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Old 05-12-2009, 07:41 AM   #151
DanaC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kingswood View Post
I venture that the word shapes of the ough words is not actually that useful for word recognition, as in some words one must look carefully at the other letters in the word just to work out which of ten different pronunciations to use for the ough. Which is easier to read: tough, though, through, trough, thorough, or tuff, tho, thru, troff or thurro?
Well...except I don't pronounce 'thorough' as 'thorro'. I am from the North of England; I pronounce it 'thoruh'. And in some accents 'trough' is not troff, it's truff.

Which 'accent' and indeed which 'version' of English are we going to privelege in our spelling reforms? There is very little parity of pronunciation. Between countries it varies enormously. Between the regions (and indeed between towns and villages within those regions) of my tiny little island there is huge variance in pronunciation. Even the rhythms and stresses of speech are different region to region. And indeed, class to class (we have the famed North South Divide. This stuff matters).

What about 'schedule'? It has two pronunciations: skedule and shhedule. Which do we privelege? 'Almond' is pronounced 'allmond' and 'ahhmond' depending where in the UK you live. Indeed it can also be pronounced allmund or allmond.

Who decides which accent is 'correct' ?

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Your point about some people being worse off is important. However, if changes were done with care, the number of people made worse off would be substantially fewer than those who would benefit.
How do you know this? What figures do you have that you can point to that in any way back up your assertion that substantially fewer people would be disadvantaged? How can you possibly know this?
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Old 05-12-2009, 08:44 AM   #152
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Originally Posted by Kingswood View Post
I encountered an article on Wikipedia on the weekend about the upcoming Magic:the Gathering expansion Zendikar. It reads in part: "Zendikar (codenamed Live) is a Magic: The Gathering expansion set, set to be released on October 2, 2009." Can you tell from that context alone whether the codeword "live" is the adjective or the verb? You can't.

Fortunately for you, I don't have to force-feed you a smilie right now, as context is provided in an infobox elsewhere in the article. The code names for this block of three expansions are given there, as live, long and prosper. However, the context that is needed to disambiguate this also requires knowledge of Star Trek and the thematic naming conventions employed in MtG expansions.

Now, why must we endure that kind of rigmarole? Why must we keep resorting to context in this manner just because some stuffy old pedants won't allow any needed changes to be introduced? If we cut the totally useless silent e from live (the verb; the silent e in live the adjective is OK because it marks the long vowel), then we wouldn't need any context to identify the shade of meaning of the word when given in isolation, as it is in the article.
Oh well hell, certainly a game and a stupid show and movie have shown me the errors of my ways.

No, it has context. You pointed out the context yourself. If you are buying the game, you know the reference. No one is going to think it means Lie-ve long and prosper. Even if you don't know Star Trek you won't think it's lie-ve, because that doesn't make sense.

No, I won't be eating a smilie today. You have not proven anything. Again, show me an example, one word on a piece of paper with no context, where not knowing the meaning of that word makes any difference whatsoever.
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Old 05-12-2009, 09:29 AM   #153
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Also...since when was reading an 'infobox elsewhere in the article' considered 'rigmarole'?

How bout people employ a little patience and make the assumption (which will usually be borne out in fact) that if they read the article the context will become clear.

Plus, just a minor point, but you'd also rob journalists and social commentators of what is a commonly used rhetorical device: word confusion *

(*wusion? :P)
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Old 05-12-2009, 09:35 AM   #154
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Originally Posted by DanaC View Post
Well...except I don't pronounce 'thorough' as 'thorro'. I am from the North of England; I pronounce it 'thoruh'. And in some accents 'trough' is not troff, it's truff.
These spellings were just examples so there's no need to get worked up about them. But for the record, I pronounce "thorough" the same as you, but prefer a spelling based on the American pronunciation because its kinda hard to put a short "u" at the end of a word because it doesn't naturally occur there. The spelling I demonstrated is easier to derive from the traditional spelling: cut off the last 3 letters; whereas your suggestion of "uh" involves a bit of slicing, dicing and splicing.

