Posted in General, GrammarGrave (lost causes), SpellingSlipups, Tips, tagged after c, ancient, Britain, c, ceiling, choice, coefficient, conceit, confusion, conscience, controversy, deceive, deficiency, e, efficient, English, except, exception, fun, glacier, grammar, headline, I, i before e, language, list, news, old, perceive, question, receive, report, research, rule, science, society, species, spelling, sufficient, usage, variation, words, writing on June 29, 2009|
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We have been asked several times where we stand on this controversy … you know, the old rule: “i before e, except after c.”
Ever since the news came out that Britain would forego teaching this rule … (click here to read the news item) … we’ve been ducking the question.
At first, we thougt, “how could they?” … only because we have quite an affinity for grammar rules and helpful tips. Then, we got to thinking (always a dangerous proposition) … That led us to do some research.
Our number one self-assigned task was to find the exceptions to this rule, that is, those words that, when spelled correctly, have an i before an e after a c. The results were astonishing …
Our search returned 364 words with a correct “… c-i-e …” sequence. Granted, the list includes multiple tenses of several words, plurals (using “…cies”), past tense (using “…cied”), and some words that we would swear are not real (or English, for that matter), however, here are a few notables:
- science, society, ancient, species, conscience, glacier, efficient, sufficient, coefficient, deficiency.
Next, we looked back for those words that actually fit the rule, in which, after c, the e comes before the i … and we found this to be even more astonishing–that there are so few. Our search led to only 134 entries, with such standouts as:
- ceiling, deceive, receive, perceive, conceit
The remainder of this list seemed to be filled out with variations on those few.
So, the position we held before Britain’s choice made the news, is now shattered, but we do like the new rule that we read about … “i before e, except when it isn’t.”
For more, take a gander through the great article about this on the always wonderful World Wide Words.
Therefore, instead of breaking from Britain and establishing our independence on this topic, we do hereby bow.
Happy Independence Day, America!
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