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"Panicked", "miked"...what about "orgued"?
Modifying the spelling to keep hard consonants before 'i' and 'e'
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Bob Bridges
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In most languages, the pronunciation of consonants changes depending on the following vowel.   In English, ‘c’ is hard (ie pronounced ‘k’) except when followed by ‘e’ and ‘i’, so we have “care”, “continue” and “cursive” but “central” and “cinnamon”; likewise “gall”, “gopher” and “gunny” but “gel” and “gin”.   The details vary but the pattern is similar in Swedish, French, Spanish and German, the only languages I know enough to read much of (if you’ll accept my putting “much” in sardonic quotes), so that’s five out of five and I’m confident it’s very common.

When some aspect of the verb means you have to add an ‘e’ or ‘i’ after a hard consonant, sometimes that would change the pronunciation.   In Italian, for example, giocare means “to play”; gioco (JOKE-oh) means “I play”, gioca “he plays”, giocano “they play” and so on.   But “you play” (singular) calls for an ‘i’ after the root, which would be  gioci; and in Italian, as in English, that would call for a soft ‘c’ (“JOE-tchee”) instead of hard, so to retain the pronunciation they spell it  giochi, and the ‘h’ keeps the ‘c’ hard (“JOKE-ee”). Spanish does the same sort of thing, though in a different way.

It comes up less often in English, but it does happen.   We pronounce “panic” with a hard ‘c’, so when it’s in the past tense we write not “paniced” but “panicked”.   In the present tense you can catalogue something or catalog it, but in the past tense you must have catalogued it; “cataloged” has to be pronounced “CAT-a-lodged”.   (Hm, but my spell checker doesn’t mind “cataloged”; maybe it’s become common.   Still, you get the idea.)

So I was just writing to someone that I had reörganized my In box, and wanted to shorten the verb to “reörg”.   But that makes it “reörged”, which makes the ‘g’ soft.   In my email, therefore, I spelled it “reörgued”.   I’ll bet he doesn’t know what I wrote, though.   (” ‘Re-ORG-yoo’?   What the heck is that word?!”)

Comments, please?   How would you spell it?   Aside from the dieresis, of course, which no one but me bothers with these days.

Fort Worth, TX
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I have only within the last 4 or 5 years discovered the word “mic.”   I have begun to use it but I do not recall needing to write the past tense.   I think if I had to do that I would revert to “miked.” I think “mic” is a rather new spelling and probably the past tense hasn’t been settled.

I have never seen “paniced.”   Everything I see on the internet indicates it does not exist.   When I Google it, all the results give me “panicked.”

The net also seems to prefer “cataloged.”   It responds to “catalogued” but usually gives it as a British spelling.   That would be my feeling if I saw it written.

I think the bottom line is that the rules you gave are certainly correct but in our strange language there are many, many exceptions.

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The one that bothers me is “sync” which I think should be “synch” (from synchronize) Is the past tense “synced”?


By the way, the rule for g is not observed consistently e.g. give, get.

Bob Bridges
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I’ve seen both “sync” and “synch”.   But in the past tense, it’s always “synched” and I think it should be, for the same reason that we add the ‘k’ for “panicked”.

You’re right about “give”; I don’t think I ever noticed that one.

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Reorg’ed would be ok, because the apostrophe often stands for clipped characters.

Bob Bridges
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I have a reflex against apostrophes, but maybe this is a good place for one.

The reflex is because—perhaps only because—they’re so often used with plurals.   We all know it’s wrong, but I keep seeing ” -‘s” used to indicate plurals in two situations:

  • After numerals.   The most common example is where the apostrophe should have gone in front of the numeral, eg “Back in the 60’s I used to think that”.   It should be, of course, “Back in the ’60s I used to think that”.   But I’ve also seen it in “Back in the 1960’s…” and “There were 100’s of them”.   No, no; just drop the apostrophe and say “the 1960s” and “100s”.   (“Hundreds” would be even better, but that’s a different quarrel.)
  • After …

Ok, I need a definition.   An abbreviation is a word that is shortened, such as “am” (or “a.m.” if you prefer) for ante meridian.   An acronym, I’m told, really applies only to abbreviations that spell a word, such as “ALGOL”, “M*A*S*H” or “U.N.C.L.E”, or the older “laser” and “scuba” (though no one remembers nowadays that they were originally spelled in all-caps and had been coined to stand for longer terms).   By that definition, “IBM” and “HTML” would not be acronyms.   But what should I call them?

Never mind; I just went looking for more examples of acronyms and ran across this very good Wikipedia article on the subject.   They claim there’s no real consensus—different dictionaries define it differently—and go on to use “acronym” for all sorts of combinations.   I’m content with that.   To continue:

  • After acronyms: “We need to collect PIN’s from the users involved”.   Should just be “PINs”.   Likewise “ATMs” and so on.

I have also seen the “-‘s” where the user, apparently, isn’t sure of the right form: because the word is rare, or doesn’t look like a real word, or has a variant plural, that sort of thing.   But those are rarer and more obviously wrong.   But as a result of all this I tend to flinch away from any non-standard use of the apostrophe, and maybe that’s unfair.   I’d still rather write “miked” than “mic’d”, but maybe “reörg’d” wouldn’t be the end of the world.

Oh, wait, but Robert, you wrote “reorg’ed” with the extra ‘e’ there.   I don’t know as I’d do it that way.   What do some of the rest of you think?

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While I cannot find any common examples of -rged pronounced with a hard g, there is enough precedent with -nged alternating between a hard g and a soft g to suggest that the orthographic rules are flexible. I’d go with reorged.

He fringed the curtain that ringed the bathtub.
He banged and banged till the flanged component dropped into place.
He arranged for the fanged, deranged monster to be hanged as everyone longed for, and thus he avenged the dead.

changed, arranged, estranged vs. banged, fanged, hanged
fringed, hinged, singed vs. ringed, stringed, winged
sponged vs. pronged, longed, wronged, thronged

Also compare forged vs. forget.

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