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Pled versus pleaded

Anyone notice the banishment of “pled” about 5 years or so ago? The newspapers used to say “The defendant pled not guilty.” Suddenly, everything became “pleaded.” I contend that this is an improper imposition of some kind of twisted “grammar correctness,” except it is incorrect. “Pled” is a less emotional word than “pleaded”. I plead when I am begging for something. Unless the defendant is on his knees weeping, he is not pleading, he is entering a plea. In the past tense, he pled, not pleaded. What do you think?

  • July 24, 2009
  • Posted by stan
  • Filed in Usage

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I hate to say it but there is no reason to hate either form. 'pleaded' is actually older. This word comes from French so was not irregular when borrowed. It came to be pronounced 'pled' in some contexts after analogy with 'read.' Now that I've said that, I want to be clear I don't advocate a particular form. Let people speak how they want. 'Pled' is fine. It is completely untrue that people read or write worse than the generation before t hem. Language and spelling naturally change over time. Since language has existed, these complaints have existed. And no, it does not mean you are smarter than young people. You are just pretentious, old or both.

Leo Marino May 7, 2015, 11:29am

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@Bob Foster - Being Scottish, where it is also used in court, I have no objection to 'pled', indeed rather like it. But on a point of information, or however you lawyers put it, although it may have a King James Bible sound, it doesn't actually appear in the KJV, whereas 'pleaded' does, three times. :)

Warsaw Will April 26, 2014, 12:10pm

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Pled sounds better; do not worry about writing; in court, "...the defendant 'pled guilty....' at a past date...."; King James bible sound; traditional; Black's law dictionary is definitive.
Atty, 40 years, retired public defender, pled 1,000's guilty, in fact.

bob foster April 26, 2014, 5:15am

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@Jasper - I started off by intending to give thou, thee etc as an example, when I realised that was a disappearance rather than a change in a word form, which is why I chose ye, the old subject form of you, which is still shown in some nineteenth century grammars. Perhaps you should go and live in Yorkshire:

"Watching the people get lairy
It's not very pretty I tell thee"

Kaiser Chiefs (Leeds)

Apparently, the OED has the first citation for snuck from as long ago as 1887.

Google Books goes slightly earlier; this is from 1881:

"Well, sir, your boy Aleck got a straw, snuck up behind a sorrel mule, tickled him on the hind leg, and ..."

repeated a bit later (1886) in slightly less standard English:

"Well, sir, yer boy Aleck got a straw, snuck up behin' a sorrel mule, tickled him on the heels, an ..."

One from 1889:

'False doctrine snuck in amongst them with a great and holy appearance'

And another from 1895:

"I have just sandbagged the messenger and got a cool ten thousand out of his safe, when a beastly opposition train robber snuck in on me, slugged me, and took and made off with all the stuff"

Warsaw Will February 6, 2014, 6:39pm

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I don't know what it is, but "snuck" to me sounds better than sneaked. The "uck" part has that pernicious sound when paired with "sn".

To Warsaw Will, I feel as though the archaic second person singular pronouns (thou, thee, thy, thine) should be resurrected for the sake of clarity. Whenever I read you, I think which you? You singular or you plural?

Jasper February 6, 2014, 3:33pm

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@Mraff - at the moment, snuck is considered 'informal' and 'chiefly North American' (Oxford), but it looks as though its use is increasing. It's even 'snuck' into British English. If enough people use it, it will become totally standard and absolutely unobjectionable. Just like saying you instead of ye is now standard but at one time would have been considered a mistake. That's how language works.

Actually, in my experience as a teacher, apart from at very low levels, non-native speakers don't have that much trouble with irregular verbs (even the most irregular English verbs have only a maximum of five morphological forms, far less than most European languages). What really gives foreign learners gyp is phrasal verbs, not irregular verbs.

Warsaw Will February 6, 2014, 2:34pm

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A judge will never ask "how do you plea?" that is a noun and he is requesting that you perform an action. the question posed will be either "how do you *plead*?" or "what is the defendant's *plea*?" Last i checked, plea is a regular verb so to everyone facetiously asking "oh der should it 'leaded' and 'readed' now too?": that query is irrelevant because plead is a regular verb and just because two worda rhymes doesnt mean they have the same root etymology as another word and will necessarily carry the same conjugation. Plead should be pleaded in the past tense and it is only "nails on a chalkboard" to some of you because has been used inconsistently from its own conjugation for so long. It doesnt matter if it sounds right. Many people say "drug" sounds better than "dragged" and i am far too civil to pen what i think of that in a public forum. There is also a difference between what is acceptable writing and what is acceptable speech. Its ok to drop pieces of words when you speak; clear dictation and crisp enunciation can certainly be reserved for shakespeare or the podium. By that same logic, snuck is probably acceptable in speech but just because it sounds right doesnt make it correct. And just because a dictionary that also includes current linguistic trends in its entries supports your use of colloquial conjugations in written work doesn't make it the rule. Sneak becomes sneaked, plead becomes pleaded, read becomes read, lead becomes lead, light becomes lighted, and drag becomes dragged! Learning the difference between regular and irregular verbs is a matter of sheer memorization and one of the reasons non-native English speakers find it hard to learn the language. But it is also something native speakers dont even bother to learn anymore because common parlance will allow them to get away with talking however way it "sounds right." It is laziness, stubborness, egocentricity, and refusal to change all rolled into one. Saw it in school and now i see it in society.

Mraff February 6, 2014, 11:18am

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@Jeff J - "In short, here in the UK the past tense of plead is always written/spoken as pleaded." - Scotland is, at least for the moment, still part of the UK, and as has already been mentioned, 'pled' is often used in the legal sense, but not the begging sense in Scotland - He pled guilty but he pleaded for his life. For examples see my comment of December 22, 2012, 5:30am, or go just Google it: you'll find that many of the results are from official bodies or news outlets:

@Brus - Have you leaded a good life and readed any good books lately?

Warsaw Will January 7, 2014, 1:05pm

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Jeff, of course you are right. It goes without saying. "The baker kneads the dough - he kned it the same way yesterday", "we dread paying the charge he'll put on it, but I suppose our forebears dred the price they were asked, too"," it's my turn to weed the flowerbed because you wed it last week" all very poor, really. pled is no better.

I'd blame the Americans; we usually do. the Scots are very sloppy about this too, although we usually do much better than the English in linguistic matters, because it is not our native tongue.

Brus January 7, 2014, 11:44am

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I'm a 48 year old Englishman. I have NEVER heard the word pled as a past tense of plead until i was reading a Wikipedia article today. It looked so wrong I looked it up and ended up here.

In short, here in the UK the past tense of plead is always written/spoken as pleaded.

But I can see how it might annoy Americans. Then again, I hate hearing "He dove for the ball" instead of "He dived for the ball", "snuck" instead of "sneaked"...and there will be more examples.

In short, I cannot agree with our original poster, Stan, that "pleaded" is sub-standard English. To me it sounds like standard English.

Innit thoughs...

Jeff J January 7, 2014, 8:31am

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@Poppa Bear ... Pronunciation and spelling hav never been set in stone in English. If it had been, we'd still be writing hwæt for what, þurh (þ=th) for thru, and circ for church/kirk. That last one shows that the way words were said was not standard either. Circ was church in the south and kirk in the north ... and still is in many places. There's no overall authority on either grammar or spelling. The nearest thing that we hav are the sundry wordbooks and a loose band of grammarians worldwide but they don't all agree ... as we can see here with plead and pled. It's kind of chaotic at times but it works and things go forward.

AnWulf October 26, 2013, 9:31am

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@Poppa Bear - OK, if you try with "bail was enlarged" you get slightly more (and more modern) results - 27. Eleven of these are from Australia and New Zealand, where the term seems seems rather more common, and is the expression used in the Queensland Bail Act 1980:

"that the defendant must not depart from the court unless the bail is enlarged"

The rest are mainly from British newspapers and if you dig a bit deeper, you find that this is a perfectly standard legal term in the UK as well, listed in, for example, The Oxford Dictionary of Law Enforcement ("To extend the bail to a later date. .."):

It is also discussed in, inter alia, Blackstone's Criminal Practice 2012:

"Instead of issuing a warrant for his arrest, the magistrates may simply adjourn and enlarge bail in his absence"

It would seem that it's those who use the term 'enlarge bail' who are really old school.

Warsaw Will October 26, 2013, 3:22am

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I can't count - eight hits

Warsaw Will October 25, 2013, 3:00pm

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@Poppa Bear - "the bail was enlarged" gets precisely seven hits on Google. Six are from Australia and New Zealand, all of which are from the nineteenth century, one is from The Court Gazette, London of 1843 and one is from the Massachusetts Supreme Court from 1833. This doesn't sound much like "usually" to me! It's rather dangerous to make unsupported sweeping statements like this in the internet age, wouldn't you say?

Warsaw Will October 25, 2013, 3:00pm

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Poppa Bear, I read into "the bail was enlarged" the idea that the sum involved is increased, rather than the period extended. As one who once long ago and far away had employment all day in the office which worked with the payment of fines and bail, I cannot recall any instance of such a thing being done. If the first edition of the bail had proved sufficient there was no need to enlarge it, for if the alleged "skellum" had turned up again, what would be the need? And if, rather, he had done a runner, it would be a bit late anyway, and the thinking would be that it would be more appropriate to sling the poor wretch into the cells, as being an unreliable person to whom to grant bail at all, if he could be apprehended. So it is a mightily rare thing to have bail enlarged, I agree with you.

