Posts Tagged ‘spelling’

Lazing around in an underused deckchair as I was last weekend, enjoying the summer I knew would arrive with the start of Wimbledon, a word popped into my head during my soporific state which wouldn’t go away. The word that bugged me, (a bit like the mosquitoes I was trying my best to ignore), was ‘shed.’ Probably because I could see ours, tucked away in a corner of the garden through the bleary corner of my eye, it invaded my consciousness with an urgency which it didn’t really warrant. Or perhaps it did. What an odd word. Written down it doesn’t look finished: the OED tells me that ‘shed’ is a Middle English derivation of the word ‘shade’ which is the complete opposite of the modern usage of ‘shedding some light’ on a situation.  Well, let’s try.   ???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

This underwhelming word that disturbed my lounging has several different meanings. The first is obviously the innocuous little building that most of us have, filled with miscellaneous outdoor detritus and spider webs. The little wooden building that could be put to so much better use if it were managed by someone who had some understanding of the tidiness concept.

In Scotland, if you have a parting in the hair, you have a shed. I have no idea how I acquired this piece of miscellaneous knowledge so I’ve just checked the dictionary to make sure I didn’t dream up the notion somewhere along the line, and it’s there in black and white. So if I’m ever stuck for a coiffure in the Cairngorms, I feel fairly confident now that I’d be able to converse comfortably with any hairdresser north of the border.

There may be bloodshed, especially in Shakespearian tragedies and we can be envious of folks who win shed-loads of cash in the lottery.

Well, that’s the nouns dealt with – let’s have a look at the verbs. Trees shed their leaves, snakes their skins and humans their hair (some more quickly than others – not that I have anyone particular in mind). Lorries often shed their loads across three lanes of motorway, usually in the rush hour or during a major holiday weekend. We are triumphant at shedding a few pounds in weight but may shed a few tears when we put it all back on.

Isn’t our language strange? There must be hundreds, if not thousands of words with multiple meanings to which we normally pay no attention because we rarely have time to laze about in deckchairs cogitating. The evolution of language and its words is constantly changing – the latest revolution being the abbreviation of words for social media communication. Last term we delivered a module in multi modal language (text speak) and while I found it fascinating that so much research and therefore money has been poured into the subject I did wonder if, that by affording it so much attention, we are giving our students licence to spell badly. It can be argued that to abbreviate a word, you need to know what you are leaving out, but that’s only true for the first person who does it, IMHO. Others will follow blindly on, not even considering a word in its entirety.

Does it matter? Well, to me it does, which is why I make a point of using as few abbreviations in my sparsely sent text messages as I can.  Will it matter in the future? Probably not; the employers of tomorrow are today’s younger generation, brought up learning to read and write without the use of phonetics to help them. They won’t worry that their potential employees are unable to spell because they will be looking for different skills. And so the world and its languages move on.

I wonder if anyone in Middle England ever pondered  the shed/shade debate. Did they even have deckchairs back then?

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