Archive for the 'Words' Category

Loath vs Loathe

I learned something new today – I have been using the word “loathe” incorrectly!

I have used the word “loathe” as an adjective: “I am loathe to try bungee jumping“, which is incorrect! The word should only be used as a verbĀ  as in “I loathe bungee jumping“.

It turns out that there are actually two different words: loathe, a verb which means “to hate intensely“; and loath, an adjective which means “unwilling“.

So my original example should have been written “I am loath to try bungee jumping“.

The pronunciation is also different: loathe as in smooth or breathe; loath as in growth or both.

So there you go.

And I really am.

Practising the practice

I have had this problem for a while with the use of the word practice. I was raised in South Australia where they are – or at least were once – quite particular in teaching the “Queen’s English” the correct way. I remember in school being taught that practice was a noun and the verb was practise.

So a doctor has a practice, and what he did there was practise.

Of course, this distinction is rarely used these days, and I was wondering why.

I happened to find this interesting bit on

Note: The analogy of the English language requires that the noun and verb which are pronounced alike should agree in spelling. Thus we have notice (n. & v.), noticed, noticing, noticer; poultice (n. & v.); apprentice (n. & v.); office (n. & v.), officer (n.); lattice (n.), latticed (a.); benefice (n.), beneficed (a.), etc. Cf. sacrifice (?; n. & v.), surmise (?; n. & v.), promise (?; n. & v.); compromise (?; n. & v.), etc. Contrast advice (?; n.), and advise (?); device (?), and devise (?), etc.

So, since advice (noun) and advise (verb); and also device (noun) and devise (verb) – have different sounds in their different forms, it is correct to spell them differently. But because we pronounce practice the noun and practise the verb the same way, then they should actually be spelt the same: practice !

Although, a more careful perusal of my copy of The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary (3rd Ed.), does go into a little more detail, and explains that the middle english version of the verb word was actually pronounced the same way as advise and devise – hence the spelling distinction.

So I guess that if I am going to insist on using the word practise, I must also pronounce it the “correct way”, or else be prepared to spell and say it as practice.

Sim’ goes off to practise his new practice of spelling practise as practice.


And now for something a bit lighter …

A colleague tried to use the word furphy in an email today – but complained that he wasn’t sure how it was spelt (furfy, furfee ?), and couldn’t find any references in the dictionary or thesauruses.

I knew what he was trying to say – a furphy is something that is widely held to be true, but is not necessarily so, or indeed something that is blatantly untrue.

I went looking for a real definition, and tried a few combinations, before I came up with several links for furphy…

WikiPedia: Joseph Furphy Furphy
MSN Encarta: furphy
Collins Family History

That last link is the most interesting – explaining where the name came from, and how it came to become an Australian slang term.

TOM COLLINS (1843 – 1912) – aka: JOSEPH FURPHY

A very well known name in Australia is Tom Collins, which in fact was the nom-de-plume of Joseph Furphy.

Born September 26, 1843 at Yering, near Yarra Glen, Victoria, Australia and died September 13, 1912 at Claremont, West Australia
Under the name of Tom Collins, Joseph was a well published Australian author, he was well known under his own name also, so much so that “furphy” became a word in everyday Australian speech, signifying a rumour without foundation. (Joe Furphy was not himself a disseminator of rumours, but the water-carts his firm manufactured, which were in use all over the country and were called furphies, were frequently the meeting-place of gossips.)

So there you go.

solmisation (also solmization)

The act or a system of using syllables, especially sol-fa syllables, to represent the tones of the scale.

The song “Do-Re-Mi” from The Sound of Music is an example of solmisation !


I’d thought I’d get back to some word definitions (refer to my earlier post [url=]A Thousand Words[/url]

Today’s word is [url=]assonance[/url]

- Resemblance of sound, especially of the vowel sounds in words, as in: “that dolphin-torn, that gong-tormented sea” (William Butler Yeats)
- The repetition of identical or similar vowel sounds, especially in stressed syllables, with changes in the intervening consonants, as in the phrase tilting at windmills.
- Rough similarity; approximate agreement.