I am intrigued that you can tell how the language as printed is pronounced. It is early in the morning, however, and we are not firing on all cylinders yet. Perhaps it is more obvious once the first coffee is aboard.

As for me, I agree that the language as printed in the press is choc-a-bloc with malapropisms and poorly chosen prepositions. I put in a complaint at this site about the sloppiness of the use of 'into' and 'in to' and 'on to' and 'onto' used interchangeably, especially as found in news reports, and promised to cite the very next example I came across, and, do you know? I have not seen any since!
On your side, Poppa Bear, fellow old school mate. Can't easily ignore linguistic carelessness, like the spelling of 'English' as 'english', for example.

Brus October 25, 2013, 5:26am

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I am old school, and am apalled by the pronounciation and spelling of the english language as printed in our daily newspapers.
Supposedly, reporters are university graduates and educated people, but the constant use of incorrect words and spelling makes one wonder if the degree came in a cereal packet.
A classic case is when a personwho was on bail has it extended by the court (judge or magistrate), the reporter usually writes "the bail was enlarged".
I rest my case

Poppa Bear October 25, 2013, 1:03am

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only in Amerika.................!

A Smith October 3, 2013, 12:42am

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@Rosewood11 - one small problem, 'pled' doesn't appear in the KJV, whereas 'pleaded' does, three times, two of which could be likened to the legal sense.

Blessed be the LORD, that hath pleaded the cause of my reproach - Samuel 25:3
O LORD, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; - Lamentations 3:58
Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt - Ezekiel 20:36

Warsaw Will August 31, 2013, 4:18am

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@Rosewood11 You might wish to take a look at the "anglish" blog on this selfsame websheet, wherein, amidst much wailing and gnashing of teeth, your KJV-standpoint would be most welcomely brooked.

jayles August 31, 2013, 3:38am

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I agree with our original poster, Stan, that "pleaded" is sub-standard English. It grates on my nerves every time I hear it, and since my major television channels all come out of Youngstown, Ohio--a city known for its high crime rate--I get to hear "the defendent 'pleaded' not guilty" several times every day. I think this comes in part from the abandonment of the King James Version of the Bible in most churches. I'm 60 now, so when I was young, the KJV was all we had, and it was roundly praised as a model of elegant English, even if it was archaic in some of its phrasing, and took some work to understand. As we struggled with the older form, we learned elegance. Now, even our scriptures are written on a newspaper level, and we suffer for that. Even the "word of God" now sounds like something written by a journalistic hack.

I have no problem with using modern Bible versions, but I do miss the elegance that used to grace the written word. Go back and read "Gone With The Wind," "The Song of Bernadette," or "The Lord of the Rings," and you'll find vastly different usage. Sometimes it can be over-wordy, but if you keep at it, you'll be struck by the beauty. We're losing that, and "pleaded" is just one more example of how far our language has fallen.

Rosewood11 August 30, 2013, 9:58pm

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Is it he bleeded to death or he bled to death?

Richard619 August 30, 2013, 8:35pm

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@WW ... Yes, I think "spot on" is more British but I did hav a British neighbor for a while so maybe I pick'd it up from him.

There are many reasons why some verbs that one might think should be strong (stem change) rather than weak (-ed).

It could be that heed, seed, and weed would sound like other word ... hed (head), sed (said), wed. Truthfully, for seed, it was a noun that became a verb so which wontedly leads to a weak verb. Need seems to also hav been a noun (neod) before becoming a verb ((ge)neodian ... shows up in Late OE).

Knead in OE was a strong verb ... past tense of "cnæd". Indeed, in some dialects it is "knodden" ...

AnWulf July 25, 2013, 6:34pm

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It's certainly true that the majority of one syllable -ead / -eed verbs with that particular sound take an -ed form in the past - lead, read (in sound), bleed, breed, feed etc.

But there quite a few which don't - heed, knead, need, seed, weed - so I don't think you can build an all-embracing rule on it. In any case, the truth is that over a long period of time English speakers in their wisdom have largely plumped for 'pleaded' except for the exceptions given above - so apart from in some law reports perhaps, pleaded it is.

"He pleaded for his life"
- Google Search 533,000, Google Books 14,600, New York Times 116

"He pled for his life"
- Google Search 16,200, Google Books 91, New York Times 0

Warsaw Will July 23, 2013, 5:33pm

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I still prefer pled to pleaded because one would properly discuss someone suffering a loss of blood as having bled out not having bleeded or bleaded out.

Bradson July 23, 2013, 4:42pm

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@AnWulf - good to see you doing your bit for international understanding by using what I understood to be a Britishism - 'spot on'. (Although I think the hyphenated spot-on before a noun is American). :)

Good point about the derivation of pled. And there's a distinct pattern - lead > led, feed > fed, read > read, as others pointed near the beginning of this post.

Warsaw Will June 15, 2013, 5:02am

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@Limey Pat ... WW is spot on. BTW, "off of" isn't an Americanism. The OED finds it as far back as ME c1450.

From Shakespeare's Henry VI, part 2, Act II: Simpcox: A fall off of a tree.

And let's not forget the Rolling Stones' "Get Off Of My Cloud"!

Think of pleaded > pled as going from goeth > goes. Things change!

AnWulf June 14, 2013, 11:38pm

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@Limey Pat - firstly, there's nothing wrong with a bit of redundancy in spoken language. Secondly, does 'get those things off of the table' involve any more redundancy then 'get those things out of the car'. You're used to the second, so no doubt don't think about it that way, but is that 'of' really necessary there either?

Just because Americans use constructions that you and I weren't brought up with doesn't make them grammatically wrong. Just as Americans shouldn't jump to the conclusion that constructions that Brits use are wrong simply because they are unfamiliar with them.

As for the idea that 'pled' resulted from Americans 'screwing around' with 'our' language, that is just nonsense, as the Oxford English Dictionary has an example of “pled” from Edmund Spenser in 1596. What's more, as has been pointed out, it is used mainly in a legal sense, not only in North America, but also in Scotland.

Warsaw Will June 12, 2013, 4:21pm

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I guess it depends on where you were raised and the language you learnt (learned) in. I was born and raised in England, therefore I learnt the "Real' English language which is pleaded. I then moved to Canada in my 30's and horror, the word "plead" (pronounced pled) came into my earshot. I guess the Americans, who "borrowed" the language 200 years ago and then screwed around with it.....and then tell everyone that anything but American English is wrong....well, they have the problem don't they? While I'm at it.....another thing that irritates the heck out of me is the American English's use of "off of" (example "take it off of the table") is a completely misused and redundant form of language. Obviously, it is "take it off the table". Anyone who learnt English as a child surely knows that!

Limey Pat June 12, 2013, 2:17pm

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Go back to the Anglish page? You must be joking! That page is the private domain of the Saxon Brotherhood, and woe betide any visitors who don't share their views. In my case, it's a case of thrice bitten, four times shy, I'm afraid.

Warsaw Will May 26, 2013, 3:09am

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It's time for WW, Jayles, and I to take this back to the Anglish thread if we wish to keep talking about it. ?? Oh no, something wrong here, surely?
It's time for { WW, Jayles, and } I to take this back to the Anglish thread if we wish to keep talking about it. ?? Take out the others ...
It's time for I to take this back to the Anglish thread if we wish to keep talking about it. ?! That's what's wrong: time for I ??
It's time for me I to take this back to the Anglish thread if we wish to keep talking about it.
Me, not I, after preposition 'for'. Put the others back in:
It's time for WW, Jayles, and me I to take this back to the Anglish thread if we wish to keep talking about it.

Brus May 25, 2013, 4:20pm

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@JusticeJim ... True ... It's time for WW, Jayles, and I to take this back to the Anglish thread if we wish to keep talking about it.

AnWulf May 25, 2013, 8:24am

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@Justice Jim - sorry! But I think the "pled" "pleaded" thing did get pretty well discussed before we got diverted. There aren't many of these threads that go "into the grey".

Warsaw Will May 12, 2013, 1:14pm

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this "pled" v "pleaded" v "plead" (past tense and pronounced 'pled')
thread having strayed faaaaar afield of the specific words and usages
for which I signed up, I'm outta here. Farewell.

Justice Jim May 12, 2013, 12:16pm

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Inkhorn terms - for anyone interested, there is also quite a lengthy discussion in "Early Modern English", by Charles Laurence Barber, much of which is available at Google:

Warsaw Will May 12, 2013, 9:38am

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@Warsaw Will - "While many if not most of the inkhorn terms you so despise are still with us, few of the "English" substitutes have survived." OK, I probably overstated the first part, although I stick by the second. I listed "agile" etc as Inkhorn terms, because they are listed as such at a couple of US academic sites, such as Rhode Island College and Towson University.

I accept that we are better off without many, perhaps most, of the words Thomas Wilson lists in his "An ynkehorne letter". But on the other hand, that letter also included "ingenious, capacity, mundane, celebrate, extol, dexterity, illustrate, superiority, fertile, contemplate, invigilate, pastoral, confidence, compendious, relinquish, frivolous, verbosity", only two of which "compendious" and "verbosity" would I baulk at using (in the right context).

Of those "nativist" words put forward by Ralph Lever (eg witcraft for logic, endsay for conclusion, foresay for premise), few have survived. And as Micheal Quinlon at World Wide Words says "Whatever the reason for success or failure of new words, this extraordinary period of inventiveness and adaptation enriched English with many hundreds of new terms."

