England is NOT the UK!

UK_WTF

Tom Mason, the Professor of History in Steven Spielberg’s post alien apocalypse TV series Falling Skies, rather well-played by Noah Wylde, refers to “when the Scots fought the British”. If a history professor (albeit a fictional one) doesn’t know that the Scots are British and at that time the Scots fought the English, what can I say?

This is one thing that really grates for all dwellers of these British isles, be they proud British unionists or fat Scottish nationalists, is the American misuse of the term “England” to mean “British Isles”.

What the hell is wrong with you Americans? England is not the UK. Scotland is not England. The Republic of Ireland is not in the UK.

It’s so damn simple to understand. Just take a look at this Euler Diagram!

2000px-British_Isles_Euler_diagram_15_svg

So simple…

© 2015-2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

diagram from http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/2/28/British_Isles_Euler_diagram_15.svg/2000px-British_Isles_Euler_diagram_15.svg.png

Spelling Reform 2: An Axe/Ax to Grind #SpellingReform

Introduction

Fax, lax, max, pax, sax, tax, wax. Furthermore, box, cox, fox, lox, Knox, pox. Additionally, hex, mix, nix, tex, tux. Therefore, ax.

What?

Okay, the slightly less abridged version.

How should we spell ax/axe? The American way (ax) or British (axe) way?

The Bases of Spelling

People often think that spelling is just based on deep principles of phonemicity. However, it is actually (at least in the case of English) based on a combination of phonemicity, etymology, and, significantly, analogy.

On phonemic grounds: ax makes more sense than axe. After all, the word rhymes with tax, not aches.

On etymological grounds: ax makes more sense than axe. After all, the Old English form was æx, and the word has never ended in a “e” sound — or that of any other vowel for that matter.

On analogical grounds: ax makes more sense than axe. You can clearly see this from the list of words I began this article with.

Indeed, axe didn’t even really get popular until the nineteenth century, and then not in America. So it doesn’t even have vintage calibre. In fact, axe is such a mental spelling, that even the Oxford English Dictionary condemns it.

The spelling ax is better on every ground, of etymology, phonology, and analogy, than axe

The Curious Case of the Three Letter Rule

The only reason to keep that e in axe is in order to maintain the curious “three letter” rule, which is in fact more of a tendency than a hard-and-fast rule. This “rules” refers to a word requiring a minimum of three letters unless it is a grammatical word. That is why we write “add” instead of “ad” (compare: bad, not *badd), bye but by, too not to, and so on. The first items of each pair, unlike the second, are non-function words.

However, the <e> is still superfluous if we wish to follow the three letter rule! For the purposes of spelling, “x” is counted as if it were two letters, not one. That’s right. For example, we write taxed, not taxxed, whereas we do write mapped from map; there is no need to double the letter <x> in order to maintain the “short” vowel pronunciation when an affix is added, because <x> functions as if it were two letters. Basically, <x> is what we could call a “compound letter”.

Additionally, as mentioned, this famed Three Letter Rule is more of a tendency. There are many cases where it doesn’t hold. For example, ox. Despite the plural even being oxen(!), we neglect to put the final <e> in the singular.

In Conclusion…

Therefore, as much as it breaks my patriotic heart, axe needs to be binned in favour of ax.

But don’t for one second, dear Americans, sit back smugly and assume that your spellings are superior. Very often, they aren’t. More on that in a later post.

References

“axe | ax, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2016. Web. 20 December 2016.

© 2015-2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://2.bp.blogspot.com/-T4eehMjd09w/Th24O1Gr6cI/AAAAAAAAAqo/UOtTwFnT0CA/s1600/ax-grinding-jig.jpg

Spelling Reform 1: Program(me) #SpellingReform

In the UK we use the spelling programme, whereas in the US they use program. Which is better?

It’s not this straight-forward. The spelling program is used in the UK in the computer sense. Furthermore, program in all senses is becoming more prevalent in Australia, so much so that programme is now marginal and not favoured by the media or official sources. Canada only uses program and New Zealand more-or-less follows British usage: program for computing, programme for everything else.

So proud British and Commonwealth citizens should stand up and fight for our programme? Not quite.

Firstly, nationalist pride has nothing to do with how good the spelling is.