In both cases, the spellings I selected as examples for these words were closer to the traditional spellings than the ones you mentioned as alternatives. More on that below.

You also ducked the question about which you found easier to read. Obviously it was easier for you to nitpick some obvious examples than for you to admit the validity of my demonstration. (Which was all the more telling considering that the traditional spellings have been in your books for centuries whereas at least two of the spellings I had selected you may have never seen before.)
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Originally Posted by DanaC View Post
Which 'accent' and indeed which 'version' of English are we going to privelege in our spelling reforms? There is very little parity of pronunciation. Between countries it varies enormously. Between the regions (and indeed between towns and villages within those regions) of my tiny little island there is huge variance in pronunciation. Even the rhythms and stresses of speech are different region to region. And indeed, class to class (we have the famed North South Divide. This stuff matters).
What accent is "thorough" spelt in? What about "trough", "though"? Do you know anyone that says "trough" as "tr -ou- *phlegm*" anymore? What about "heather", or "one", what accents are these? How about "ptarmigan"? Who says the "p" in that word? How about "colonel"? Who says both els and both oes in that word? What accent says the "b" in "debt" and "doubt"?

It's better to base the spelling standard (and it's a SPELLING standard we're discussing here, not a PRONUNCIATION standard) on someone's living speech rather than on the speech of people that have been corpses for centuries, or farcical etymological errors that have never been pronounced by anyone, ever.

Some spellings are still based on living speech, such as the difference between "tow" and "toe" or "see" and "sea". These should be kept.
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Originally Posted by DanaC View Post
What about 'schedule'? It has two pronunciations: skedule and shhedule. Which do we privelege?
Whose pronunciation did we "privelege" when choosing a spelling for aluminium? Sorry, aluminum? Would you look at that, it has two spellings! Perhaps a few words may end up with two spellings, to join the 2000 existing words that already have multiple correct spellings. Variant spellings for variant pronunciations should not be overdone, but in the specific case of "schedule" variants can be accommodated if this particular word is to be respelt.

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Originally Posted by DanaC View Post
'Almond' is pronounced 'allmond' and 'ahhmond' depending where in the UK you live. Indeed it can also be pronounced allmund or allmond.
Your accent question does come up a lot even among spelling reformers. One approach that I believe can work is to use the traditional spellings as a guide, and if there's a conflict to select a new spelling that closest to the traditional spelling. Sometimes this would cause a spelling to remain unchanged. This reduces the number of changes to spelling in a systematic manner.

We can get too carried away with that approach, however. Most people do not pronounce "blood" the way it is spelt any more. Maybe a few pronounce "blood" with the same vowel as "food", but I know of no accent anywhere that still does this. Some do pronounce it with the same vowel as "good", but this is mostly found among people who also pronounce "budding" and "pudding" with the same vowel. For most of us, the two words "blood" and "flood" would make more sense if the spelling was allowed to evolve to keep up with the evolution in the pronunciation; in other words, replacing the "oo" with a "u". For people that pronounce "budding" and "pudding" with the same vowel, "blud" and "flud" fit right in alongside these words, and this doesn't do any harm to them at all. For the rest of us, we would spell "blud" and "flud" with the same vowel as we now use in "hum" and "cut", which makes more sense than the current spelling does.
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Who decides which accent is 'correct' ?
Who decides what is "correct" now? You tell me that, and maybe you'll have an answer to your own question.
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How do you know this? What figures do you have that you can point to that in any way back up your assertion that substantially fewer people would be disadvantaged? How can you possibly know this?
How can you possibly know that disadvantage would be great enough to make it greater than the potential advantages? How can you, without seeing any detail, form the opinion that spelling reform must create disadvantage no matter what the changes may be? How can you claim to speak for everyone when you are only going by your own experiences, and the experiences of a few people you know? That is an awfully small sample in comparison to the hundreds of millions that speak English as native speakers.
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Old 05-12-2009, 09:44 AM   #155
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How can you possibly know that disadvantage would be great enough to make it greater than the potential advantages? How can you, without seeing any detail, form the opinion that spelling reform must create disadvantage no matter what the changes may be? How can you claim to speak for everyone when you are only going by your own experiences, and the experiences of a few people you know? That is an awfully small sample in comparison to the hundreds of millions that speak English as native speakers.
I can't. And neither can you. But the system we have is the system we have. We have no way to know that intorducing a new system wouldn't cause greater harm. And I can only really judge my own experience and those of a small group of people. But the hundreds of millions of English speakers are not an amorphous mass; they are made of of lots of small groups each with their own experience of the language and no more reducible to a formula for change than they are to a formula for stasis.

