English Language - Queries, Quirks and Quandries

Never heard anyone pronounce the word like that Seabreeze and I've been on this earth a long time.

Hey, you're not too far from me here in PA, and the local Wilkes-Barrians seem to mostly pronounce it that way. Of course, we're talking generations of coal miners and dress factory workers ... not to disparage those fields, but there weren't exactly high educational standards for the jobs. I notice the younger generations don't have the same speech patterns as do the seniors here.


I always remembered the rule I learned as a young child, "i before e, except after c, or when sounded like a, as in neighbor and weigh"....but words like weird always threw me off until it was clear that this rule was not hard set. Confusing to kids learning English as their first language, must be very confusing to those who are trying to learn English as their second language. :saywhat: https://www.merriam-webster.com/words-at-play/i-before-e-except-after-c

I Before E Except After C

The famous rhyme is wrong. Here's why.

One question we get asked a lot is why so many English words don't follow the "i before e" rule: i before e except after c. Well, the English language can be inconsistent. This is what makes English such a vibrant and expressive language, but it can also make it a nightmare to learn. We've been influenced by languages with such different spelling paradigms that we don't have tidy orthography.


That look you give your teacher when she explains all of the exceptions to the 'I Before E' rule.

This bothered grammarians, so they tried to create rules to make English tidier and easier to learn. I before e is one of those rules. Unfortunately, it was created after most of the 'ie' words were. Oops.
Smart people tried to adapt the rule to actually follow English spelling. That's where we got this variant:

i before e except after c
or when sounded as 'a' as in neighbor and weigh

Nice try, but it's still full of exceptions. To make the above jingle accurate, it'd need to be something like:

I before e, except after c
Or when sounded as 'a' as in 'neighbor' and 'weigh'
Unless the 'c' is part of a 'sh' sound as in 'glacier'
Or it appears in comparatives and superlatives like 'fancier'

And also except when the vowels are sounded as 'e' as in 'seize'
Or 'i' as in 'height'
Or also in '-ing' inflections ending in '-e' as in 'cueing'
Or in compound words as in 'albeit'
Or occasionally in technical words with strong etymological links to their parent languages as in 'cuneiform'
Or in other numerous and random exceptions such as 'science', 'forfeit', and 'weird'.

And that doesn't even rhyme.


I've always thought it fair that the spelling of English as a language is the preserve of the people who invented it, and allow them to set the rules.
Just sayin'.
On the contrary, the spelling of any language that uses an alphabet is the preserve of those who invented Alphabetic writing. They made the rules ------which, needless to say, English spelling today is in violation of. In fact, this is why it takes children in the English-speaking world an extra two years to be reading at the same level as their peers in Finland, where the written language, orthography, is an exact representation of the spoken language.
Another one is creek, pronounced with a long e that some pronounce as crick. Do you say route or route, long o or short. In the South here, y'all are "fixin' to" do something. I don't care how long I live in the South, those words will never cross my lips..lol

For mispronunciation, this is the one word that drives me crazy, both in pronouncing and misspelling....prolly, for probably.
Pennsylvanians call it a "crick." Used to drive me nuts when I'd go to see my relatives in Philly and hear this. My mother was from there, but had gone to private schools and pronounced it correctly.
Something that always confuses me, is whether to put quotation marks before or after the period, question/exclamation mark at the end of a sentence. Luckily I'm not writing anything important, or I'd have to look it up. I see from SifuPhil's post he's got them after, at the very end. Since he's a well-known professional writer, I'll take that as bible. ;)
It is interesting to hear how those in Australia and New Zealand pronounce certain words. Don't bother me at all to write with an accent, makes it sound like you're really speaking to the person. Sometimes I'll write in different accents to get the point across. :)

I've noticed lately when I go to the library that a lot of people are sending or receiving cell phone calls. :rolleyes: Anyhoo, full grown adults will tell the other person that they are at the "liberry". :p

One word I've always struggled with is February. It should be pronounced Febrooary...but it's much easier to say Febuary, and leave out that R.
Webster's dictionary now states that if one says Febuary, that too is acceptable in social circles.
Presumably it's because an 'offshore' comes 'off the shore' from the land, while a 'sea breeze' or 'onshore' wind, blows on to the shore from the sea. In the geographical sense, 'offshore' means " away from or at a distance from the land".
O.K., here's one: I've not met anyone in this locale who knows what 'nervy' means. Google's synonyms aren't really accurate. Anyone have input???