Secondly, programme isn’t that British in any case.

The Greek word γραμμα ‘gramma’ is regularly borrowed into English as gram: anagram, chronogram, cryptogram, diagram, epigram, hexagram, ideogram, kilogram, logogram, monogram, pentagram, telegram. Therefore, programme is irregular and goes against all analogy.

The word was originally borrowed into English, in the UK, as program. It largely kept that spelling in Scotland, even after senses of the word got borrowed from the French form of the word programme. Even in England, the spelling program was dominant up till the early nineteenth century; it wasn’t fully ousted till the late nineteenth century. Such English luminaries as Henry Sweet can be seen using it as late as 1892:

A less ambitious program would further allow of greater thoroughness within its narrower limits.

H. Sweet New Eng. Gram. Pref. 9

Therefore, program is the original and “true” British spelling.

And on phonemic grounds, –am is infinitely more justifiable than –amme. Compare: clam, cram, dram, flim-flam, glam, ham, jam, lam, mam, Pam, pram, sam, slam, tram, and of course, gram.

In conclusion, the case for program is overwhelming, the case against boils down to two things: the first, a sound but hardly convincing argument; the second, a non-argument. First, is there any other way to pronounce the spelling “programme”? Probably not. So why bother respelling it? It would seem a lot of effort for little-to-no gain (However, there is a case that the French -mme ending might imply a syllable final stress). Second, a factually inaccurately-grounded show of support in favour of the UK and British-associated practices is not a sound basis for spelling.

For what it is worth, I am a very homeland-loving kind of fellow, yet no matter how it smarts my British pride, program really is the only justifiable spelling. Therefore, I adopt it.

References:
“programme | program, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2016. Web. 20 December 2016.

Program vs. programme

© 2016-2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://www.thrashermagazine.com/mediaV2/k2/items/cache/2d35c8d2685f6803c5a2fed1fd2d6b0f_L.jpg?t=1448907778

Europe is to EU as European is to ?Europan?

I always make the point that the EU and Europe are not same thing, and how I love Europe, but hate the EU. You can disagree with me on whether the EU is something hateworthy or something praiseworthy, but you cannot disagree with me on this pedantic linguistic point, that the European Union, a political project consisting of many European nations, is not the same thing as Europe, a geographical and cultural area. 

Okay, fine, we can distinguish between “the EU” and “Europe”. But what of the adjective? For both it is “European”. This is clearly a defect of the language. And I think this lies at the root of some of the misunderstandings around Brexit as we confusingly mix the terms for these two concepts. Think of the term “Eurosceptic”; this doesn’t mean sceptical of Europe (or even of the euro), but of the EU.

I think we need to distinguish an adjective referring to the EU versus the usual one, “European”, which refers to the cultural-geographic area (namely, the continent itself). Why? Or else we could end up with an “American”-type situation again where English lacks a word like “United Statesian”, which many languages have (e.g. Spanish “estadounidense”).

I suggest “European” (of Europe, for the cultural-geographic area, that is, the continent itself) and “Europan” or “Europian” (of the EU). These words derived from “Europa”. They should be stressed on the second syllable. I sometimes use “E.U.pean” to make the distinction I am making clearer, but I don’t think that that is a good, long-term, non-derisory word.

I prefer “Europan” as it has a more distinct pronunciation to “European” than does “Europian”.

After thought

Incidentally, I’ve long since thought that one day, we will have EU citizens who are not citizens of their own country + the EU (which is what happens now), but citizens only of the EU if they so choose. Look how many British people wished to keep their “European”, i.e., Europan, citizenship after Brexit; it’s not possible as the EU citizenship hinges on your national citizenship. But I don’t see this situation continuing. This makes my Europan/Europian word all the more needed.

© 2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/b7/Flag_of_Europe.svg/1200px-Flag_of_Europe.svg.png

 

Neologism: Parchment Contract

So, me and some workmates were talking about older work contracts today and how people on older contracts have much better terms and conditions than people on new contracts. It’s like, it gets progressively worse over the last thirty years. Seems to be common across organisations. Anyway, I said,  ‘Of course so-and-so was entitled to such-and-such a benefit; their contract is so old it’s written on parchment’. And then I was, okay, “parchment contracts”.

