Monday, 18 July 2005

Two Nations Joined in an Orthographic Squabble

I have come under criticism recently for the spelling of the word "behove". It seems that a chap has been stung into looking the word up in his American Heritage Dictionary, wherein he found, no doubt to his critical delight, that it was spelt "behoove", a finding that has precipitated in him a somewhat dim view of me. This ready disgust at my apparent solecism might explain why he failed to consider a rather important word associated with that doubtlessly august lexicon. That word is "American".
.....I feel it is opportune, therefore, to point out that, contrary to the claim of Jean-Marie Colombani of Le Monde, we are not all Americans, nor, I might fairly add, shall we be in the near future, at least in so far as an Englishman might be permitted to retain his spelling-traditions; for it seems that we Englishmen, if we are to judge not only from our native tradition but also from the pages of the Oxford English Dictionary, have the luxury of two spelling variants: "behove" and "behoove" (from OE behofian). My own preference (call it a peccadillo, if you will) is for the first.
.....I should like to remind further that we in England insist on using a "u" in such words as "favour" and "honour", despite the pain this might cause to the sensibilties of Americans and classicists alike. But there it is: that's what we do......


dearieme said...

Can anyone tell me exactly what Yanks mean when they say a point is "moot"? I suspect that they differ from us.

Ilíon said...

As with most long-standing expressions, "the point is moot" can mean various things. But, at its most basic, it's an assertion that the point (whatever it happens to be) has already been settled, so there is no point in further argumention.