This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Nuts and Bolts: Missing Ethel.

Oh, Ethel! A small light went out when you disappeared.

Occasionally, fleetingly, you can still be seen. You can still be dredged out of WORD with a certain amount of effort, and you're in the International Phonetic Alphabet; but your beauties all too seldom see the light of day.

Ethel. She looks like this: œ. Or this: Œ. She's what's called a ligature, which is two letters tied together.

In the International Phonetic Alphabet she's used to represent the sound you get in the middle of the French neuf

Ethel came into existence because some Latin speakers wanted to borrow some Greek words which had the letters omicron iota (οι) in them. The trouble was that οι was a bit odd and difficult for a Latin speaker, so instead of οι they used œ.

Nowadays poor ethel is usually either written as two letters, oe, or, especially in America, just as e by itself. So the word fœderal has become federal and diarrhœa is now either diarrhoea or diarrhea.

Ah well, I expect poor ethel is quite glad to be out of that one.

Word To Use Today: ethel. This word is an Old Frisian word meaning ancestral estate or native land.

I vow to thee my ethel...

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