December 04, 2003

Mis-spelling "grammar"

If I were a curmudgeon, I would point out, in reply to Geoff Pullum's complaint about the mis-spelling of "grammar", that the spelling with an <e> has an honorable history, going back to Middle English "gramere". And if I were more of a curmudgeon, I would point out that the correct spelling of "grammar" is easily remembered if one knows that it goes back to Greek grammatike, which is derived from grammat-, the passive participle of graph- "to write". And of course in Greek, the letters <a> and <e> were pronounced quite differently, so there's no possibility of confusion. And of course anyone who knows the elements of the derivation of Greek from Proto-Indo-European would know that the /a/ of such participles was originally a syllabic /n/, which is even more memorably distinct from /e/. If only everyone still learned Greek and the rudiments of Indo-European, we wouldn't have such errors.

But I'm not, so I won't.

Posted by Bill Poser at December 4, 2003 01:56 AM