Later purist writers don't seem to have been any more successful in persuading us to use their "simpler" equivalents, whether Nathaniel Fairfax (1674) - (eg bodiless for immaterial, middlekin for medium, thingsomeness for reality’) or William Barnes (starlore for astronomy and speechcraft for grammar). Although I accept that Barnes' poetry has a lot of merit, his invented words didn't really catch on.

Warsaw Will May 12, 2013, 9:33am

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First and foremost language is about communication. No, we don't all have to use exactly the same words or word combinations, but if you use other words they need to be understandable. Now, for example, I still don't know exactly what you mean by "wordstring" - phrase, collocation, chunking, and now you say 'coining new words'? And as I wrote Javascript code, I'm perfectly well aware of its programming sense. You seem to think that because I know the component parts I should understand, as in your "requicken", but I don't know what you mean by that either, and I really don't see why I should spend extra effort trying to work out the meanings of words which are just as (if not more) obscure to me as long Latinates. At least I can look Latinates up in a dictionary.

I also think it doesn't show a lot of respect to your fellow speakers to use words they are not likely to understand, for what really comes down to ideological reasons. What other reasons could there be that you feel the need to invent or retool these strange words? Language is a democracy, and certain natural word partnerships have grown up, for example, I might 'quicken my pace', but 'speed up a process'. These natural associations are the basis of corpus linguistics and natural language processing.

Incidentally, "quicken" comes in at 30,926 at which is based on the British National Corpus. The Wiktionary tables (which I didn't know about and will have to investigate; thanks for that) seem to be based on Project Gutenberg, so are probably a bit more 'literary', not to mention that most books at PG are out of copyright, so more than seventy years old.

Talking of collocations, I have a little compromise to suggest for lunar eclipse - eclipse of the moon. It's not as common as lunar eclipse, but more so than moon eclipse. Although purists will still have the problem of 'eclipse'. Here are some figures for 'lunar eclipse', 'moon eclipse' and 'eclipse of the moon' respectively:

The Guardian - 511, 7, 58
The BBC - 556, 154 , 193
The British National Corpus - 4, 0, 2
Google Books - 145,000, 18,100, 128,000

And here are a couple of my favourite collocation finders -

Multi-word verb - OK. I hate this term. Why? Because we had a perfectly good system of phrasal verbs divided into four types, which was relatively easy (at least for teachers) to understand. What's more, dictionaries refer to phrasal verbs, there are masses of books on phrasal verbs, but the trendies seem to think that multi-word or multi-part verbs (they can't even make up their minds) are better. If they'd used different names for the four categories (as Wikipedia does), it might not have been so bad. But under the multi-whatever label, only the first two categories are now phrasal verbs, the third being prepositional verbs, and the fourth phrasal-prepositional verbs. Which is bad enough, but nobody seems totally clear as to what verbs the category prepositional verbs includes. I wrote (ranted) about this last year -

I'm not sure I really get your point about present perfect continuous - do you perhaps mean it's literally a multi word verb, because it consists of several words? It certainly isn't technically a multi-word verb, as it has no particle(s).

But as for the prefix "multi-", it is so common, as are other Latin and Greek prefixes, that it shouldn't be that difficult for students to grasp the meaning once they've come across it once or twice. In any case, "many" is just as foreign for them as "multi".

I also far prefer the term "sister company", but I think you overstate the problem, as the students are likely to have learnt the term "subsidiary" well before they come across the relationship between two subsidiaries. In any case, 'sister company' is by far the more common term - 100:1 on Google, 10:1 on Bloomberg, 300:1 at the FT.

Do you really think only people who studied Latin know that "capital" comes from "head"? I would imagine most native speakers know the difference between "capital punishment" and "corporal punishment". And in any case, while knowing about roots is a fascinating subject, it's hardly necessary for understanding the meaning, is it? You rather proved that with "refer, infer" etc example.

There may be a few people who think long words sound "more intelligent", but I imagine most people judge words on their sound and familiarity, not their derivation. I really think that we have to distinguish between the desire for plain English, which I largely go along with, and language purism based on derivation, which is something completely different.

You say - "It seems to me that in this discussion we need to find some common basis for our criteria, otherwise agreement is impossible.". But there is a possible basis. It's called common sense, and using the everyday English that the vast majority of speakers use, and which sounds natural to the vast majority of native speakers. It's the language used by many (but, unfortunately, not all) the commenters at Pain in the English. You won't please the pedants or the purists, but they are tiny minorities who will never be pleased anyway.

Warsaw Will May 12, 2013, 7:02am

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@WW What bugs me sometimes is the "open-door" policy of English - yes I know this gives us lots and lots of words to choose from, but there is a flipside when it comes to non-natives learning English. For example: in Hungarian, town/ciy is "varos", "fo" is head; so the "capital" is "fovaros". It's pretty straightforward. (There many borrowings in Hungarian but quite where they came from is often a mystery, but seldom latin). Meanwhile in English we have the word "capital" (which of course comes from caput capitis a "head" in latin, although one wouldn't know that unless one had learnt latin at school). So whilst the Hungarian word is guessable from its roots the English one is not, (unless one's L1 is romance). So in the end the "open-door" policy leads to a mass of words whose root meanings are obscure. I think we as native speakers just acquire these words their usage as "blanks"; I certainly don't think of "in-fer", "de-fer", "re-fer", "of-fer", "suf-fer" and "pre-fer" as prefix+"fer" meaning to carry, (but nothing to do with "fer-al", "fer-ocious"); whereas in Hungarian and some other languages the roots would be clearer to native speaker and outside learner alike.
It is of course a bit late to change all that or to speculate what English might have been like if Harold Godwinson had fought a bit harder. What is done is done. And in some ways what a fine mongrel tongue we have. And in other ways we still have this lingering part of our culture that often tends to put latinate words in the "high" register, French in the "neutral" register, and the rest is just wot everywun says, like a reflection of the class system that operated in England when I was young.

jayles May 12, 2013, 3:29am

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@WW Business English student: What means "fellow subsidiary"?
Teacher : Well.... (long explanations)
Student: Why don't you just say "sister company" like us?
Teacher: Well,

Student: Teacher! Teacher! "Multi-" what meaning?
Teacher: It means "many".
Student: Teacher! Why you not say "many", Teacher?

PS I'm eking out the pension with a little teaching again - this time an elem class (ie Chinese- Korean- Tagalog- Hindi-speakers). You may wish me luck!

jayles May 11, 2013, 10:59pm

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What I meant was to do with the basis of what is okay and good and "plain" English, and what is not so good, or "unplain". It seems to me that in this discussion we need to find some common basis for our criteria, otherwise agreement is impossible.
One of the bases is "what people say/write" - which leads to corpus-based criteria. For instance "quicken" is somewhere in the 10000-15000 range of word frequency lists.
(see 12200+)
As such it is a word that native and near-native speakers would be expected to know.
Adding the prefix "re-", which is portable, doesn't alter this. I think we agree on this.
However the argument is about whether it is "plain" English, whether it enriches the language and so on; and here we seem to have more subjective criteria.
I am not arguing that shunning latinate words per se makes for "plain" or better English, (although the converse might be true); heavens above, it's really a head-banger trying to say what one wants without using latinates. However as an exercise it has stopped me automatically reaching for the standard phrases ("the herd") and made me use a thesaurus for the first time in my life.
As for "frith", well of course it is an archaic "wind-up"..
"wordstring" is about minting new words: it actually comes from software writing: (see the first answer).
[word,string,char,text,integer,decimal are all common data types in programming]
I don't see "wordstring" as much different from "a string of words", although the latter usually means an string of excessive lengh. if we can use "multi-word verbs" for "phrasal verbs", why not word-string?
(BTW present perfect continuous is technically a "multi-word verb" so the term doesn't make things any clearer to a Mandaring speaker who doesn't have any L! tenses anyway).
@Jasper no I didn't mean that. Just that we shouldn't disallow new words just because they are new.

jayles May 11, 2013, 8:18pm

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Whoops, the fallacy that if only a few people know or believe in something, then it is right.

Jasper May 11, 2013, 2:30pm

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Jayles is just stating a fallacy, the appeal to popularity, yet he makes another fallacy of his own, one that I call the appeal to obscurity, the fallacy that it is known by a few that it is right.

Jasper May 11, 2013, 2:29pm

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@jayles - Meaning?

Warsaw Will May 11, 2013, 2:43am

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The herd is always right.

jayles May 10, 2013, 7:52pm

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@AnWulf - " I said Gaelic, which is a broader latter day word for the Celtic tung which is broken into sundry dialects (or sunder tungs even) to inhold Brythonic Celtic tho I don't think there are any speakers of Brythonic left. ... So my bad ... Let me say it this way: I don't speak a Gaelic/Celtic tung. English is a Teutonish tung so it's a red herring to bring up the Gaelic/Celtic dwellers that were there before the Saxons."

First, Gaelic is not a broader latter day word for the Celtic tongue. Celtic languages are divided into two families - Goidelic and Brythonic. Goidelic includes Scottish Gaelic, Irish Gaelic and Manx, Brythonic includes Welsh, Cornish and Breton, and the Celtic language spoken in England before the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons. But that's not the point, one which you always avoid. You are forever criticising the Normans, without ever holding the behaviour of the Anglo-Saxons to the same account. That sounds to me like double standards. But why let stupid historical objectivity get in the way of your narrative?

I wonder what happened to the claim that "An ongoing work that came to a screeching halt when Lucky Bill had a Frenchman put over the church in England" - gone off into another round of polemic. Incidentally, the Ormulum wasn't "setting the Bible into English", it was a commentary in English verse explaining the meaning of certain bible texts; something rather different from a bible translation, especially given the Church's position.

