then what’s with the word “weird?”
The rule is:
**When you want
to say -ee-
it’s i before e
except after c**
If it doesn’t have the -ee- sound, like weird then the rule doesn’t apply.
Er… Weird has an -ee- sound when I pronounce it (though I am English ). Dictionary.com also shows that weird has the -ie- combination pronounced as -ee-.
When I was taught the rhyme you have quoted it had an extra line:
“but with exceptions”.
It is a rule of thumb - not hard and fast.
agencies ancient coefficient concierge conscience deficient efficient fancied financier glacier hacienda Lucie Marcie mercies Muncie omniscient policies prescient proficient science society species sufficient tenancies absenteeism ageism albeit Alexei Alzheimer Anaheim atheist beige being Beijing Beirut Boeing Budweiser caffeine codeine counterfeit cuneiform deign Deirdre edelweiss eider eight Einstein either Fahrenheit feign feint feisty foreign forfeit freight geiger counter geisha heifer height heinous heir heist herein Holstein homogeneity Hygeia inveigh inveigle kaleidoscope Keith Klein Leicester leishmaniasis leisure leitmotif Madeira meiosis monteith neigh Neil neither nonpareil nuclei nucleic obeisance onomatopoeic Oppenheimer plebeian Pleiades poltergeist protein queueing reimburse rein reindeer reinstate reinvent reitbok seismic seize sheik Sheila skein sleigh sovereign surfeit surveillance Taipei their theism veil vein weigh weir weird wisenheimer zein zeitgeist
Bit of a crap rule then.
“I before e, except after c, or when sounded like a as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘sleigh’ or in certain other weird words.”
That’s the Rocketeer family version…
The pronunciation structure for weird is “wîrd”. This could be represented by a long ( ē ) sound were it not for the effect of the ® following the ( î ), which gives the effect of the short ( ĭ ) sound. This is why the pronunciation structure uses the ( î ). This is according to the Pronunciation Rules and Explanatory Notes of the American Heritage Dictionary. In this dictionary a special symbol ( îr ) is used for this combination, as in beer ( bîr ).
Hmm. That’s weird in itself.
It’s a cool rule. Exceptions prove the rule.
Read the Manual of Email Style, it explains this rule & others & why we got them & why we don’t have to follow them all the time. You know, like when you go in the store & someone says ‘What are you looking for?’ You can’t use that grammar, but you can!..What do you expect people to say, ‘For what are you looking?’
The rule applies only when the ie combination make a single sound. It is also a “recessive” rule; if there is another spelling rule that conflicts, the other rule usually takes precedence. Proper nouns are also exempt from nearly all spelling rules.
Certain words that appear to be exceptions aren’t because the rule really doesn’t apply to them in the first place.
science, hacienda, society, etc.: two syllables, two sounds
efficient, deficient, omniscient, etc.: the i is part of the ci digraph making the /ch/ sound
agencies, mercies, fancied, financier, etc.: the conflicting spelling rule (in words ending with the consonany-y, change y to i before adding a suffix beginning with a vowel) takes precedence
even taking into account these more complex rules, there are enough exceptions to make the rule generally unreliable for words as a whole, but more reliable than not for the most commonly used words.
handy: Anyone who objects to ending a sentence with a preposition is a pedantic snob (with the sole exception of very formal writing such as scholarly journals). Many archaic rules such as this one and not splitting infinitives come from the adoption of latin grammar rules by the authors of the original OEM, and are no longer applicable in most writing situations.
Sidenote: In “The exception proves the rule”, the word “proves” actually means “tests”, not “shows to be true”. When a rule has many exceptions, it presumably fails that test. A similar usage is seen in the (oft misquoted) saying “The proof of the pudding is in the eating”.
I always thought it was I before E except in “Budweiser.”
Cecil dealt with this some time ago here http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a3_201.html. While the sense mentioned above is acknowleded, the original meaning was actually that an exception proves the rule to apply in all non-excepted cases.
Relevant quote: *
The application is this. Suppose a law is stated in such a way as to include an exception, e.g., “Parking is prohibited on this street from 7 AM to 7 PM, Sundays and holidays excepted.” The explicit mention of the exception means that NO other exceptions are to be inferred. Thus we should take the Latin verb probare in the maxim to have the sense of “to increase the force of.” --Hugh Miller, Chicago
Hmm. It grieves me to say this, but you’re right. While the interpretation I gave, namely that the exception tests the rule, has a long history (it dates back at least to 1893), I’ll concede that your take on it is the original sense of the proverb.
… if you prohibit something in certain cases, you imply that the rest of the time it’s permitted. To put it another way, the explicit statement of an exception proves that a rule to the contrary prevails otherwise.*
I guess I should add that the meaning of “the exception proves the rule” I discussed above would apply to proscriptive rules (e.g. “no running in the halls”) but not necessarily to descriptive rules, like “I before E except after C, or when sounded like A as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh’.”
Words of German origin, of course, do not necessarily follow the “i” before “e” except . . . rule.
The Germans have a rule that (no surprise) is unfailingly regular: If it sounds like “ee,” it’s spelling “ie”; if it sounds like “eye,” it’s spelled “ei.”
Hence “ein” (as well as “Einstein”–not pronounced “Eensteen”) and “Budweiser” (to use an earlier example).
But “sieben” (pronounced “ZEE-bin”).
At least I think I’m right about this. I’m sure I’ll hear about it if I’m not.
In my experience, this rule is only useful in words like “receive” and “achieve”. I don’t think that it has any exceptions ending in “eive” or “ieve”.
this topic was also dealt with in the temporary board http://bb.bbboy.net/straightdope-viewthread?forum=3&thread=102 this is what I posted then
using an online dictionary I tallied (sigh, the things I do to waste my time) the totals for each occurence.
Source was http://www.concordance.com/crossword.htm and a bit of patience
total “…ei…” words 1765
total …ie… words about 9300. However most of these are of the form (…ier(s) and …iest) which are not hard to spell. If those three endings were left out the totals would be much more even and you would be left with a fairly even toss on whether to go for ie or ei
total …cie… words 541
total …cei… words 117
In other words you are 5 times more likely to get the spelling right if you ignore the i before e except after C rule when trying to decide between CIE and CEI.
(ps I didn’t actually have to count 9300 words, the site gives you a list of all the words say that look like *cie etc
C’mon, folks, aren’t we being a little disingenuous here? Those 541 “…cie…” words are going to include things like “fancier” and “fanciest,” which obviously are not what the rule applies to. Nobody wrestles with which vowel comes first in those. And (sorry, Libertarian) that list with items like “absenteeism” and numerous proper names seems to go out of the way to include words that a modicum of common sense would show to be likewise not relevant to the subject.
no, whats the point of the rule if there are so many exceptions. Try telling a five year old that it is obvious that it is fancier, not fanceir (both almost sound the same when sounded phoenetically). Quite frankly, between spell checkers and texting I suspect no one will be able to spell properly soon anyway . U no wat I men?
The point is, the rule does not apply and is not meant to apply to every word that has I and E as consecutive letters. Number Six’s post addresses this.
PROPERLY applied, the rule has relatively few exceptions.