Posted by: Jack Henry | November 18, 2016

Editor’s Corner: I Before E

Happy Friday, everyone! I’ve received several photos of the cup (below) and other funny “i before e” tidbits from several of you, and this week—like magic—this article from Richard Lederer showed up on my desk. Here is Mr. Lederer’s answer to a woman’s inquiry about the i before e rule, from the San Diego U-T:

The most renowned of mnemonic spelling jingles advises:

I before e,

Except after c,

Unless sounded as a,

As in neighbor and weigh.

You don’t have to be Sheila Meister to realize that the i-before-e rule is breached 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 Rheingold in Anaheim and Leicester.“ You also don’t have to be an Einstein to see that the name Einstein itself is a double violation of the i-before-e rule, along with the likes of Weinstein, Feinstein, deficiencies, efficiencies, proficiencies and zeitgeist.

Among the scores of instances in which e precedes i in uncapitalized words are these dozen words: caffeine, counterfeit, either, feisty, heifer, height, kaleidoscope, leisure, omniscient, protein, seize, sovereign and therein.

And among more scores of words in which c is immediately followed by ie I offer these dozen: ancient, concierge, conscience, fancier, financier, glacier, omniscient, science, society, species, sufficient and tendencies.

To show how much this rule was made to be broken, I’ve contrived a little poem that I hope will leave you spellbound. In my ditty, I’ve spelled every relevant word according to the “i-before —e, except-after- c” rule; as a result, each of those words is misshapen.

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!

If you still don’t believe that I’m telling the truth about the multitudinous violations of the i-before-e-rule, you are welcome to ask the Deity.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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