And why will you never address the point that the entry of French words into English came in two separate periods; the second from choice.

But what's the point? I really can't be arsed anymore to try and have a rational conversation with someone who holds a 900 year-old grudge, harping on about "Lucky Bill" every opportunity he gets. Someone who twists history to suit his own agenda, and accuses people who simply use normal English of holding French and Latin "in awe". Or people who use normal British spelling of paying "homage" to the French. You really do live in a world all of your own. If all this, and accusing your opponent of "whingeing", is the level of your debate, it's really not worth my time.

The Anglish thing used to worry me, as I felt my language was threatened by what I consider a very bad idea. But now I've read a bit about the "pure English" movement, I've realised my fears were completely groundless. While many if not most of the inkhorn terms you so despise are still with us, few of the "English" substitutes have survived. (I got my list from an English course at Towson University - And the same with more modern coinages. The linguistic purist movement in English is about as significant to mainstream English as a Trekkie convention. But at least (most) Trekkies know they're living in a fantasy world.

And don't confuse linguistic purism with the Campaign for Plain English. They do sterling work, and have had a very positive effect on the use of English by official bodies, businesses and professionals. But their principles are based on common sense, not prejudice.

Warsaw Will May 10, 2013, 2:18pm

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@jayles - I'll return your question. Why use "Moon eclipse", when we have a perfectly good expression already. (Unless you are a believer in "pure English" - A pure English that many of us have some difficulty in understanding, have no interest in, and are getting a bit fed up with!). As for "appeal to people", I was thinking of people in general. There's nothing wrong with one individual using whatever words they like, but one individual isn't going to make much difference, especially if other people haven't the hell idea what you're talking about. Language is first and foremost about communication. Or have I missed something?

Another thing completely missing from your derivation-based pruning system is any mention of how words sound. Now for me "lunar landscape" sounds much better than "moon landscape" - probably something to do with alliteration and a balanced number of syllables. You no doubt deny yourselves such wonderful words as cacophony - doubly damned - four syllables and Greek to boot. How do you think poets choose words if not by sound?

I quite agree with you about plain English, but I imagine the Plain English Campaign would give short thrift to your "wordstrings, frith, requickening". Whatever they are, they are not plain English!

Warsaw Will May 10, 2013, 1:08pm

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"It was the Latin lovers ....." like Romeo and Juliet?

jayles May 10, 2013, 6:31am

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"Every time one writes the -our ending in English, then you're giving "homage" to France" - This is the sort of balderdash …
-- True is true whether it rankles one or not. There is no fonetic nor etymological grounds for the -our ending in many words. Colour is from Old French colour, from Latin color. The -our spelling is a holdover from OF. Thus, "ispo facto", it's a 'homage' to French. OTOH, If you say 'kəlo͝or, then by all means write it that way!

"I wasn't talking about the Gaels; I was talking about the Britons the Anglo-Saxons displaced,… "
-- I said Gaelic, which is a broader latter day word for the Celtic tung which is broken into sundry dialects (or sunder tungs even) to inhold Brythonic Celtic tho I don't think there are any speakers of Brythonic left. ... So my bad ... Let me say it this way: I don't speak a Gaelic/Celtic tung. English is a Teutonish tung so it's a red herring to bring up the Gaelic/Celtic dwellers that were there before the Saxons.

"So they get a by too" - Sorry! Haven't a clue what you're on about."
-- Go back to what you said earlier: "I also find that the Anglo-Saxons, (and Norsemen, or in fact anyone vaguely "teutonic") who also started off as invaders or raiders, seem to get a very easy ride in your view." …
-- Celtic words in English get a by too (along with the other Teutonish tungs). About the words that I'm hard on are the after 1066 French/Latin ones. It is said that Old Norse and Old English could be understood by the other. So when the Norse (to inhold the Danes) came, the words were so unalike as when the N-F came.

""The Takeover, in the end, brought in some 10,000 French/Latin words! Of those, about 75% are still with us."- I wonder why? Linguists usually reckon that it's because they were found to be useful."
-- "Useful"? Is that from one's feelings? Is that "useful" for that (1) they shove'd aside the Anglo word and thus made the gap that they then fill'd? Or (2) "useful" for that there was no word and they needed to be borrow'd? Is 'agile' any more "useful" than 'nimble'? I think most of those words fall under (1).

If one is trying to get business or money from the Norman-French (keep in mind that thruout most of this timeframe that French and Latin were the tungs of government, the courts, and the church) then words like 'agile' would be more useful! And that's why French/Latin words shove'd aside so many the Anglo words. The words didn't come into English from borrowing to fill a gap but from needing to deal with the Norman-French overlords. Same ol' tale … French/Latin good, English "rude". I don't know who Crystal is but what we know is that French was the tung of the king's court until 1399 and French, as well as Latin, was still noted in Parliament (parliament is a French begotten word) and the courts after than til well into 1400s. It recks not how much "Anglicization" of the Norman-French nobility had taken place, they still had to know French/Latin to deal with the government and courts. Now, the Norman-French nobility didn't switch off from French like one switches off a light! They only laid the French/Latin words on top of an English grammar frame. It's not as if the noble woke up and said, "I think I'll write nimble insted of agile today." He kept saying agile only in English. So for anyone to try say that the Norman-French had little impact on English is … to note your word … balderdash!

Anent Lanfranc and Stigand, you likely know that in this timeframe that the church and politics were tied at the hip. Even before the N-F, the bishops were said to be part of the Witenagemot. Indeed, it wasn't the Pope but King Edward who put Stigand in the spot of archdiocese of Canterbury! Do you truly think that it only "happen'd" that Stigand was besteaded a short time after Lucky Bill took over? Or that it only "happen'd" that Billy's friend Lanfranc was put in the spot? Or that it only "happen'd" that "Lanfranc accelerated the process of substituting Normans for Englishmen in all preferments of importance …"? That it only "happen'd" that Stigand was imprison'd and that Billy seiz'd all his land? … If you believe all those only "happen'd", then I hav a few bridges that I'd like to sell you!

Pinning dates on writs in OE … even in ME … is iffy at best and often given a wide range of years. However the Historical Bible Society has on their website:

In 1066, the Norman Conquest marked the beginning of the end of the Old English language and initiated profound changes in its vocabulary. The project of translating the Bible into Old English gradually ended after that process began.

I don't think that Lucky Bill gave a hoot about whether the Bible was being set into English or not. He had his man as the archbishop and he was more than willing to let the church do pretty much what it wanted as long as it back'd him.

I think one the first things to come out in ME for setting the Bible into English was the Ormulum c1150. Wikipedia says this:

Middle English Bible translations (1066-1500) covers the age of Middle English, beginning with the Norman conquest and ending about 1500. Aside from Wycliffe's Bible, this was not a fertile time for Bible translation. English literature was limited because French was the preferred language of the elite, and Latin was the preferred literary language in Medieval Western Europe.

I don't hate France … even dated a French woman for a while. I'v been to Paris and gave it my best shot, as bad as it was, at speaking French while I was there. France isn't trying to shove French down our throats. That was Lucky Bill and his henchmen. They started the ball going and set the mindset … the N-F nobility kept it up for a few hundred years but, sadly, otherwise most of the harm done to English has been from English speakers themselves who can't seem to break away from the awe that so many hold for French and Latin.

AnWulf May 10, 2013, 1:53am

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- "inkhorn-terms" as "agile, education, harass, scientific, strenuous" - …

Narrowly speaking, the inkhorn years were ruffly between 1550 and 1650; more broadly, some put it to any unneeded latinate. Again, the narrower meaning of inkhorn is that it is an unneeded, made up latinate. A few put it to all outlander words. Mostly, the 'war of words' was about the latinates tho Robert Cawdrey did whinge about the French and Italian words brought back by some from their trips to France and Italy. Not all words brought in or made up (from Latin) in these years were inkhorns.

The word inkhorn is mainly for those Latinates (Anglicized Latin, tho sum might hav had a Greek root, they were mostly taken from the Latin shape) that were BOTH showy AND there was already another word for whatever they were cobbling together the latinate for (either an earlier French/Latin borrowing or an Anglo-Teutonish word).

*Agile - The Oxford Dict Online (OED). says it came into the tung in ME which would put it before the Inkhorn years (I know that agility is late ME); nonetheless, not needed … nimble, lightsome; shrewd, sharp, quick-witted.
*Education - not an inkhorn in the narrow look (1530s … before the inkhorn years), tho it is unneeded for 'learning, schooling, knowledj, teaching'.
*Harass - hardly an inkhorn, its roots are Teutonish (akin to harry, harrow, harum-scarum)
*Scientific - right timeframe but what word did it bestead? If there was not an earlier Fr./La. word or A-T word, then it's not an inkhorn. 'Science' itself is ME. I'd hav to look to see if there was a 'science-like' or something like that for an adjectiv.
*Strenuous - Right timeframe and not needed (a true inkhorn); there are other words like hard, tuff, ruff, tiring, backbreaking, asf.

You don't think that we're condition'd from almost from the first day of school that latinates somehow show a higher learning? Take a look at this list of "100 Words Every High School Graduate Should Know" Why the heck does anyone — much less a HS grad — need to know 'inculcate'? That only one among many that need to toss'd off that list.

There are folks who luv Latin … and that's fine. Only luv it when you speak Latin, not when speaking English. It was the Latin lovers who wrought even more havoc on English spelling. I can't blame 'debt' on the French lovers! The 'b' was put in by the LL. I can't blame the 's' in island on the FL … again, it was the LL.

