'I' Before 'E,' Except in Britain

Just when you think your own government is completely ridiculous, along comes someone else's government to convince you that it's not so bad after all.

The U.K. has officially dumped the "'i' before 'e'" rule as a teaching tool. As in, they actually spent time thinking about it, then determined it to be some sort of menace to schoolchildren. The Times of London reports it this way:

Generations of children have learnt how to spell by chanting "i before e except after c", but new guidance from the Government says that schools should stop teaching the rule because it is irrelevant and confusing.

The National Strategies document Support for Spelling, which is being sent to primary schools, says: "The i before e rule is not worth teaching. It applies only to words in which the ie or ei stands for a clear ee sound. Unless this is known, words such as sufficient and veil look like exceptions.

The thing is, the way I learned the rule, it didn't stop at "after 'c.'" The rule was "'i' before 'e,' except after 'c,' and when sounded like 'a,' as in 'neighbor' and 'weigh.'"

If that's not enough to teach a kid to look out for exceptions to the rule -- which, yes, extend beyond "a"-sounding words -- there are always parents and teachers to tip the moppets off to the fact that the language isn't quite that simple. English is littered with exceptions to its rules, and the sooner children learn that, the better. But the rules stand nonetheless, and memory devices like the "i" before "e" rhyme are helpful.

Even if some of them don't necessarily translate across the pond to American English speakers, as this bit of the Times story proves:

Masha Bell, who has campaigned for English spelling to be simplified, said: "I before e is not a good rule. There are other sayings that are more useful, like 'one collar, two socks' for 'necessary'.

Then again, in Bell's opinion, "spelling is rubbish."
June 20, 2009 5:44 PM | | Comments (0)

Leave a comment


About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Critical Difference published on June 20, 2009 5:44 PM.

Contemporaries was the previous entry in this blog.

The Perfect Author for Hard Times is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

AJ Ads

AJ Blogs

AJBlogCentral | rss

About Last Night
Terry Teachout on the arts in New York City
Artful Manager
Andrew Taylor on the business of arts & culture
blog riley
rock culture approximately
critical difference
Laura Collins-Hughes on arts, culture and coverage
Richard Kessler on arts education
Douglas McLennan's blog
Dog Days
Dalouge Smith advocates for the Arts
Art from the American Outback
Life's a Pitch
For immediate release: the arts are marketable
Mind the Gap
No genre is the new genre
Performance Monkey
David Jays on theatre and dance
Plain English
Paul Levy measures the Angles
Real Clear Arts
Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Rockwell Matters
John Rockwell on the arts
Straight Up |
Jan Herman - arts, media & culture with 'tude

Foot in Mouth
Apollinaire Scherr talks about dance
Seeing Things
Tobi Tobias on dance et al...

Jazz Beyond Jazz
Howard Mandel's freelance Urban Improvisation
Focus on New Orleans. Jazz and Other Sounds
Doug Ramsey on Jazz and other matters...

Out There
Jeff Weinstein's Cultural Mixology
Serious Popcorn
Martha Bayles on Film...

classical music
Creative Destruction
Fresh ideas on building arts communities
The Future of Classical Music?
Greg Sandow performs a book-in-progress
On the Record
Exploring Orchestras w/ Henry Fogel
Harvey Sachs on music, and various digressions
Bruce Brubaker on all things Piano
Kyle Gann on music after the fact
Greg Sandow on the future of Classical Music
Slipped Disc
Norman Lebrecht on Shifting Sound Worlds

Jerome Weeks on Books
Quick Study
Scott McLemee on books, ideas & trash-culture ephemera

Drama Queen
Wendy Rosenfield: covering drama, onstage and off
lies like truth
Chloe Veltman on how culture will save the world

Aesthetic Grounds
Public Art, Public Space
Another Bouncing Ball
Regina Hackett takes her Art To Go
John Perreault's art diary
Lee Rosenbaum's Cultural Commentary
Modern Art Notes
Tyler Green's modern & contemporary art blog
Creative Commons License
This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.