So there we are, I offer my nonce word up as a useful new word:

parchment contract n. phr. an older contract with preferential terms and conditions and pay, specifically used in bitter reference to how such contracts are now ancient, long-forgotten, history, and never likely to return.

© 2018 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://cbsnews2.cbsistatic.com/hub/i/r/2012/04/06/6c5f91e8-3598-11e3-8ce8-047d7b15b92e/thumbnail/620×350/cee95ca89a1369962377c13e4c749723/contract_signing_000017511189.jpg

Pacifist Peas #ESOL

In my first ever post on this blog, I talked about how I teach English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). I mentioned a then-recent student who, when I would say “I’ve got an ear-ache”, would say it back to me as, “I vee be gooser you-near-eck”. ESOL teachers get this kind of random nonsense a lot; it’s our job, after all. But I got another one yesterday which will surely live long in the memory.

A student comes up to me after class and says, “Sir*, can you please tell us more about pacifist peas in the next class?”

“Pacifist peas?”
“Yes, pacifist peas”
“Erm… what?”
“Pacifist peas, Sir”
“What are pacifist peas?”
“Pacifist peas. Y’know… pacifist peas
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you’re saying. Can you say it again, please?”
“Pacifist peas”
“Pacifist peas?”
(nods) “Pacifist peas”
“Err…”
(incredulously) “You don’t know what pacifist peas are!? You’re a teacher!”
“I’m really sorry, but I think it’s the way you’re saying it. Can you say it more slowly?”
“Okay, Sir. Pacifist. Peas**”
“I’m really not getting this mate”
“Sir!? Verbs, nouns, prepositions…”

My brain starts ticking over.

“Ahh! Parts of speech!
“Yes! Pacifist peas”
“Say ‘speech'”
“Iss peas”
“Okay”

Cue a long heart-to-heart with me trying to reassure him that his English isn’t that bad and making mistakes is a vital part of the learning process. And look, look how many mistakes you’ve made; you’ll be fluent in no time(!)

So what does this tale tell us? Firstly, that teaching ESOL can be good banter. Secondly, that all language is context-dependent. In summary: I would definitely recommend a career in ESOL to anyone who has the following unique mix of traits: loves helping people, is up for a laugh, wants to travel the world, is fascinated by language and communication, profoundly enjoys poverty.

*I teach a lot of Asian guys, and they tend to be very deferential even when you act all cool-teacher and say, “Call me ‘Bry’!”. Their answer is, of course, “Okay, Sir”. The best I can get out of a lot of these guys is, “Mr Bryan”, which is always a laugh. Of course, you never force students to do anything they aren’t comfortable with. You tell them that in England it is normal for adult learners to address their teacher by their first name, but that whatever makes them happy will make me happy. Sage nod, “Yes, Sir”.

**Once you’ve read the punchline, the perceptive among you might think I’m lying. After all, he should surely have said, “Pasif. Iss-peas”, when he spoke slowly, but actually he kind of slurred so it really did sound like, “Pacifist …ehhhs… peas”. So that’s the third thing this tale tells us: BRYAN NEVER LIES! x-(

© 2017 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from https://communityict.files.wordpress.com/2012/06/esol6.gif?w=640

Poem: The Bluebells

Bluebell Wood

I wrote this in around 2004-2005. Walking around parkland, I rounded a corner near the Thames, and all-of-a-sudden I saw this field of bluebells. A transcendent feeling overtook me wholly. I was a firmly committed atheist by that point, had been for years.  None-the-less, the pantheistic language of this poem I felt appropriately captured the way I felt in that sublime moment when I felt like I was gifted this field of bluebells.

The Bluebells

I thank the lord my God I’m blessed
To see nature resplendent dressed,
All clad in richest purple hue,
The grass become a sea of blue;
And look what gently flutters by,
A wing that flashes golden eye,
As I amidst the long grass be,
Whilst golden sun shines down on me.
The heavens harken up above
To birds whose breasts resound with love,
A cool breeze makes the bluebells nod
To witness majesty of God.

