Lie before E part 2: time travel thumb vultures

Ok, make sure you’re sitting down and breathing deeply. You may want a cup of tea with a slosh of Scotch to help absorb this. We know that Mr Fox uncovered the lie that was “I before E except after C.” When I first posted about this, we had several dozen rogue words, and a feeling there was worse to come. If you haven’t seen that first post, you will need to familiarise yourself with it here. Mr Fox and I have been investigating since. If only we had known how deep the rabbit hole would go.

Having taken the first step, we decided to involve the power of supercomputers. We found a website that analyses the databases of dictionary sites, and programmed it to bring us every word in the English language containing the fragment ‘ei’.

The results were staggering. 2826 words. I almost had a stroke (I was also downloading porn). But I told myself to concentrate. That could wait until later. So instead I removed all those words that contained ‘cei’, given they’re legitimate under the rule. This still left 2655 words. We could have presented that data as it was, but I didn’t want to massage any figures. (That could also wait until later.) The data in its most compressed form would be strongest, like carbon squeezed down into a diamond. So I applied our earlier criteria, and removed any variants based on a common root word. This included plurals, and variants modified by suffix (vein/devein, surveil/countersurveil), which took some weeding out. It was effective, cutting the original list down by 1933 entries – the word ‘weigh’, for instance, had 111 variants (deadweight, weightily, weightless, etc). But after all of this culling, with the broken bodies of variant strings lying twisted and bloody on the floor, we still had seven hundred and twenty-two words to which this ‘rule’, this fabrication, this sham, does not apply.

Of course the list isn’t infallible – I deleted various retarded spellings (deinosaur, anyone?), and even now it includes Germanic words that I doubt are considered part of lexical English. Other entries are obsolete, and should perhaps be housed in a separate category, given the I before E rule was not taught in Chaucher’s day. I will require a university grant before I can go through and verify the derivations of all of these words, and the legitimacy of their place on the list. On the other hand, there may be more words as yet unfound, and the list does not currently include proper nouns, with the exception of names like Einstein that have been absorbed into the language as common nouns. Whatever the outcomes of these subsequent investigations, the mountain of evidence as it stands is incontrovertible.

I ran a similar analysis on a computer-generated collection of ‘cie’ words, those that flout the rule’s second clause. An initial list of 930 was reduced to 580 after eliminating variants. Of these, the vast majority were plurals of nouns that end in ‘cy’ (consultancy, redundancy, etc), constituting 493 of the total. To which the Federation of Filthy Lying English Teachers would perhaps argue that it was only one category of exception, so it didn’t really matter that much. Well, if it was only one category, then they should have worked that category into their rule, shouldn’t they? Oh, wait, except it didn’t rhyme, did it? It didn’t have a nice pat little rhymey bit. Superficial facile bastards! Besides, there are still 87 other words that don’t follow the rule. Stop trying to put the language in a box, you vultures. Vultures with sufficient manual dexterity to put things in boxes. Vultures with thumbs, and a need for order. OCD thumb vultures? This analogy isn’t really going anywhere.

But the important thing is this. Mr Fox and I have been making our objections known. We have been armed with this data for some time, although we’re only now making it public. But behind the scenes, the threat of a public revelation while the problem remained extant was enough to make the wheels start turning in the corridors of power. Yes, those corridor wheels. You know. Operated by vultures with thumbs. Shut up, you’re distracting me. So we greased the cogs of the vulture halls, and their thumbs of power opened the box of white flags to wave all of this under the carpet. We were driving them up their goat without a paddle. The authorities were so troubled by our findings, and by the prospect of being seen to have done nothing to oppose this travesty, that representatives of the British Government’s education department actually went back in time to June 2009 and ordered British teachers to stop teaching the rule. The reason? That there were so many exceptions it was effectively meaningless. In their words, “The I before E rule is not worth teaching.”

Oh, the sweet sweet taste of time-travel justice. The sweet clear ringing of the bell of truth being struck with the hammer of determination. And the sweet laughter of the children of the future, happy and secure in their salvation.

Height. Weight. Feign. Deign. Ceiling.

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5 Responses to Lie before E part 2: time travel thumb vultures

  1. Pat No Babies says:

    Oh the deceit!!!

  2. Mr Fox says:

    Reading this was a fucking great moment! You have continued to dissect this issue with shrewd observation, my friend. Our research and your fully documented report has kick-started the revolution. Someday, educational establishments will have graceful statues of us made, with you holding an E, and me holding an I (with a C in the middle)

    “Jack Bovill, chairman of the Spelling Society, said words such as vein and neighbour made it a meaningless phrase.” As correct as Jack Bovill is, he has obviously failed to notice the irony of the rule being broken in the very name of the organization he is chairman of: the ‘Spelling SoCIEty’.


  3. Geoff Lemon says:

    Oh, the grim, ironic humanity!

  4. Alejandro Casador says:

    I got to the line “I almost had a stoke (I was also downloading porn)” and lost my shit… and by that I mean LOLed.
    I think the the list of 50 odd coworkers in the room that thought I was quietly working hard might have rapidly reduced.
    Note to self and others: Don’t read this blog at work.

  5. Geoff Lemon says:

    Hahaha! Brilliant. I’ve often thought to myself, when I ask whether I’m spending too much time on this blog, “If, after all this effort, I’ve brought the career of even one friend or acquaintance closer to summary termination, then it will all have been worthwhile.” And so it has proved.

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