Our forebears after 1066 held French/Latin up high while trampling on English as "rude". They didn't do it for that French was cool … that might hav been a small deal of it for some … but for that they had been it beaten into their heads in school (and still is). Many were made to learn Latin and French … but not the Old English roots. In olden of days of yore, university students HAD to speak Latin or French at ALL times on campus … even outside of the classroom! So it should amaze no one that academics are the biggest abusers of latinates followd by burocrats.

You whinge about being deem'd for the note of latinates but you and others are as willing, if not more so, to fordeem those who shun them! And that's the whole nub of it isn't it! … Why should those showy latinates be thought of as any better than ones of the A-T root? Only that we'v been so taught … or some might say … brainwash'd.

You're right … One shouldn't look down (condescend) on those whose writings are heavy with the latinates; rather, one should feel ruth for them for often they're trying to dazzle with words rather than saying anything meaningful. At least the penny-a-liners where getting paid to make stretch their writings … and when I was told that term papers need to be X pages long, heck yeah I often put in the longest words I could find but it was still less than those who were in fields where they would like spend their lives in academia … like history … But why do others put out the long-winded, idle words for wit? Truthfully, when they pull out a whole boatload of latinates, it's hard not to laff at 'em.

I'll leave you with a bit of an Oxford sermon from "Recollections of Oxford," by G. V. Cox:

"A system thus hypothetically elaborated is, after all, but an inexplicable concatenation of hyperbolical incongruity."

Inexplicable indeed! LMAO!

AnWulf May 10, 2013, 1:30am

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I don't think that I'v ever said to "get rid of" the latinates. We can't do that. We can however, trim our noting of them and put many on the dusty sheets of the wordbooks but even then there will be a fulsomeness of latinates for you and others. Some do fit a nook and, believe it or not, there are some that I even like.

How sad it is that someone would laff at anyone who shuns latinates and notes the Anglo-rooted words of the mother tung. What does that say about folks who would rather note the showy (pretentious) latinates? Does it make them look smarter or more snobbish? I say the latter. The flaunting of unneeded latinates is not a token of higher learning or smartness ... only a willingness to cram them in and a want to show off since one has given so much time to learn them.

As for spelling, many of my spellings are either from those put forth by sundry spelling reform groops (American, British, and Australian ... see or for an overhaul see ) or older spellings found thru the 1800s or even the early 1900s.

Anglo-Saxon spelling would look something like this: hwīl not bæd in itself, it has oþer stafs (such as the thorn - þ and ash - æ) that are uncnown (unknown) to most todæg.

Spencer didn't note A-S spelling in "The Faery Queen" when he wrote, but what he wrote was often, not always, but often more fonetic:

At her so pitteous cry was much amoou'd ... [amoovd insted of amoved]
Her champion stout, and for to ayde his frend, ... [frend insted of friend]
Againe his wonted angry weapon proou'd: ... [proovd insted of proved]

Here is a poem from the Simplified Spelling Society:

Draw a breth for progress,
Tred abrest ahed.
Fight agenst old spelling,
Better "red" than "read".
Spred the words at brekfast,
Mesure them in bed,
Dream of welth and tresure,
Better "ded" than "dead"

If you want to see something that will truly hurt your eyes look at spelling as chosen by an "international vote":

AnWulf May 10, 2013, 1:24am

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@jayles ... Se móna acwanc ... The moon was a-quench'd (eclips'd) ... so, a "quench'd moon" ... or maybe a "hidden moon". I kind of like a "shadow moon".

Anglish is a way to stretch the thinking. I might not go as far as William Barnes when he put forth "fireghost" for electricity (BTW, electricity is a word crafted by an Englishman in 1600) but he did hav some good ones.

AnWulf May 10, 2013, 1:19am

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Let me just add that full-blown "Anglish" is a non-starter for me - everyone would need to know all the word-roots to make up their mind whether a given word was okay or not. Indeed any framework built on where the word comes from is to me un-do-able, unmarketable, and doomed. We are, I think, like-minded on this. However a "plain English" approach and a willingness to build some fresh word-strings does not seem untoward to me in the right place. Not the sort of thing to put in one's CV though!

jayles May 9, 2013, 9:07pm

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@WW "Words that are useful stay, those that aren't, or that don't appeal to people, drop by the wayside." I guess that also means I can use less-well-known words that are already in the wordbook if they "appeal to me". May the frith be with you!
In an odd way AnWulf is seeking to enrich the language by requickening forgotten words and even making up stand-ins for now-in-use latinate words. So if language enrichment is the benchmark and so worthy your good and worthy self could be doing the same thing!
"Moon eclipse", why not? Are we in thrall to today's norms? Why not enrich our tongue with new wordstrings?

jayles May 9, 2013, 4:46pm

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@jayles -But that's exactly what already happens. Words that are useful stay, those that aren't, or that don't appeal to people, drop by the wayside. And 'lunar' has stayed because some people obviously found it useful. Why limit yourself to one word when two or more give you more choices, just because one word can do the job adequately. Yes, 'moon landing' sounds fine, but 'a moon eclipse'? And what about when you have two 'moon somethings' in the same sentence or paragraph. Don't you like the possibility of variety?

Why limit yourself to 'huge' (now that AnWulf has passed it as fit for consumption) when you could vary it with "enormous, vast, colossal" etc. Why on earth would anyone want to reduce the language to only those words we "really need" - it would be so boring! Not to mention what would happen to prose and poetry. Oh well, I don't suppose we "really need" them either. I really don't understand this reductionist approach to language.

Warsaw Will May 9, 2013, 2:06pm

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Jayles asks "are we not all underlings to the spell-checker?". Does Jayles live in Stalin's Russia, or in some other dictatorship? Where I live we are free to think for ourselves and if the spell-checker suggests something different we are free to consider it and reject it if we think we know better. It is there to pick up spelling errors. So: 'are we not all underlings to the spell-checker?'. No, of course not, no! no! no! to cite a former prime minister of these parts.

Brus May 9, 2013, 10:58am

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And these days are we not all underlings to the spell-checker?

jayles May 8, 2013, 9:18pm

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It all boils down to which borrowings are useful and which are somewhat unneeded.
So we don't really need 'lunar' when 'moon' can be used as an adjective already as in 'moon landing'. On the other hand wordstrings such as 'ex gratia payment', 'accrued leave', 'leave entitlement' now have very specific technical meanings and there's just no getting round them in that type of context.

jayles May 8, 2013, 9:14pm

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@Anwulf - " Every time one writes the -our ending in English, then you're giving "homage" to France" - This is the sort of balderdash that really does your cause no good outside the little band of the faithful.

"talking about the Saxons and the Celts is a red herring. I don't speak Gaelic". I wasn't talking about the Gaels; I was talking about the Britons the Anglo-Saxons displaced, and occasionally (according to the Anglo-Saxon scribes, not just Gildas) massacred. I don't suppose the Anglo-Saxons were any better or worse than any of the other groups of invaders at the time, but the way you keep going on about the Normans, you'd think the Anglo-Saxons and the Norsemen were absolute angels in comparison. (perhaps you agree with Pope Gregory - "Non Angli, sed angeli"). Interesting that the Anglo-Saxon language survived the Normans, but Brythonic Celtic more or less disappeared from the land of its birth. No mention

"So they get a by too" - Sorry! Haven't a clue what you're on about.

"The Takeover, in the end, brought in some 10,000 French/Latin words! Of those, about 75% are still with us."- I wonder why? Linguists usually reckon that it's because they were found to be useful. Words that aren't drop out. But I realise that doesn't square with your ideology. Seeing you're studying the influx of French words into English, perhaps you could comment on suggestions that the greater quantity of French words came into English in the 13th and 14th centuries, after the anglicisation of the Norman nobility, or are people like David Crystal wrong?

"many books of the Bible were put into Old English. An ongoing work that came to a screeching halt when Lucky Bill had a Frenchman put over the church in England'

I'm afraid this is where you get a bit free and easy with history. I presume you're talking about Lanfranc (who was in fact Italian, though he'd been living in Normandy for some time.) In fact William was quite happy to keep his predecessor Stigand until was deposed 1070. Not by William, but by Rome (he had already been excommunicated by five popes, and was the richest man in England, after the royal house).

Lanfranc was certainly a friend of William's, but he was also his own man, having built a reputation as a leading conservative theologian. Rightly or wrongly, he thought the English church was corrupt and out of step with the mainstream church in continental Europe, and I accept that he replaced many English clergymen with Frenchmen and other foreigners, but as far as I can discover, this had more to do with theology and church politics than Normanisation.

The translation of the Bible into English is a well-ploughed furrow on the Internet, and I have found absolutely no evidence that there was any "ongoing work" to come "to a screeching halt". There had been some limited translations of some of the bible stories (not literal bible translations) starting with Caedmon, and including those of Æfred, but these seem to have ended with Ælfric of Eynsham in about 1010. I can find absolutely no evidence of any attempts to translate any parts of the bible into English between 1010 and Wycliffe in 1384, apart from a limited translation of the psalms in 1325. But perhaps you know better.

Mind you, had there been attempts to translate the bible into English, Lanfranc would have certainly clamped down, as he would have done if there had been similar attempts to translate the bible into French. For the Catholic Church had decided in 600 that the only version of the bible allowed to exist was in the Latin Vulgate, a decision they didn't rescind until the 16th century. They were terrified of ordinary people being able to interpret the bible for themselves.

