Back when I was at school English spelling was simple: I had to come before E, except after C.
It was an iron-clad rule. No kid or their neighbour deigned to seize the moment by disagreeing. The usual forfeit was swift reinforcement, either via some heinous and weird punishment, by seismic kick to the keister, or something in similar vein.
Feisty students were not allowed at this school, so seeing the efficiency with which teachers enforced their sovereign reign, and the weight of their surveillance, it was better to show obeisance to the rule.
It was weird that even eight foreign exceptions were neither reinforced nor allowed to inveigle their way in: herein was the rule, and neither weight of argument nor a surfeit of evidence could seize the attention of the efficient teachers. No skein of seigniorial deification, nor leisured reissue of a dictionary, no feigning of onomatopoeia, stopped the ancient rule being applied. Even an appeal to cheiromancy failed.
Foreseeing trouble, and not wishing to be reisolated, I decided to feign agreement. And so it was that I came before E, except after C; and science of it was never part of the zeitgeist; and a veil was drawn over English, along with the 44 words therein that obeyed the ‘I before E’ rule, as opposed to the 923 that did not.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2017