Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Appropriate neologism of the day

As I was typing my main blog today, I accidentally wrote the word ‘forgiveness’ as ‘forgivement’. This is unusual. I am a fairly fast and accurate typist, thanks to the course I took a hundred years ago in a tiny, airless room in South Molton Street. (Young People: if you do one thing in your life, learn to touch-type. One of the best things I ever did.)

As I deleted the offending letters, I suddenly thought forgivement was rather a wonderful word. It sounded faintly Shakespearean, or even biblical. The forgivement of sins has a splendid ring.

As always, when I stumble upon, or, as in this case, create a neologism, I rushed to The Google to look it up. Chances were, it was a word after all, one of those ones that has arc. for archaic after it in the dictionary. It could have been one of those ones that went out of fashion in 1760, as some words do. (It wasn't.)

This kind of thing always amuses me. The British rather love to mock the American pronunciation of herb as erb. (Don’t even get us started on the correct stress for oregano.) There is a naughty snobbism among Britons about The Queen’s English, which we were speaking before America was even invented; a sense of ownership, as if our use of it is the only correct one, and our cousins across the pond are just bowdlerising the hell out of it.

But I read somewhere that erb is indeed an original Scottish pronunciation, from some time in the 17th century, or something of the sort. I may be wrong about that. Certainly in 1911, Edith Nesbitt was writing of 'an herb', which suggest that in England at that time the h was silent, just as in 'an hotel' which is what both my grandmothers called a place to stay. (Some people, even now, talk of 'an historian', with the silent h. So that in strict pedantic terms, there is a chance that people in Boston, Massachusetts are more strictly correct than those in Boston, Lancashire.

Anyway, forgivement is my word for the day, because it is what I must ask of you. I have been away from home for over a month, and in that time, let this fledgling blog shamefully lapse. I barely had the minutes to write my main blog, let alone pay attention to this smaller enterprise.

But I am back, and I hope that the readers will come back with me, and forgive the vacancy.

I was looking for an appropriate picture, and found this lovely one:

It was taken in Barcelona by J. Salmoral, and appears on his Flickr page.

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