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rubarb or rhubarb? Interesting preview of a new book on English spelling
Thread poster: Tom in London

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:23
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Aug 23, 2012

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2012/aug/23/david-crystal-story-english-spelling

 

Caryl Swift  Identity Verified
Poland
Local time: 18:23
Polish to English
+ ...
Thank you! Aug 23, 2012

That's a definite for the letter to Father Christmas!

And of course, it put me in mind of this:

http://www.bartleby.com/138/0.html

(not to mention a derivative that's an all time favourite of mine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAYUuspQ6BY)

[Edited at 2012-08-23 17:01 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:23
Hebrew to English
Roobarb and Custard Aug 23, 2012

I respect David Crystal as a linguist but I rarely agree with him. He worships technology and I think in this case he is overestimating the power of the internet on spelling.

It probably will have an impact, but there are still variables in play, such as centralisation and standardisation, which will continue to work to mitigate / counter the effect. I think the greater impact will only occur with spellings such as "rubarb/rhubarb" where a natural process of making spelling more phonetic may have occurred anyway (even if the internet hadn't come along and accelerated the process).

Anyway, even if you do decide to spell it "rubarb" you can count on Google to put you in your place:

capturekbu.jpg

Given the disparity between the number of hits for "rhubarb" (almost 14 million) and the hits for "rubarb" (less than 200,000) [on my browser anyway - not sure where he got the 750,000 from]...I don't think the rhubarb war is won quite yet.


Besides, there's another spelling of "rhubarb" that never caught on too:

chairsr.jpg

[Edited at 2012-08-23 17:09 GMT]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:23
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Ha ha Aug 23, 2012

Caryl Swift wrote:

That's a definite for the letter to Father Christmas!

And of course, it put me in mind of this:

http://www.bartleby.com/138/0.html

(not to mention a derivative that's an all time favourite of mine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EAYUuspQ6BY)

[Edited at 2012-08-23 17:01 GMT]


As ever, my great Irish fellow-countryman finds the perfect way to say it: "It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him".

[Edited at 2012-08-23 18:32 GMT]


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:23
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
z Aug 23, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

..... there are still variables in play, such as centralisation and standardisation...


Nevertheless, I'm quietly glad that you didn't write "centralization and standardization".


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:23
Spanish to English
+ ...
Zzzzzz Aug 24, 2012

Tom in London wrote:

Ty Kendall wrote:

..... there are still variables in play, such as centralisation and standardisation...


Nevertheless, I'm quietly glad that you didn't write "centralization and standardization".


Am with you on the "z". I have a couple of clients I have to use the "z" forms with and every keystroke is an effort!


 

neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:23
Spanish to English
+ ...
Great link Aug 24, 2012

The other links on the page are interesting tooicon_wink.gif

 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 00:23
Chinese to English
My little finger twitches Aug 24, 2012

I'm afraid I've worked so much for American companies that my little finger twitches involuntarily when I come to any -ise word. Treacherous digit. It is a real pleasure to work for the clients who are happy with Brit Eng.

@Ty: "He worships technology"
This is true, but he's right to see it as a key factor in spelling change. The printing press, the Royal Mail and now the internet are the primary vectors through which spelling change happens (spoken language change less so). The internet may not change things in the way C. expects, but seeing as most public language is not online (as opposed to printed), the internet cannot but be the place where it's all going to happen.

Argh! Edit: I meant to write ...is *now* online...
Treacherous digits.

[Edited at 2012-08-24 12:05 GMT]


 

Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:23
Hebrew to English
I actually like the z Aug 24, 2012

And it's not always an Americanism. The following article is quite interesting too:
http://www.metadyne.co.uk/ize.html


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:23
Member (2008)
Italian to English
TOPIC STARTER
Correction Aug 24, 2012

Ty Kendall wrote:

And it's not always an Americanism. The following article is quite interesting too:
http://www.metadyne.co.uk/ize.html


That's right, Ty, it isn't an Americanism and was used, for example, by G B Shaw in the example to which a link was posted above.

The main thing is to be consistent. Personally I prefer the "s" to the "z" because I use British English and the "s" is never used in American English.


