Random Thoughts

The Mystery of Spelling

... complicated by pronunciation

Marjorie Burgess

My husband discovered that I did not know the meaning of two commonly used words, loose versus lose. I was using "lose" when I should have used "loose" and "loose" when the sentence called for "lose."

To better understand these two words, to use correct pronunciation, to double check their meanings (perhaps my husband was wrong), I opened my newly-acquired dictionary, the new Webster Universal Unabridged, 2nd edition, 1983, with copyrights all the way back to 1964. I couldn't understand why "lose" should be spoken as if it were spelled "LUS." My old unglamorous dictionary had the phonetic symbols listed clearly. I was annoyed with my Webster. After searching through the index, I located the page listing all the dots and dashes and miscellaneous markings that should help me to interpret the phonetic code. To add to my confusion, the markings looked more like ink blobs than clearly defined symbols.

By using a magnifying glass I was able to discern that when two dots are placed under the S, the sound will be that of  Z. Two dots over an S signifies the S will sound as in the word "said", Voila "Loose". Ignore the E at the end of the word "lose" in case you think that the E signifies that the O should sound like the O in the word "Toe." At last I understand the meaning of LOSE (luz) - to lose a ball game, and "LOOSE" (lus) to untighten whatever.  

Such is our Wondrous Language!

December 3, 1999

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