Another is 'tacky.'

And also: when not referring to directions, 'backward' and 'forward' are about two entirely different subjects.

I wonder if these are all regional terms??
O.K., here's one: I've not met anyone in this locale who knows what 'nervy' means. Google's synonyms aren't really accurate. Anyone have input???

Another is 'tacky.'

And also: when not referring to directions, 'backward' and 'forward' are about two entirely different subjects.

I wonder if these are all regional terms??
Proper use would be To have nerve; she has nerve, rather than she's nervy.
I've heard a few doozies that were either just too cute to correct, or I didn't mind the particular person making an arse of themselves every time they said it.

One I've heard a few say is Heightth, I guess because we tack 'th' on to say width and depth they think it applies to height as well.

One had a problem with applying the past and present tense of ring and rung. A time honoured practice of clearing scrub is to ring-bark a tree and let it die, get eaten out by borers and termintes and fall over eventually of it's own accord. A rural Aunt would announce she was going down to "ring-bark that stand down the gully" and when she got back she would tell us that she had rung-barked them. No, I wasn't going to correct her while she still carried the axe.

It was a family thing, I met her brother once and he used the same term. (None of them were well known in the schoolyard, they lived a long way out of town when they lived in a house at all, and travelled with their parents following work around the country for most of their school age years so they had a good excuse. They also had some really strange turns of phrase.)

Pronunciation is a lost cause these days as there is such a mix of accents and overlapping languages that it's becoming a matter of make your own arrangements and if people still understand what you said you're in front.

If you want to get into pronunciation problems try talking to a Kiwi for an hour. When you recover from learning that six is pronounced 'correctly' as "sex" then you'll realise that they switch all the vowels around to make themselves talk funny. (Fern is busy loading )

Who are we to judge when we have towns like Goonoo Goonoo which is pronounced Gunnergunoo? Or Wauchope which is Warhope in NSW and Walkup in the NT? Even many of the old established words have differing 'correct' pronunciations in different places. I used to care but I'm about over it.

Many take offence at being corrected too and you end up with the grammarnazi tag. siiiiigh.
If they ask fine, if it's going to cause them severe embarrassment in future then it's worth the risk, but otherwise I let it pass.

e.g.... yeah can't 'elp meself... Mum was a stickler for manners and decorum but had the quirk of never saying "knife and fork or just cutlery". Her youngest brother couldn't contain the smirk any longer and one day when she said "could you bring me a fork 'n knife please?" He asked did she want "a fork 'n spoon too?" We were all propped on walls laughing uncontrollably while she sat there in total bewilderment.

When everyone had gone she demanded to know what we were laughing at. So I explained. Was she embarrassed? Nooooo. I was told off in no uncertain terms for even thinking she would mean such a thing. She just didn't understand that it was the fact that she didn't mean it that made it so funny.
We came from different planets Mum and I.

Just thought of one which flashes a person's IQ in neon on their forehead. "Arksed" instead of asked. ... and of course there's Dubya's iconic mispronunciation of nuclear. I've even heard professional TV journos say "nukula". That one makes my ears hurt.

The 'new' words. I gradually got used to them, and now fully appreciate that they are usually a great improvement to the ability of the language to cover complex situations simply, aptly and conveniently.
Jane Austin would have taken a chapter to cover "clusterf***" and 7 paragraphs to explain an 'aha moment'. I won't use it to replace epiphany though, that remains a favourite.
Cartoonists did it best when the light bulb was pictured over a character's head. It was a brilliant innovation in 'sight' language and perhaps the birth of the emoticon?

Anyone else see emoticons as a mighty fine replacement for words when used thoughtfully?
Maybe in the future the English language will be written like heiroglyphs. Full circle.
In the midwest you clean your clothes in the wor-sher not wa-sher. All in the Family tv show used it this way. They also said Ter-let for toy-let.
After living in California for decades we say wa-sher and toy-let.