"The Bible was dangerous. To handle its text directly, as would be necessary in providing translation, would have been to court disaster. ... The prohibitions against the vernacular translation formulated on the Continent were symptomatic of the general European development." (Cambridge History of the Bible)

What Lanfranc did do was make changes to versions of the Vulgate bible existing in England to bring them into line with Continental scholarship.

"There was yet another wave after the Restoration when the Norman begotten monarchy came back from … Where else? … FRANCE!" - Sorry, but could you explain to me exactly how the Stuarts were "the Norman begotten monarchy". As for your hatred of France, that's your problem.

To everyone else, sorry to go in such detail about such a small point, but AnWulf throws this out as though it were a historical fact, when there seems to be absolutely no evidence to back it up. But "why doesn't this amaze me?"

Warsaw Will May 8, 2013, 2:55pm

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It strikes me that Anwulf is attempting to do what a well-known English demonstrated was not possible, namely, hold back the tide. But then, Anwulf has always struck me as a bit of a Cnut.

Jeremy Wheeler May 8, 2013, 8:36am

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Why do have the need to bash and get rid of Latin and French words? Wouldn't that leave English bereft of its musicality. I don't care if you wish to add Anglo-Saxon (Old English) words into modern English. I have no problem with that whatsoever, but to completely eradicate Latin and French words from the vocabulary like some kind of lexical holocaust is abhorrent. I mean, what that leave us with in terms of words. If what you say is true, we have obtained 28,000 Latin/French words, but there could be more. Under your rules, all those words not fitting the one to two syllabic requirement would be vaporized. Preferably, I like to use big words and small words. Whatever happens to be on my vocabulary sheet, I'll use it.

As for laughing at us who use Latin and French words, I would say we could, and should, laugh at you for use of Anglo-Saxon spelling and words. It is ridiculous honestly and slightly frustrating (I have to decipher what you're trying to say—which makes it more advantageous for me just to ignore or skip over what you say most of the time). So try to stop with the condescension.

Jasper May 8, 2013, 8:06am

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@Spydervr495 ... Yes, that should be 'owing to' ... I don't proofread ... I know that I'll make typos so I drive on.

@Jayles ... I'v always said that I mind the short ones so much. But there are many of the short ones that don't need to be there either. If someone says, "Keep me apprised." I'll ask, "A prize from what?" :)

@WW ... I'll hav to break this up ... if my net link will hold long enuff.

Whew … Where to start? I'll try giving the 'short' answers. I'm almost done with a blog that will go further into the French inflow on English spelling. Once I'm done with a blog I'm working and post it (if my net link can stay up for more than two minutes!), I come back and put the link here and maybe you'll get a better feel for it then.

The Norman-French timeframe is, more or less, Middle English. The short take is that the -our ending is French and came in during that time. Every time one writes the -our ending in English, then you're giving "homage" to France. French and Br.E are the only tungs that note that spelling of the Latin 'color'. Others, like Spanish, write 'color'. Then again, one can always note the Anglo words of 'hue' or 'blee' insted of color.

Many, many other changes were made to spelling in this timeframe as well … a few were good … but most were bad and most were owing to the French spelling rules (orthography) and some of those had to do with the carolina script (it's how 'sum' became 'some').

Next, talking about the Saxons and the Celts is a red herring. I don't speak Gaelic even tho I hav forebears from Scotland and Ireland as well as England and others (I'm sort of a mutt when it comes to that). However, it seems ok for the Gaelic speakers to shun the words of the tung of their erstwhile English overlords in Gaelic. However, its not ok for English speakers to shun the words (and spellings) of the tung of their former French overlords in English? … BTW, I don't hav any problems with Celtic words in English so they get a by too.

It's not only English. A good friend of mine only last year wrappt up over 20 years of work to set the New Testament into Aztec. Now they're working on the Old Testament and he is running into the same thing with the Aztec speakers. They're wanting to clean out as many of the Spanish words as they can … even if it means noting an old Aztec word that few know.

Before the French takeover of England, there were some 600 latinates in English … and not all of those are still with us.

The Takeover, in the end, brought in some 10,000 French/Latin words! Of those, about 75% are still with us. Worse was the mindset, that French/Latin - good; English - so "rude"! This led to another wave of latinates in the "English" Renaissance (1500-1650) when another 10 - 12,000 words came in.

Here's quote from that time:

"Saint Jerom translated the bible into his mother tongue: why may not we also? They will say it cannot be translated into our tongue, it is so rude. It is not so rude as they are false liars. For the Greek tongue agreeth more with the English than with the Latin. And the properties of the Hebrew tongue agreeth a thousand times more with the English than with the Latin."

Speaking of setting the Bible into English, many books of the Bible were put into Old English. An ongoing work that came to a screeching halt when Lucky Bill had a Frenchman put over the church in England … You see, Lucky Bill didn't trust English priests and thought they were helping the athels to rise up against him. This happen'd long before the pope sent out any writs to do so.

There was yet another wave after the Restoration when the Norman begotten monarchy came back from … Where else? … FRANCE!

AnWulf May 7, 2013, 8:40pm

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@WW Hungarian,Turkish, Estonian all have little similarity or shared vocab with English, but still European in their thinking and educational background and culture, so it's not just about shared language features.
Most textbooks are still Euro-centered in teir subject matter and a world away from SE Asia; just as you might struggle with "Who is the Prime Minister of China, or Taiwan, or Korea?"
The other thing is if you have dealt with say Japanese or Korean students, you sometimes find there are cultural issues which impinge on their willingness to speak out and express their own opinion, whereas Euros tend to be more robust in a group speaking situation (and 'losing face' is not such a biggie).
Much depends on whether the teacher has spent time in Japan/Taiwan/Hongkong/Korea/Thailand and is familiar with L! and the culture.
Also in the end students often don't need to learn Euro culture, just need English for cross-border business between say Japan and Korea.

jayles May 2, 2013, 4:00pm

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@jayles - It's mainstream English for me too, not just for students.

When I first came across "lexis" (in New English File Advanced - where they were really using it instead of "vocabulary") I thought the same as you - I still live in the world of phrasal verbs, as opposed to multi-word verbs! But I've since discovered it really means something more like "vocabulary in context", also known as "lexical chunks" (a bit like collocations, but bigger chunks). The new name isn't just to sound clever, but is intended to put these chunks at the heart a teaching method known as the "the lexical approach", which covers grammar as well as vocab. So I don't think we can just dismiss it out of hand, and in fact I've used it on my blog (with explanation) .

And just why, pray, are those of a European background easier to teach? Would it have anything to do with shared language features?

Warsaw Will May 2, 2013, 11:55am

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@WW Yes it's mainstream English for students. L1 influence very hard to counter, much like pushing shit uphill, " I observed of course sometimes too many informations" and so on.
In those wretched PD sessions, if someone started using 'lexis' instead of vocab I, ever the iconoclastic rebel at heart, would start using 'wordstock', just relieve the tedium (PD= prof dev or 'preventative detention' as you will).
Went to a business meeting last night, the chairman (neither a dimwit, nor an Anglisher) used "it's a doing-thing" a dozent times, and the word "action" once.
And "It's not a talkaboutit-thing" twice, "discussion" nunce.
There's no harm in being a little creative and hueful in the right place.
Haven't taught any poles recently (or Poles either) , a few Slovak and Ukrainian have come thru - so much easier than grappling with a non-Euro background!

jayles May 1, 2013, 5:23pm

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@jayles - I largely agree with you about short words and nominalisations, but I would prefer to say 'use informal, natural, frequently-used words and avoid long-winded, over-formal, relatively unknown or pretentious words'. What I don't want to do is judge words either by their their syllable count or their derivation. There are times when "huge" will do, there are others when I'll want "enormous". There are also times when the judicious use of a nominalisation is rather more efficient than an equivalent verbal phrase.

I do in fact teach my students along these lines, suggesting that they "go to, and take part in, a meeting" rather than "attend, and participate in, a meeting", and often that means favouring Anglo-Saxon over Latin words, but not always. Polish students have a tendency to say "I've observed" for instance (they have a similar verb in Polish) which I find a bit formal, and I often suggest "I've noticed" is more natural (270m Google hits as opposed to 15m for "I've observed"),. But here I'm just replacing one word that has come into English from Latin via French, with another that has travelled the same journey.

But the difference between you and me is I couldn't give a damn (apart, obviously, from interest's sake) where a word has come from as long as it is natural English, does the job and collocates suitably with other words I'm using. And as far as I'm concerned common, frequently used words include "dictionary" and "vocabulary", whereas "wordbook" and "wordstock" (red-lined here) fall into the other category.

What's more, I can't agree with the approximations of synonyms and collocations that are being discussed on the Anglish page. For example, "outlandish" was suggested instead of my use of "preposterous". Well, I might think that the whole Anglish idea is somewhat outlandish ("strange or extremely unusual"), but I wouldn't insult you and your fellow Anglishers by describing it as "preposterous" ("unusual in a silly or shocking way"). Definitions from OALD. "Ongoing" was said be a suitable substitute for "continuous", sometimes yes, sometimes no:

I'm just not prepared to be bound by any rules other than those of natural idiomatic English shaped by custom, whether these rules come from prescriptivists,language purists or the silly ideas that come out of certain schools of English, such as avoiding the passive and singular they, or always using "that" in restrictive relative clauses.

