Welcome to the website woven for wordaholics, logolepts, and verbivores. Carnivores eat meat; herbivores eat plants and vegetables; verbivores devour words. If you are heels over head (as well as head over heels) in love with words, tarry here a while to graze or, perhaps, feast on the English language. Ours is the only language in which you drive in a parkway and park in a driveway and your nose can run and your feet can smell.

Readers’ Questions

 

DEAR RICHARD: I am old, a few months from 90. So I have time to wander and ponder things., both significant and silly. Recently a rule of spelling popped up in what’s left of my mind, namely “I before e, except after c.”

Well, what about either and neither, which can be pronounced eyether and neyether or eether and neether? Just thinking. –Charlie Farrell, Pacific Beach

The most famous of mnemonic spelling jingles advises:

I before e,
Except after c,
Unless sounded as a,
As in neighbor and weigh.

More cleverly, a popular mug reads: “I before e, except when your foreign neighbor Keith receives eight counterfeit beige sleighs from feisty caffeinated weightlifters. Weird.”

You don’t have to be an Einstein to realize that the i-before-e rule is breached almost as often as it is observed. If you want to find out just how many proper names violate the rule, remember this sentence: “Eugene O’Neil and Dwight Eisenhower drank a 35-degree Fahrenheit Budweiser and Reingold in Anaheim and Leicester. You also don’t have to be an Einstein to see that Einstein itself is a double violation of the i-before-e rule — along with Weinstein, Feinstein, deficiencies, efficiencies, proficiencies and zeitgeist.

Among the dozens of instances in which e precedes i in uncapitalized words are this dozen: caffeine, counterfeit,deity, feisty, heifer, height, hereinm, leisure, protein, reign, seize and weird.

And among words in which c is immediately followed by ie are these dozen: ancient, concierge, conscience, fancier, financier, glacier, omnicient, science, society, species, sufficient and tendencies.

To show how much this rule was made to be broken, I offer a ditty of mine that I hope will leave you spellbound:

E-I, I-E — Oh?
There’s a rule that’s sufficeint, proficeint, efficeint.
For all speceis of spelling in no way deficeint.
While the glaceirs of ignorance icily frown,
This soveriegn rule warms, like a thick iederdown.

On words fiesty and wierd it shines from great hieghts,
Blazes out like a beacon, or skien of ieght lights.
It gives nieghborly guidance, sceintific and fair,
To this nonpariel language to which we are hier.

Now a few in soceity fiegn to deride
And to forfiet thier anceint and omnisceint guide,
Diegn to worship a diety foriegn and hienous,
Whose counterfiet riegn is certain to pain us.

In our work and our liesure, our agenceis, schools,
Let us all wiegh our consceince, sieze proudly our rules!
It’s plebiean to lower our standards. I’ll niether
Give in or give up — and I trust you won’t iether!

By the way, the preferred American pronunciations for either and neither are eether and neether.

DEAR RICHARD: Are there any words that use all five vowels in alphabetical order besides facetious? –David Orozco, University Heights

The shortest (nine letters) and most accessible word that contains all five major vowels in order is indeed facetious. AEIOU-in-order words that test the outer limits of the English voculary include abstemious, abstentious, acheilous, acheirous, adventitous, aparecious, areious (the shortest), annelidous, arsenious, arterious, atenisodus, bacterious, caesious, fracedinous, lamelligomphus (the longest), lateriporous and parecious.

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Here’s a mnemonic device you can use to correctly pronounce Kamala Harris’s first name: Simply start with a common punctuation mark, add -la and voila: COM-ma-la.