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i before e except ....

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Peter Mika
864170.  Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:41 am Reply with quote

I was amazed to witness the palaver generated from the supposed exceptions to this rule of spelling.

Apparently there there more exceptions to the rule than adherents.

S. Fry: "The spelling trick 'i' before 'e' is wrong on so many occasions that schools have stopped teaching it."

Has everyone in the world forgotten?

I still remember sitting in my antipodean primary school at the age of 9 or 10 (circa 1964) and hearing:

"When the sound is 'ee', 'i' before 'e' except after 'c'."

I dare say that the only words to defy this spelling rule will inherently carry some reason for the 'variance':
eg. foreign-language words, or words that are plurals such as 'species'

[Obviously, words where the 'i' and the 'e' are pronounced separately (eg. 'glacier') need not apply, because the sound is not 'ee', and the spelling is dictated by the pronunciation in any case (or vice versa).]

To go further, it might even be be proposed that if a word such as 'caffeine' is deemed to be non-foreign, then 'caffeine' should actually be pronounced "caffayne" (as in the word 'seine', [sayn]: fishing net).

After this revelation, maybe steps can be taken to have this fine rule introduced into schools again ....


Last edited by Peter Mika on Mon Nov 14, 2011 8:19 am; edited 2 times in total

 
suze
864173.  Sun Nov 13, 2011 9:51 am Reply with quote

Peter Mika wrote:
"When the sound is 'ee', 'i' before 'e' except after 'c'."


The rule is certainly better with that bolded part in - but we did a bit of straw polling on this, and found that few had been taught it with that caveat.

Our moderator Jenny - who used to be an English teacher - used to teach that extra bit, and one of the Management recalled having been taught it in school.

I too am an English teacher, and I don't teach the "rule" at all. The remaining members of the research team were unaware of the caveat.

 
Peter Mika
864218.  Sun Nov 13, 2011 11:51 am Reply with quote

PS.
For any who may not have seen the episode of QI concerned, following is a list of the words cited on that QI as being exceptions to the rule:

'i' before 'e' except after 'c'

species, concierge, caffeine, weird, glacier, Madeira, hacienda, weir, being

 
Bondee
864226.  Sun Nov 13, 2011 12:39 pm Reply with quote

And ceiling.

 
Posital
864227.  Sun Nov 13, 2011 12:42 pm Reply with quote

Peter Mika wrote:
species, concierge, caffeine, weird, glacier, Madeira, hacienda, weir, being
Mostly of foreign origin or special cases - (except weir, weird and, species), methinks.

Weird, is just... frankly... weird...

 
Gooische Vrijgezel
864327.  Mon Nov 14, 2011 3:36 am Reply with quote

Posital wrote:
Mostly of foreign origin


Including foreign itself...

 
Jenny
864513.  Mon Nov 14, 2011 5:28 pm Reply with quote

Quote:
species, concierge, caffeine, weird, glacier, Madeira, hacienda, weir, being


The full 'rule' is i before e except after c when the sound is ee. That cuts out concierge, glacier and hacienda (which are also foreign words in any case). Madeira is of foreign origin and a name. Being doesn't count because it's the present participle of the verb 'to be', and moreover has two vowel syllables in its pronunciation.

Weird and weir are well-known exceptions to the rule.

 
Bondee
864532.  Mon Nov 14, 2011 5:55 pm Reply with quote

And ceiling.
<wonders how long he can get away with this before someone smacks him in the mouth>

 
Spud McLaren
864547.  Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:23 pm Reply with quote

And seize.

If that's wrong, my excuse will be that I'm drunk. If it's right, I'm sober.

Bondee wrote:
And ceiling.
<wonders how long he can get away with this before someone smacks him in the mouth>
You're not getting away with it. They're just ignoring you.

 
PDR
864558.  Mon Nov 14, 2011 6:40 pm Reply with quote

I before E except after C - as in Seaside...

[the Smith and Jones memorial joke]

PDR

 
Jenny
864732.  Tue Nov 15, 2011 12:26 pm Reply with quote

Ceiling fits the rule - i before e except after c when the sound is ee.

Seize is an exception though.

 
edstephenson
864790.  Tue Nov 15, 2011 7:04 pm Reply with quote

financier is supposedly the only exception to the "after c" part of "when the sound is 'ee', 'i' before 'e' except after 'c'."

 
suze
864798.  Tue Nov 15, 2011 7:30 pm Reply with quote

There aren't a great number, but that isn't the only one. There are a couple of verb forms (eg fancied), and the plurals of various words in -cy (agencies, policies, and so on). Together with glacier for some and species for all.

 
bobwilson
864813.  Tue Nov 15, 2011 9:05 pm Reply with quote

So what this comes down to is piss-poor teaching - instead of stating the rule

"When the sound is 'ee', 'i' before 'e' except after 'c'."

teachers have lazily stated

'i' before 'e' except after 'c'.

In line with the BBC's remit to educate, entertain and inform wouldn't it have been appropriate to point out the failings of teachers to state the rule correctly rather than to point out the exceptions to the abridged rule?

This post cut short as we go live to our correspondent on the set of "Strictly Come Competing With ITV" which, of course, must take priority.

 
exnihilo
864859.  Wed Nov 16, 2011 5:33 am Reply with quote

It's not a wildly useful rule beyond the earliest stages of education. It's a handy guide up until then, but sometimes one just has to remember how things are spelled. Hardly the teachers' or the BBC's fault, bob.

 

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