© 2016 Bryan A. J. Parry

featured image from http://www.cotonmanor.co.uk/images/bluebells/bluebell_wood-coton_manor.jpg

Semantic Satiation @thesfep

sfep_banner_960x182

Editing a student’s MSc dissertation earlier. For some reason, this Briton wrote using entirely American spelling. I read and corrected the word “behavior” so many times that I genuinely became skeptical that it was an English word at all; with or without the “u”, it seemed like a French word I had only just now come across. Yet I was sure I could remember using it five minutes previously and knowing what it meant.

Semantic Satiation, a not uncommon affliction when I edit people’s work. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

P.S. I can edit your work for you. HIRE ME NOW. I NEED TO EAT.

© 2016 Bryan. A. J. Parry

featured image from https://forums.sfep.org.uk/templates/sfep/images/sfep/sfep_banner_960x182.png

Spelling Reform 2: An Axe to Grind

Introduction

Fax, lax, max, pax, sax, tax, wax. Furthermore, box, cox, fox, lox, Knox, pox. Additionally, hex, mix, nix, tex, tux. Therefore, ax.

What?

Okay, the slightly less abridged version.

How should we spell ax/axe? The American way (ax) or British (axe) way?

The Bases of Spelling

People often think that spelling is just based on deep principles of phonemicity. However, it is actually (at least in the case of English) based on a combination of phonemicity, etymology, and, significantly, analogy.

On phonemic grounds: ax makes more sense than axe. After all, the word rhymes with tax, not aches.

On etymological grounds: ax makes more sense than axe. After all, the Old English form was æx, and the word has never ended in a “e” sound — or that of any other vowel for that matter.

On analogical grounds: ax makes more sense than axe. You can clearly see this from the list of words I began this article with.

Indeed, axe didn’t even really get popular until the nineteenth century, and then not in America. So it doesn’t even have vintage calibre. In fact, axe is such a mental spelling, that even the Oxford English Dictionary condemns it.

The spelling ax is better on every ground, of etymology, phonology, and analogy, than axe

The Curious Case of the Three Letter Rule

The only reason to keep that e in axe is in order to maintain the curious “three letter” rule, which is in fact more of a tendency than a hard-and-fast rule. This “rules” refers to a word requiring a minimum of three letters unless it is a grammatical word. That is why we write “add” instead of “ad” (compare: bad, not *badd), bye but by, too not to, and so on. The first items of each pair, unlike the second, are non-function words.

However, the <e> is still superfluous if we wish to follow the three letter rule! For the purposes of spelling, “x” is counted as if it were two letters, not one. That’s right. For example, we write taxed, not taxxed, whereas we do write mapped from map; there is no need to double the letter <x> in order to maintain the “short” vowel pronunciation when an affix is added, because <x> functions as if it were two letters. Basically, <x> is what we could call a “compound letter”.

Additionally, as mentioned, this famed Three Letter Rule is more of a tendency. There are many cases where it doesn’t hold. For example, ox. Despite the plural even being oxen(!), we neglect to put the final <e> in the singular.

In Conclusion…

Therefore, as much as it breaks my patriotic heart, axe needs to be binned in favour of ax.

But don’t for one second, dear Americans, sit back smugly and assume that your spellings are superior. Very often, they aren’t. More on that in a later post.

References

“axe | ax, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, December 2016. Web. 20 December 2016.

© 2016-2020 Bryan A. J. Parry

 

Shadow-outline @FiatLingua #conlang

image

A nonce word is one made up on the spot, for the occasion — a one-off, one-time-use word, as it were. Recently I wanted to say “silhouette”, but the word would not come to mind — so instead, shadow-outline plopped out.

I was immediately struck with how elegant and self-explanatory this nonce word is. Since then I’ve tried slipping it into conversation, but that’s been quite hard — how often do we talk about “silhouettes”, in any case? But when I have used it, it seems to have gone down well. That is, nobody has noticed I’ve smuggled in a made-up word — and I seem to have been clearly understood(!)

So there we are. Shadow-outline. A nonce word worth keeping around, perhaps? (if I do say so myself) And it also does away with remembering how to spell that Frenchy word S-I-L-H-O-U-E-T-T-E.

© 2015 Bryan A. J. Parry

this post originally appeared on my other blog Wrixlings: https://wrixlings.wordpress.com/2015/11/24/shadow-outline/

featured image from https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silhouette#/media/
File%3AMister_Bethany_and_Patience_Wright.jpg