As to which of the spellings I find easier to read: the ones with the 'ough'. Because that's what I am comfortable with. The second set of words jar for me and were I to find them in a piece of writing they would startle me from the text.

'Who decides what is correct now' Well, currently it appears to be a combination of 'official' dictionaries, netwide calls for updated information on spelling trends (conducted by the OED amongst others) and the rather more democratic sweep of natural change over time. All conducted on an uneven and unequal playing field arrived at after many generations of evolution, control, downright dishonesty, political and ideological movements and the arbitrary timing of the codifying of spelling through the printing press.

What you are suggesting is as artificial and 'top down' as the drive to latinize our spellings and grammar ever was. It will also irritate as many people as it will please, and appears to take no account of the profoundly political and nationalist elements of 'spelling'.
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Old 05-12-2009, 11:46 AM   #156
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The English language is ruining spelling.

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Old 05-13-2009, 05:51 AM   #157
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Originally Posted by DanaC View Post
I can't. And neither can you. But the system we have is the system we have. We have no way to know that intorducing a new system wouldn't cause greater harm. And I can only really judge my own experience and those of a small group of people. But the hundreds of millions of English speakers are not an amorphous mass; they are made of of lots of small groups each with their own experience of the language and no more reducible to a formula for change than they are to a formula for stasis.

As to which of the spellings I find easier to read: the ones with the 'ough'. Because that's what I am comfortable with. The second set of words jar for me and were I to find them in a piece of writing they would startle me from the text.
I hope you don't use a "DRIVE THRU" very often, as you would be so startled by that spelling that you would probably rear-end the car in front.

The "tho" and "thru" spellings are both found in dictionaries, both listed as "informal". The "thru" spelling has a long pedigree; it was in widespread use before 1750 but was not preferred by Johnson when he published his Dictionary.
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'Who decides what is correct now' Well, currently it appears to be a combination of 'official' dictionaries, netwide calls for updated information on spelling trends (conducted by the OED amongst others) and the rather more democratic sweep of natural change over time. All conducted on an uneven and unequal playing field arrived at after many generations of evolution, control, downright dishonesty, political and ideological movements and the arbitrary timing of the codifying of spelling through the printing press.

What you are suggesting is as artificial and 'top down' as the drive to latinize our spellings and grammar ever was. It will also irritate as many people as it will please, and appears to take no account of the profoundly political and nationalist elements of 'spelling'.
A top-down approach is used - and does work - for French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and most other major languages. There is no such standards body for the English language. It is the dictionary publishers that regulate the spelling in English, and they do a decent job but are not able to promulgate any needed changes.

There is one aspect of spelling reforms that you do not appreciate. They are not generally done in the same manner as metrication, where something new is introduced by fiat and the public are expected to change. Instead, they tend to be more democratic - new spellings are introduced by a government and the public is free to either use them or ignore them. Spellings like "program" and "catalog" were both introduced in this way in America about 100 years ago and gained sufficient acceptance to supplant the older spellings that are still current in British English. Other similar spellings introduced at the same time, like "leag", did not. However, the public were allowed to choose by usage.

