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All's fair in Love and War

Introduction by Tangiora: These days you’ll see English words spelled a little differently through text messaging and social media. Some spell YOU with the letter U and the word ‘before' with the letter B and the number 4, but did you know that the word LOVE was spelled differently once upon a time? The Spelling Queen of Carnarvon will shed some light on why the spelling changed from [the letters] LUV to LOVE

Paquita - That’s right. I am going to explain why we do not write LUV. Mind you, some of us do, especially when texting, or typing.

Tangiora – I thought you were the Spelling Queen. Are you saying LUV is OK for love?

Paquita – It’s a case of all’s fair in love and war. LUV used to be OK. Actually, way back it was LUF, with its vowel pronounced like that in put — luf. When the Vikings invaded England they sharpened this up to luv. It was when the Normans invaded that all hell broke loose in English spelling. William the Conqueror was a real tyrant. He admitted this on his death bed but by then the damage was done. He had installed a rigid class system into England and mucked up its spelling – as well as, in his own words, “persecuted the native inhabitants beyond all reason”. He said that as he lay dying, but it was too late. The damage was done.

Tangiora - How did he muck up spelling?

Paquita - He sent scribes all around England to list all his new possessions. This was a slow process – every cow, every crop, every bale of wool – and he pushed them to write faster and faster which is how and why running writing began. Before that, every letter was written separately but now the scribes smoothed a letter’s points into curves and joined the letters up so they would flow off the pen. This was faster but made some words hard to read. By rounding the point on the V it looked like a U, except that it joined on to the next letter up high. Inside a word U joined on down low to the next letter and V joined on up high. But at the end of words U and V looked the same. So the scribes added a silent E to show a high join for V and a low join for U. That is why LOVE ends with a silent E. It is also why BLUE ends with a silent E.

Tangiora - This explains the final E in LOVE, but why was the U replaced with an O?

Paquita – Well, with V getting a round bottom and right after round bottomed U in LUVE, together they looked like W. The scribes had trouble reading their own writing. So they changed U into O and just reminded themselves it was really a U. When they wrote U after W it was even worse – together they looked like triple U. When they wrote WUN it was impossible to read – try it and see what WUN looks like in running writing. Very hard to read. The same group of scribes solved this problem by replacing U with O if it came after W. Also if U came N or M as well as V. The system spread and to this day we still replace U with O in such words as WONDER and a father’s SON, and SOME and LOVE, GLOVE and SHOVE.

Tangiora - And now Paquita, what is the word of the day?

Paquita - There are lots of words in which O has replaced U – e.g. WOLF and WOMAN, but I only know of one which has been corrected. And that is a Proper Noun, the name MUSLIM, which used to be MOSLEM. Westerners used to write it like LOVE, using O for U, but now it has changed back to the original word MUSLIM and that S is pronounced as an S. Muslims do not like the way English spelling turns an S into a Z. The first English translation was MOSLEM which translates back into Arabic as “one who is evil and unjust”. The correct translation and pronunciation is MUSLIM, with a soft S, and means ‘one who gives himself to God’.

Tangiora - Thank you to the Spelling Queen and goodbye ‘til next time.

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