the need for defining the terms used in a discussion, is essential if we are to have meaningful communication with each other. Unfortunately we so often get obsessed with arguing over the form, rather than the subject of common interest.

The examples above, provided by Bruin and Colin are illuminating and dare I say, fun. :icon6:

As a child I had many misinterpretations of what I heard. I thought tenterhooks was a tender hook, a shoulder was someone who went to war,

and that Mrs Bates' son was a person referred to as Master Bates. Puberty corrected the latter misunderstanding. :hehe:

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Woo-hoo, language topic. This is a drive-by post, because I'm about to go do things out in the world offline. (You mean, there is such a place?)

I'm English-geeky enough to know that the Middle English which Colin mentioned was the result of Anglo-Saxon and Norman French being blended together, somewhat unwillingly, to create a newer, simpler language. "Aventure," for example, is the French way of saying it. "Adventure" is because English speakers decided to sound a little more educated and Latin-like.

By ol' Shakespeare's time, the Great Vowel Shift had begun, some consonants started to disappear, some vowels went silent, and the people were trying out lots of new words for all the new things they were discovering or creating, including those very strange places in the New World.

A couple of hundred years later, men in ships were sailing all over the place, including some odd huge island down south in the Pacific....

Never mind about the spaceships and computers. Those were later yet.

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