Dorothy van den Honert: Talking grammar — and a little Trump


PITTSFIELD — Oh man, am I fed up with politics. It fills up TV and newspapers with predictions and opinion polls, even the best of which don't amount to a hill of beans this early. And we have to put up with this until November.

So when I was trying to figure out a subject for this article, I at least knew that it would not be politics and certainly not Donald Trump. I decline to add to the endless theories, opinions and general baloney about him.

And then one day recently I found out something good about Trump. I saw an article he wrote in which he used the word, "judgement." And he spelled it correctly with the letter "e" in place!

For at least 20 years people who should know better (writers, editors, teachers) have been omitting that letter e, producing a word that is unpronounceable. Without the e to soften the letter g, you must pronounce the "g" hard, as in "got." Just try saying "ju-d-g-ment." Judgement with the e is the British spelling which was made sloppy by Americans.

I have little patience with the millions of English and primary school teachers who don't teach spelling and grammar rules because they don't know them. The "j" sound in English after a short vowel sound is spelled as "dge," as in fudge, ridge, badge and lodge. Note that in each case, the short vowel is followed by two consonants before the "e" because its short vowel sound (as in hat, sit, hot, but, get) needs the protection of two consonants.

If the central vowel is followed by only one consonant, as in rage or huge, it reverts to its name — the long sound. So you have butter and sinning, but racing and riding. (Don't email me exceptions. I know plenty, and for the most part they originate in foreign languages.)

Spelling a word correctly is rather a small compliment to give Donald, but in view of the millions of times this spelling mistake is made by the average American speller it might make Trump, if nothing else, a unique American speller. But l don't think so. To be unique, you must be one-of-a-kind. The meaning of the word "unique" is misused as often as the word "judgement" is misspelled.

How often do you see "rather unique" or "somewhat unique" or "very unique?" I wish Mr. Trump were unique, but unfortunately, he has millions of followers who think as he does and you can't be unique if there are others like you.

Oops, I wasn't going to talk about Trump. Back to something safe, like grammar or spelling. Maybe I feel so snarky because I have spent years teaching dyslectic people to read and spell. In their cases, there is a good reason for the problem. In the case of the rest of the world there is no excuse but sloppy teaching.

No math teacher teaches the wrong numbers in the multiplication table or incorrect addition facts. In science class everybody knows that knowledge changes with added experiments and new findings, and old facts are subject to new experiments. Even the words in history can be subject to alterations with new discoveries. In each of these cases, new information gets new teaching. But the grammar and spelling of one's native language won't change within a student's lifetime.

So we are not apt to go to a "judg" for a legal decision, or stand on the "edg" of a "bridg" deciding whether to jump, or rent a cozy "lodg" for a week in the woods. Nor are we apt to write "rag" when we mean rage, or "sing" when we mean singe, or "bing" if we mean binge. In the case of Mr. Trump's correct spelling of "judgement" one must admit that the superhero is not necessarily Mr. Trump but may be whoever writes his stuff.

Oops. Trump again.

So back to something arguable like gun violence. The Constitution has already been amended 27 times, so it is not true that there could not be yet another amendment forbidding guns in the hands of civilians. How many more children must we dismember so that macho men and Nervous Nellie women can own a gun to make them feel like somebody.

Why don't we get rid of seat belts, prescription drugs, stop signs, laws against murder, or clean water in schools? Are gun owners' comfortable feelings of being important worth the not so comfortable feelings of a child with his leg blown off?

Dorothy van den Honert is a regular Eagle contributor.


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