I'll finish by quoting David Crystal, probably the leading expert on British English:

"There is a curious myth widespread in the world: many people believe that their language can somehow be 'pure' ... and that anything interfering with this imagined purity (especially words borrowed from other languages) is a corrupting influence ... . In the case of English, there is a special irony, for its vocabulary has never been purely Anglo-Saxon - not even in the Anglo-Saxon period". He goes on to explain how there had been four centuries of interchange between Germanic and Romanic people before the Anglo-Saxons even arrived in Britain, with many Roman cohorts consisting of men from Germanic tribes.

Or there's James D Nicoll's well-known analogy - "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and riffle [sic] their pockets for new vocabulary"

I've read somewhere that English has borrowed words from over 300 languages. English is by its nature a borrower. This is one of the very things that differentiates it from other languages. And makes it so glorious.

Warsaw Will May 1, 2013, 7:42am

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@AnWulf+Warsaw Will
Wow it's just great to see you guys kicking off again!
1) Might I put forward the thought that there is some common ground: 'use short words and shun nominalisations' as a rule goes a long way to weeding out the worst Latinate borrowings and makes the style less snooty.
2) I find myself unwittingly reaching for familiar latinate words. As an exercise, trying to find other words seems to have made me more aware of non-latinate alternatives and brought them to the fore. If not overdone, I think if can make for a more sturdy and straightforward English.
3) When push comes to shove, it does make for a different ' register'. 'Shove' is not quite the same as 'push' in its register!

jayles April 30, 2013, 3:45pm

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@AnWulf - Let's take them one by one.

"That my scorn of Lucky Bill upsets you doesn't amaze me" - I have no doubts about the tyranny of William I. What I have doubts about is how relevant events that took place over 900 years ago are to modern English. Or the way in which you connect modern (especially British) spelling ( - colour, realise etc) and other language points to those events. Should we Scots still be hating the English for much more recent events?

I also find that the Anglo-Saxons, (and Norsemen, or in fact anyone vaguely "teutonic") who also started off as invaders or raiders, seem to get a very easy ride in your view. Even Anglo-Saxon scribes relate how brutally certain Anglo-Saxons treated Celtic Britons on occasion, but no, only the Normans can be ever be criticised in your book. Sorry, but I just don't see history in that sort of black and white perspective.

Admittedly, under the Normans, many Anglo-Saxons had to learn French words to carry on business, appear in court etc. But as I understand it, there were two periods of French influence, first Norman or Anglo-French, and later Parisian French, some time after John Lackland had lost Normandy and by which time the descendants of the Norman barons had started to speak English.

And as I understand it (again), the largest tranche of French words entered English in the 13th and 14th centuries (from Parisian, not Norman, French). These were not forced on anyone, but willingly adopted by the English educated classes as Paris had become the capital of European culture, and was widely admired as such. Basically, French was seen as "cool".

"as well as put a Frenchman as head of the church in England who at once put a stop to putting the Bible into English" - As far as I'm aware, the medieval Catholic Church, especially under Innocent III, didn't want the common people in any country reading the bible in the vernacular, whether it be in England, France or Germany. This is why Wycliffe had so much trouble (around the end of the 14th century, long after English had become the dominant language) and why Luther thought it so important to make a translation into German. I doubt this has much to do do with French vs Anglo-Saxon, but to do with church politicy at the time; there doesn't seem to have been a French translation before 1530, for example.

"English does not hav two roots" - I obviously accept that the grammar of English has its roots in Anglo-Saxon and is a Germanic language. And I quite agree with you about those grammarians who tried to fit English grammar into a Latin framework. However, the contribution of French in terms of vocabulary has been so enormous, that I think it should be credited. I personally like having a language that looks in two directions, to its Germanic roots and to its French and even Latin influences. This is from the British Library website:

"The English language is a vast flea market of words, handed down, borrowed or created over more than 2000 years. And it is still expanding, changing and trading. Our language is not purely English at all - it is a ragbag of diverse words that have come to our island from all around the world. Words enter the language in all sorts of ways: with invaders, migrants, tradesmen; in stories, artworks, technologies and scientific concepts; with those who hold power, and those who try to overthrow the powerful."

And that's why I love it - all of it. I'm all for expressing my identity through language, but I dislike any type of cultural purism.

"You may "revel" in 'sesquipedalian' words like obequitate, perambulation, circumjacent, prognosticate " - Now you're just being plain silly! Never heard of two of them, never use another, and can't remember ever using "prognosticate", but may have once or twice. But it does remind me of this sign for guests, purportedly from an Austrian hotel - "Not to perambulate the corridors in the hours of repose in the boots of ascension"

I notice that you don't mention such dastardly "inkhorn-terms" as "agile, education, harass, scientific, strenuous". (Anyone can play the word game - the truth is that many Latin words adopted were not "sesquipedalian" at all). I wonder why hardly any of the "English" equivalents proposed at the time have survived.

Lastly, I wish you'd allow people to disagree with you without calling us names such as "Latin lovers", or suggesting that our "mindset" is somehow at fault (i.e. we've been conditioned), or that "two few people know" what you know. Are we not allowed to have minds of our own without being condescended to in this way? Just because most of us judge each word we use on its own merits and don't worry unduly where it came from five hundred years or so ago. And just because some of us prefer to look at our language (and history) as objectively as we can, and not from one particular (to my mind somewhat slanted and rather bile-laden) viewpoint. :)

Warsaw Will April 30, 2013, 12:23pm

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@AnWulf : you said " a strong verb pattern likely do to the sound...", and mmmmmom replied "due?".

Spydervr495 April 29, 2013, 9:17pm

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The thing is that no one in England as a leg to stand on to jeer Scottish English (or Scots) as an "offshoot" of English when it is more "English" than English. It's even funnier when someone does it over a Latinate.

I don't mind short ones like plead (it's not needed, but at least it's short) … or squash, squat, asf … most of them wouldn't be known by any Roman for that they'v been cut and shorten'd so much. You may "revel" in "sesquipedalian" words like obequitate, perambulation, circumjacent, prognosticate and even the short but ugly succor; however I fleer and make fun of them … and sometimes those who write them.

That my scorn of Lucky Bill upsets you doesn't amaze me. Far too few know what a tyrant he was. I'v read that on his deathbed that he ask'd for forgivness for the way the had dealt with the English. Had Lucky Bill not wielded an iron fist and had not slaughter'd most of the English athels (as well as put a Frenchman as head of the church in England who at once put a stop to putting the Bible into English), then likely he would hav been not much more than a footnote in a book and English would hav grown in a way of borrowing a few words rather than being overwhelm'd by those of the French overlords. Unlike your gleemen (musicians) byspel, the French/Latin words weren't chosen by the folk, they were cramm'd down throats of Englishmen in that laws were made in French/Latin, written in French/Latin, and the courts (law and kingly) were held in French/Latin. It didn't stop with Lucky Bill, it is still the mindset:

"The every-day vocabulary of the less educated is of Old English, commonly called Anglo-Saxon, origin ..." from "The Romance of Words", 1912, Chapter 1.

English does not hav two roots. Notwithstanding the best shots of the Latin lovers to change the grammar of English to fit into the Latin shape (like no splitting of the infinitiv or no dangling prepositions), it is still Germanic. As for the wordstock ... it all hinges on how one looks at it. The OED has 'abuela'. This is a well known word in the States as it is Spanish ... however, it is also "English" in that it is in the wordbook, but is it truly English? Do you count it as English? ... Or is it only a word that, outside of the hispanic neighborhoods, one mainly sees it only in cowboy tales? Still ... it's in the OED so if you're counting Latinates, it's there. But Latinates are only a layer of words. They aren't the heart and soul of English. One could drop many ... if not most ... of the Latinates and never miss them. One can't drop the core Anglo words and grammar of English.

AnWulf April 6, 2013, 2:28pm

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@AnWulf - My mother tongue is modern English, not Anglo-Saxon. I revel in the fact that it has its main roots in two language groups, Old English and French, (including Norman and Anglo-french), as well as accepting loan words from many other cultures. Our grammar is mainly Germanic, much of our vocabulary comes from French or, OK, from Latin. I have no problem with that; indeed I'm deeply suspicious of any sort of cultural purism, and I'm afraid your outburst about William the Conqueror on another thread simply confirmed all my worst suspicions about this whole pure English movement.

It's just as well musicians don't take a similar attitude, or we'd have no classical music (a mixture of Italian, German and French traditions), no Blues, Jazz or Soul (European and African traditions) and so ultimately no Rock (mixing various Black and White traditions), and no Salsa, Samba, Tango etc, (mixing Black, White, Urban, Rural, European and African traditions).

The truth is that the most exciting cultural advances come in cosmopolitan climates where different cultures meet, not in purist backwaters.It is precisely this variety of roots that makes English so fascinating for me, and gives such a wide choice of vocabulary to writers. The English language, proud mongrel that it is, has after all given us probably the greatest literary tradition in the world.

Warsaw Will April 3, 2013, 2:22am

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I didn't say that Scots is French free ... only that it has more Anglo rooted words than does English. I should say more Anglo rooted words that are known and noted. It was farther away from the William and the other French overlords. Truthfully, those words are still in the wordbook for English as well but they would baffle most English speakers.

One should also keep in mind that a good bit of French is rooted on the Germanic Old Frankish rather than Latin. So we often get the same word in a slightly nother shape ... guard and ward are both from Proto-Germanic *wardo-".

I only spoke of plead not being "truly" English for that Georgie was all up in arms about how "English" should be spoken.

I'v read that some 80% of the thousand most noted words in Today's English come from Old English. As one goes up from that, more Latinates come in. Even then, most of the time, the Latinates aren't needed.