Allowing spellings to change will cause some resentment, if your indignation at the mere idea of discussing the topic is anything to go by. However, current spellings also cause resentment, as many whose spelling is not as strong as they would like can tell you.

Some spellings are also indefensible - irregularity is allowed to accumulate for no good reason; spellings are not allowed to evolve to keep up with changes to the spoken language; and some words break so many rules that only a warped mind can find justification in their retention. If the spellings of some individual words that I have discussed were actually defensible, someone would have defended them by now.
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Old 05-13-2009, 06:20 AM   #158
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*shakes head*

I'm not 'indignant' at the mere idea of discussing it. I've been discussing it with you. I simply hold a different viewpoint. I am positing potential problems with your schema. I see more problems in it than I see solutions; primarily because I do not share your interpretation of what is or is not problematic in the English language.

As to the use of 'thru'. It's entirely contextual. If I see that online or in a phone text message it reads perfectly fine, and indeed, I use it on occasion myself. But it would jar if I saw it in a newspaper article or a novel. It would seem inappropriate.

I don't like the top-down approach to language reform. By which I mean, I don't like governments getting involved in what is or is not correct in language. Any more than I would appreciate a government agency telling me what i can and can't call my child. The European governments who impose language change also, on the whole, have rather more input into what I personally consider deeply private matters, than the British government does.

I have more trust in the people who compile dictionaries, frankly, than in the State, to decide what may or may not be a useful spelling change.



[eta] which government would decide on English changes btw? Or would there be some kind of joint decision-making, in which case, should disagreement arise, who would have the casting vote? There is already a slow burning resentment in the UK at the 'loss of our culture' and the 'Americanisation' of our language (including spelling). Should Britain try to impose her standard? Not really, given that American English is more widely spoken in the world. What about Australia? New Zealand? Canada? It's hard enough trying to reach agreement within a nation, let alone bringing together multiple nations united by a language they each feel ownership of.
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Old 05-14-2009, 01:04 AM   #159
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Originally Posted by Kingswood View Post
Now, why must we endure that kind of rigmarole? Why must we keep resorting to context in this manner just because some stuffy old pedants won't allow any needed changes to be introduced? If we cut the totally useless silent e from live (the verb; the silent e in live the adjective is OK because it marks the long vowel), then we wouldn't need any context to identify the shade of meaning of the word when given in isolation, as it is in the article.
I have to ask...

Aside from your wanting it to be so, what's to stop 'liv' from being pronounced with a drawn 'i', similar to the word 'leave'? The standard issue vowel 'i' has the potential for three sounds. This allows for your commuted 'live' to have three forms: 'liv' as in 'I live in the US.', 'leeve' as in "We leave in 10 minutes." and 'live' as in "Saturday Night Live". Does your rule bank on the fact that we currently use the 'ea' to create the 'ee' sound in 'leave' to remove that sound from the list of possibilities? Do you have a rule in your New Spelling Order transform 'leave' into 'leev' to fix that problem?
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Old 05-14-2009, 01:05 PM   #160
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I hope you don't use a "DRIVE THRU" very often, as you would be so startled by that spelling that you would probably rear-end the car in front.
In addition to Dani's very sensible response, I would like to add that DRIVE THRU is used in the UK seldom to never.
Quote:
The "tho" and "thru" spellings are both found in dictionaries, both listed as "informal". The "thru" spelling has a long pedigree; it was in widespread use before 1750 but was not preferred by Johnson when he published his Dictionary.
Yay for antiquated spelling! Look, it didn't catch on then, so why should it now.
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A top-down approach is used - and does work - for French, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese and most other major languages.
How many of those languages do Dwellars spell in? Through trade routes, imperialism and the doggedness of American culture, English is the most widespread of all these languages despite its faults.

