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I was going nuts this afternoon trying to remember the third line to “i before e except after c” – the second, if you don’t know, is “or when it sounds ‘a’ as in neighbor and weigh.”

Well, it turns out there isn’t any third line, as such, that I could find. And the rhyme goes all to shit after line two.

The most complete I found was Merriam-Webster’s but, for reasons I can’t work out, they left in a number of examples where i was indeed before e.

If you can work out why, let me know. I’m probably being dense. So here’s their list with those examples removed:

I before e, except after c
Or when sounded as ‘a’ as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh’
Or ‘e’ as in ‘seize’ or ‘i’ as in ‘height’
Or in ‘-ing’ inflections ending in ‘-e’ like ‘cueing’
Or in compound words as in ‘albeit’
Or occasionally in technical words with strong etymological links to their parent languages as in ‘cuneiform’
Or in other numerous and random exceptions such as ‘forfeit’ and ‘weird’.

I hope that clears it up for you.


Comment from durnedyankee
Time: June 10, 2021, 7:24 pm

Obviously the science then was as good as the science now.


Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: June 10, 2021, 7:57 pm

My spalling has gotten so bad that I cain’t right without MSWord correcting my spalling and grammar. I should be embarrassed but I blame it on pour eyesight.

Comment from Anonymous
Time: June 10, 2021, 8:49 pm

This popped up the other day on another blog…

M R puppies.

M R Not!

M R! C M P N !!??
I also defer to the professional spell-checking of “i” before “e” exceptions and rules.

Comment from ExpressoBold
Time: June 10, 2021, 8:56 pm

I am having extreme difficulty remembering to place my name in the “Name” box…

Comment from Cantharkmycry
Time: June 10, 2021, 11:36 pm

Glacier, fancier, science? The vowel combination follows the letter “c”, so they are an exception to the except after part of the rule.

Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: June 10, 2021, 11:46 pm

Me before Thee except after She
Or when it’s time to pay or to enter the fray.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: June 11, 2021, 9:36 am

Huh! I didn’t even know there was a second line! And Englysh woz wot i woz best at when i woz at Baja skool. After digging, ov kors!

Comment from durnedyankee
Time: June 11, 2021, 11:37 am

You do realize of course all of this is a direct result of allowing illegal words to enter the English dialect.

I mean, come on Rendezvous – pronounced Ron-Day-Voo!
Island is pronounced I-Land instead of Is-land!
Antiques is pronounced An-teaks, instead of the proper Anti-Queues!

Or another of my favorite fuzzy French attacks on the use of the alphabet, apart from sprinkling letters in words that they don’t intend to use, probably to force Americans to easily self identify, was teaching Southeast Asians that “Nguyen” is, roughly, pronounced “when” and “PHO” is pronounced FA!

Furthermore, enough with allowing foreigners to change the name of perfectly good geographic places and making perfectly good maps obsolete! – Peking, Bombay, Ceylon, Formosa, Rhodesia. The list goes on and on and on!

You danged kids! GET OFF MY LAWN!

Comment from peacelovewoodstock
Time: June 11, 2021, 12:04 pm

We learned the “i before e” couplet in maybe third grade, but it was always followed with “except neither leisured foreigner seized either weird height”

Comment from Deborah HH
Time: June 11, 2021, 4:18 pm

Common English usage is now full of words from other languages. How could any of those old rules—compiled a hundred years ago or more—ever work now?

Comment from BJM
Time: June 11, 2021, 4:56 pm

You think that’s confusing, a friend emigrated to the US from Ukraine via Israel. As they were Jews the Russian govt would only allow them to exit to Israel where they became Israeli citizens and waited five years for their immigration permit to the US. She had to learn Hebrew in order to learn English.

That makes my head spin as I barely learned Italian while living in Italy and never completely stopped translating. This brings me to the point I set out to make, Italian is full of contradictions too. My tutor would say ‘it is “XYZ” unless it’s not’. Otay.

It always struck me that in Latin based languages one needs to know what one is referring to to make sense of the grammar, whereas in English you can blather along, sort of like this comment.

Comment from jack
Time: June 11, 2021, 8:29 pm

and don’t get started on old church slavonic creating special exceptions in Russian!

Comment from Blake
Time: June 14, 2021, 3:46 am

There are good rules and they apply to about 90%+ of the language.

The book to read on the subject is “The Logic of English”. There’s also a website and the author has some pretty helpful tools for sale.

Not for me, mind you. I’m one of those obnoxious guys who intuited the rules somehow. And the people around me go “How do you know that?” and I just shrug and say, “dunno” but now at least I can point them to the book.

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