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English spelling



I wrote "I am constantly annoyed by the absurdities of English spelling: Why "cycles" but "circles"?" I was surprised to receive this from Ed Jajko, an eminently sane person: "Because "cycle" comes from Greek "kyklos," meaning "wheel," while "circle" comes from the Latin root /circ/ which means circle, round thing, around, etc. Totally different words, and the "y" is a reference to the upsilon in the Greek. I find English historical spelling to be highly useful and not much of a problem or absurdity". RH: Of course we were aware of the different etymologies. One problem with English spelling is the scholarship of erudite people like Ed. English borrowed the French word "dette" and made "debt" with a b to show that it comes from the Latin "debere". Ed is used to Arabic, a difficult language because the vowels are omitted. I am used to Spanish with its most reasonable spelling. To show the absurdity of English spelling, Bernard Shaw pointed out that fish could be spelt "ghoti". Ed, think of all the foreigners trying to learn English. They deserve our compassion.

Ronald Hilton - 5/23/03


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