Having a few outlander words in a tung is not a bad thing ... when those words needlessly overwhelm the mother tung, that is a bad thing.

AnWulf April 2, 2013, 2:13pm

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I had thought of pointing out to Georgy Porgy that Old English was likely spoken in Edinburgh (although perhaps not exclusively) long before the Kingdom of England was established, as Edinburgh (itself an English name - Edwin's burgh) was for some three hundred years part of the Kingdom of Northumbria, from 638 to 950, when it fell to the (Gaelic-speaking) Scots.

@AnWulf - I hate to disappoint you, but we Scots had a third injection of French, mainly due to the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France, which lasted for some four hundred years, culminating in the regency of Mary of Guise in the sixteenth century. The most colourful example of this is probably the expression "Dinnae fash yersel" from the French se facher - to get annoyed.

But if plead is not truly English because it didn't come from Old English, doesn't that mean that nearly three-quarters of English words "are not truly English" by your reckoning? I think in Scotland we rather like the fact that our language has had so many influences. The Scottish ideal of "the man o' pairts" nicely combines two of those root languages.

Warsaw Will April 2, 2013, 10:51am

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@George7th ... LMAO ... To be truthful, that "spinoff" known as "Scottish English" (SE) is more "English" than English! SE has more Anglo-Saxon rooted words than does the English spoken and written in England which might better be called "Frenlish".

BTW, plead is a Latinate. It's not truly English in that it didn't come from Old English (Anglo-Saxon). It is from Old French plaidier, "plead at court". That the Scots "englished" it (that is, making it more English-like) by making it a strong verb puts the English to shame.

AnWulf April 2, 2013, 8:42am

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Will, Interesting commentary. I have accepted that I am a grammatical Ludite and bullheaded to boot.

alicelee March 30, 2013, 1:47pm

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@alicelee - there's been quite a bit about it in the British press over the last couple of weeks, but it's a bit of a storm in a teacup, I think. The council in question hadn't been using apostrophes on new road names for a few years, without comment, and Birmingham did something similar a few years ago, again without much fuss.

There's already a lot of inconsistency in existing place names; in London some people aren't quite sure whether it's King's Cross or Kings Cross (officially it's with) - see the map here:

And then there's Barons Court tube station, which is just off Baron's Court Road. In Lancashire there's a St Helens, and on the Isle of Wight a St Helen's. There's a town not far from London called St Albans, but in London itself St Alban's Street. The district of St Pauls in Bristol usually goes apostrophe-less, while its namesake cathedral in London is generally blessed with one.

The Plain Language Commission (an unofficial body) in a refreshingly sensible article on the Devon affair note that:

"Our resident grumpy grammarians note that such stories tend to appear in newspapers that forget to apostrophize expressions like two weeks notice (read two weeks’ notice) and three days pay (read three days’ pay), even as they lecture their readers about grammar and falling standards."

They make the point that most of us don't use full stops in abbreviations such as the BBC or NATO any more; and wonder if apostrophes are really any different. The US seems to manage perfectly well without them (apart from five exceptions, apparently).

Warsaw Will March 30, 2013, 11:39am

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alicelee March 30, 2013, 8:45am

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Not longitudinally, evidently, but attitudinally [sic] ?

Warsaw Will March 30, 2013, 8:33am

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At 6' 3"?
Probably not.

George 7th March 30, 2013, 4:22am

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@alicelee - Georgy Porgy appears to be what we call a Little Englander in my neck of the woods.

Warsaw Will March 29, 2013, 1:42pm

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smile, chuckle, grin

alicelee March 29, 2013, 10:00am

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Oh I do apologise! I had formed the opinion we were discussing ENGLISH rather than spin-offs from Scotland and the USA.

George 7th March 29, 2013, 9:58am

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@George 7th - Your Majesty would appear to be as wilfully ignorant or disdainful of both Scotland and North America as your ancestors. From Oxford Dictionaries Online:

plead - verb (past and past participle pleaded or North American, Scottish, or dialect pled /plɛd/)

but I'm sure you could use your royal prerogative to get it changed. Examples from Scottish Newspapers in one of my previous comments.

Warsaw Will March 29, 2013, 9:52am

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Well, I do speak 3 other languages, but English is my first and I was born in the USA. I think I am right, so I will speak and write accordingly. One's argument would be more effective if one did not make personal comments and judgments.

alicelee March 29, 2013, 9:45am

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Pled is NEVER correct. It is apparent you are not English.

George 7th March 29, 2013, 8:36am

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I use pled when it is correct and pleaded when it is appropriate. Case closed. You all do what you like. Case closed. Ipso facto & ad infinitum etc. & all that junk. Happy arguing.

alicelee March 28, 2013, 2:58pm

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Agreeance? No!
By the way, "pleaded" did NOT replace "pled".
Pled is not a word in English English, but PLEADED is!

George 7th March 28, 2013, 1:24pm

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@Jan - I'd never heard of agreeance before, (and its being red-lined by Firefox), but there's an interesting piece on it at - - and quite a bit of discussion on forums etc.

Warsaw Will March 27, 2013, 5:37am

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I still vote for pled in the context of "how did the man plea? He pled guilty. I'm actually getting a red line under pled when I am typing it. How crazy is that. I also am noticing the word agreeance instead of agreement. How bizarre.

Jan March 26, 2013, 7:19pm

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I stumbled in here because I can't decide whether to use pled or pleaded in a sentence. I'd love to say that the matter is decided, but I can't :) Still a good post, I've been wondering when 'pleaded' became a thing. Thanks

Cairn Rodrigues March 22, 2013, 1:33pm

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The change really started creeping in when as newspapers dropped a paid position, in lieu of Spell Checker. A person reading the article would read 'pled', and let it stand. Most Spell Checkers, flag it as misspelled,
Every time I see 'pleaded' in an article, my brain automatically translates it to 'pled'.

Too bad they didn't use an unabridged dictionary for Spell Check.

MarkO (The Old Man) January 27, 2013, 11:03am

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@Skeeter Lewis - I totally agree with you as far as England (and no doubt Wales) is concerned, but not for Scotland, at least not in the legal sense (we have a separate legal system):

"The defendant pled guilty to stealing the egg of an Arctic tern, possessing 30 wild birds eggs and possessing equipment capable of being used to commit wildlife crime offences." (Scottish Government website -

"Defendant pled no contest to transporting heroin" (

"Michael Voudouri pled guilty to charges last month" (Glasgow Herald -

'On sentencing Lord Glennie made the following statement in court: “You have pled guilty to a charge of attempted rape on the night of 11 September last year."' (

You can find many more examples by googling: "pled guilty" Scotland. Interestingly googling: "pleaded guilty" Scotland gets about the same amount of hits.

Warsaw Will December 22, 2012, 5:30am

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I just have to say that I hate when I see the word "pleaded" in relation to any legal or crime article. It just sounds so wrong. I was actually watching "Facing Evil With Candice Delong" and during the show they put on a clip of a newspaper article that had to with the case being talked about and it mentioned that both criminals "pleaded" guilty instead of taking the risk of going to trial, which didn't sound right to me, so I looked it up to see if it was even grammatically correct and that brought me here. I don't really mind the media using certain grammar or going with certain words because it's what everyone else is doing basically because I just don't really care and I'm not even really a grammar stickler myself because let's be honest, I'm sure I've probably made a bunch of grammatical errors in this very comment (lol). But why on earth would anyone use that over "pled" because it's what other media outlets are doing?! I don't care how popular the word is, it sounds AWFUL, using "pled" in a sentence as opposed to "pleaded" is just so much more pleasing to the ear. Just needed to throw that out there because even as non-caring I am about perfect grammar, there are some words that when used incorrectly or just sound bad, that make my skin crawl for some reason, and that's definitely one of em. :)

Kristen December 21, 2012, 10:47pm

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I have never in my life heard 'pled' being used by a Brit. It's not wrong - it's just not British English.
Yes - I just got a squiggly line.

Skeeter Lewis December 10, 2012, 1:31am

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sorry, I meant to type ask Mr. Wood...

alicelee December 9, 2012, 7:49pm

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Do not, under any circumstances as Mr. Wood if he wears a watch unless you want to hear the origins of time from the dark ages to the present. That said, I am enjoying these comments.

alicelee December 9, 2012, 7:46pm

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D A Wood "Why is it that this Web site has such aggravating problems?" You may mean annoying or exasperating. Aggravate means to make worse.

alicelee December 9, 2012, 7:44pm

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It is bated breath, not baited breath, unless you refer to a person who has a mouth full of rotten fish.

alicelee December 9, 2012, 7:17pm

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This subject has been bothering me for about 2 years. I asked some of my friends, all college grads, they acted as if they didn't notice any change. So I finally googled it and found myself here, surprise, surprise! I am not the only one bothered by this shift from "pled" to "pleaded."

Surprised November 15, 2012, 3:38pm

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That is an excellent observation and explanation. "The defendant pled guilty" is simple past tense. "The defendant pleaded for his life" does sound more important. The subtlety of the English language is one of it's charms. Think Shakespeare. Unfortunately many computer programs do not recognize "pled" as a correctly spelled word as the red squiggly under it is now indicating to me as I type this.

James Aberdeen August 24, 2012, 5:18pm

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Response to "Captain Mannering-ism": shouldn't that be "Mainwaring-ism?

Jeremy Wheeler August 20, 2012, 12:46am

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Typo - not ust but just.

Les R August 17, 2012, 3:22pm

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Yes     No