Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I before E, except when it’s not

My dander is up. My goat has been got. My blood has been brought to the boil.

First, this is pretty sound:

The spelling mantra "i before e except after c" is no longer worth teaching, according to the government. Advice sent to teachers says there are too few words which follow the rule and recommends using more modern methods to teach spelling to schoolchildren.

Dead right: protein, seize, their, either, veil, weird, height, science, ancient, species, society…

But then this:

But some people believe the phrase should be retained because it is easy to remember and is broadly accurate.
Bethan Marshall, a senior English lecturer at King's College London, said: "It's a very easy rule to remember and one of the very few spelling rules that I can remember and that's why I would stick to it. If you change it and say we won't have this rule, we won't have any rules at all, then spelling, which is already terribly confusing, becomes more so."

I hope for Dr Marshall’s sake that she’s been misquoted somehow, or else was blind drunk when they called her up for a comment.

This rule is already a rule that we don’t have, because the English language doesn’t follow it. Teaching kids a ‘spelling rule’ that isn’t a rule is what’s terribly confusing. The fact that this falsehood is a very memorable falsehood makes it worse, not better. Stopping teaching it isn’t an abandonment of all rules, it’s an abandonment of one rule, which in fact is a rule that doesn’t hold anyway.

And… relax. Deep breaths. Sorry, I clearly need to calm down. I think I’ve been drinking too much caffiene.


Matt M said...

Who needs spelling aids when you have spellcheckers?

Although it's now telling me that spellchecker is misspelt. And that misspelt isn't a word.


Ole Phat Stu said...

Please look at what I blogged about this back in sept 2006 :-

PooterGeek said...

Stu, you lost me at Comic Sans.