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Thursday, July 13, 2006


Does anyone else think it's odd that I've gone almost eight months and not once posted on the "i before e" rule? For the vast number of gramidiots reading my blog, the rule is a simple mnemonic for spelling:
I before E,
except after C
or when sounding like A
as in neighbor and weigh
and on weekends and holidays
and all throughout May
and you'll always be wrong,
no matter what you say.
- HT: Brian Regan
First there are your obvious exceptions:
In two-syllable constructs (e.g. albeit or society), simple phonetics dictates order of the vowels. Foreign words (e.g. peignoir or leitmotiv), retain the spelling from their language of origin.

Then there are others that don't seem foreign but probably could fall into that category as well:
I suspect that words like counterfeit, forfeit, and surfeit all came to us through Middle English from the Old French, while seismic and kaleidoscope sound Greek, and gneiss is clearly German.

There also appears to be a group with a similar scientific or pharmacological root:It seems there is another cluster of words that borrows the German rule of pronouncing the second vowel syllable, making e before i sound like I, as in:
Next there is a group that might well be a sub-category of the multi-syllabic, but I've put them together because of the preceding -sh/-ch sound, thus a likely common origin in Latin:
I think that leaves me with just the following true exceptions:
Believe it or not, this is not the topic for today's post. Rather, I would like to register a complaint regarding the following oddity:
What's up with that?

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What about their?

I've never heard the last four lines of the rhyme... interesting.


Julie -

Their falls under the "when sounding like A" clause in the original rule, and thus was not specifically listed as an exception.

The last four lines are part of comedian Brian Regan's bit on being stupid in school.


Hmm. I don't pronounce their with a long A.

Rhyme: that would be why I should click on links before I make a comment about them!


I couldn't imagine anyone pronouncing it like that.


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