 

kashew
France
Local time: 18:23
English to French
+ ...
S or Z Aug 24, 2012

Excellent stuff on the thorny subject - thanks to all contributors.

 

NataliaAnne  Identity Verified
Brazil
Local time: 13:23
Portuguese to English
I'm with you Aug 24, 2012

neilmac wrote:

Am with you on the "z". I have a couple of clients I have to use the "z" forms with and every keystroke is an effort!


As I only do it for work, I feel like I’m selling my soul to the devil!

I’m so lucky that this year the vast majority of my clients want British English. I might add that I always offer Australian English but am yet to be taken up on this offer even once!


 

Neil Cross
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:23
Member (2006)
Dutch to English
+ ...
The hairy old S/Z chestnut... Aug 24, 2012

The article that Ty links to above provides an excellent debunking of the fallacy that the "-ize" form is somehow an Americanism. It ain’t. The -ize form (the Oxford spelling) is perfectly valid in UK English. It has been used in British English for centuries and has the additional merit of being etymologically correct, unlike the French-influenced "-ise" form.

Allow me to quote an impeccable authority (moi) on this subject:

“Back in the dim and distant, when I were a lad, I was taught that both "-ise" and "-ize" were correct in UK English, but only "-ize" in US English. Personally, I preferred "-ize", partly out of respect for my alma mater, partly for aesthetic reasons, and partly for reasons of etymology ("-ize" etc. being derived from the Greek).

Unfortunately, at some point in the late 80s / early 90s, an unnamed functionary within Microsoft decided that only the "-ise" form was correct in UK English and that henceforth the various "-ize" forms would have a red line under them in the UK version of Microsoft Word. Almost at a stroke, centuries of precedent went straight out the window and the entire (or so it would seem) UK population cravenly toed the line (even linguists, who should have known better).

Poor old Microsoft must have got(ten) quite a lot of stick from pedants like me, coz in the latest versions of Office the "-ize" versions are now (quite rightly) deemed acceptable in UK English. The damage, however, has been done and this is merely a classic case of closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. That unnamed functionary within Microsoft has probably had the greatest influence on English orthography since Noah Webster!”

http://www.proz.com/forum/translation_theory_and_practice/113008-uk_translators:_do_you_use_ize_or_ise.html


 

Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 18:23
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I went over to 'ise' in the 1960s... Aug 25, 2012

... just to be 'alternative' and different. Of course, I could remember then, though I can't now, when 'ise' was obligatory, and my father, a Greek scholar, could explain the rest.

But to my enormous delight, I discovered many years later that Ernest Gowers himself, before Fraser et al. started modernising his work, actually advocated he use of s rather than z.

Not a word against Fraser and the others - some of my old copy of the book IS dated, but on that point I'm happy!

And when so many others on this side of the pond came round, despite the Oxford dictionaries... I could stick to my guns with a good conscience icon_biggrin.gif


 

Phil Hand  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 00:23
Chinese to English
Stuff happens, no? Aug 26, 2012

Neil Cross wrote:

Unfortunately, at some point in the late 80s / early 90s, an unnamed functionary within Microsoft decided that only the "-ise" form was correct in UK English and that henceforth the various "-ize" forms would have a red line under them in the UK version of Microsoft Word. Almost at a stroke, centuries of precedent went straight out the window and the entire (or so it would seem) UK population cravenly toed the line (even linguists, who should have known better).


What's with all the emotive language here? Why "unfortunately"? Why "craven"? Look, if you accept that language changes, you also need to remember that this change happens *randomly*. It is precisely this sort of odd little thing - a particular book, a particular bit of software - that drives change. There are no "rational" language changes. There is no distinction to be drawn between "good" language change and "bad" language change.

Obviously, you're entitled to your own point of view, but in your post, Neil, you're trying to come across as someone who knows a bit about linguistics. Great, more people should. But if you then lard your language with value-laden pejoratives, you somewhat undermine your claim to have a scientific viewpoint.

I would dearly love decent linguistics to get a showing on these forums. Writing like a language maven isn't it.


 
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