I am interested in your argument. I like to see different sides to issues, even if I didn't even know they were issues to start with. But this is a non-starter. English - as has been eloqently explained - is an adaptive language. And it will continue to adapt.
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Old 05-14-2009, 09:31 PM   #161
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Originally Posted by Kingswood View Post

What accent is "thorough" spelt in? What about "trough", "though"? Do you know anyone that says "trough" as "tr -ou- *phlegm*" anymore? What about "heather", or "one", what accents are these? How about "ptarmigan"? Who says the "p" in that word? How about "colonel"? Who says both els and both oes in that word? What accent says the "b" in "debt" and "doubt"?

It's better to base the spelling standard (and it's a SPELLING standard we're discussing here, not a PRONUNCIATION standard) on someone's living speech rather than on the speech of people that have been corpses for centuries, or farcical etymological errors that have never been pronounced by anyone, ever..
say we agree. your point is that words that rhyme should have similar spellings, no?

And yet words which rhyme for Americans don't for Brits and/or Aussies (and all possible permutations of that concept). For example, some Brits would agree that thorough rhymes with colour/color. I'm pretty sure few americans would. So how should be "improve" those spellings?
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Old 05-15-2009, 06:15 PM   #162
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The problem is people see two extreams.

Either you have a stagnent, strict, conservative language, in which you preserve the meanings and thus protect yourself from the 'slippery slope' of communicative collapce.

On the other hand you have the everything goes aproach, in which you avoid the counter productive and pointless dogma of literacy, but can lead to some serious comunication problems.

Anyone who read Lord of the Rings at twelve can tell you that you can only read 'thou' so many times before the desire to scratch out your own eyes begins to overpower.

However, as I see it language evolves and there is nothing you can do about it. You can have in place structures to slow the mutation of words, but eventualy you're going to have a language in writing that doesn't make any sence in comparison to the verbal one.

I think the fear that its all going to become uninteligable is silly, because if people don't understand, it isn't going to pass on its message, which puts a natural cap on how much language can change.

Lets not worry too much about being 'right'.
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Old 05-15-2009, 07:38 PM   #163
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say we agree. your point is that words that rhyme should have similar spellings, no?

And yet words which rhyme for Americans don't for Brits and/or Aussies (and all possible permutations of that concept). For example, some Brits would agree that thorough rhymes with colour/color. I'm pretty sure few americans would. So how should be "improve" those spellings?
That depends on whether the spelling of the word is dysfunctional for everyone.

The number of words where the pronunciation differs in a non-systematic manner between British English and American English is not large, on the order of one percent or so. Many of these words already have reasonable spellings in one or the other of these accents, so for such words we can justify leaving them as they are.

Where change is demonstrably needed is in those words where the spelling matches nobody's pronunciation.

There is a reasonable point about a possible dilemma regarding the choice of pronunciation for these words, but I have already made a suggestion that can work: choose the pronunciation that is closest to the spelling. This approach will permit words to remain unaltered if their spellings are plausible in someone's national or regional pronunciation. DanaC discussed the word "almond", and how some people actually pronounce it as spelt in some parts of England. By the rule I outlined, no change is needed here.

Some words may need to have different spellings to go with the different pronunciations, but that is best done if there is a demonstrable difference in meaning. I have discussed "lieutenant" and how we would be better off if the British Navy pronunciation of that word had a separate spelling. I will take the opportunity here to correct an error I made earlier: it seems the army-navy distinction is a lot older than I guessed. There are 14th-century spellings like "leeftenaunt" known for this word. Americans may only use the old Army pronunciation of this word, but given what the Americans thought of the British Navy around the time of the American Revolution, this is not really that surprising.
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Old 05-15-2009, 08:14 PM   #164
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I have to ask...

Aside from your wanting it to be so
Don't misrepresent what I say.
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, what's to stop 'liv' from being pronounced with a drawn 'i', similar to the word 'leave'?
It would be spelt on a similar pattern to words like sit, him, dish? Do you have trouble with these words?
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The standard issue vowel 'i' has the potential for three sounds. This allows for your commuted 'live' to have three forms: 'liv' as in 'I live in the US.', 'leeve' as in "We leave in 10 minutes." and 'live' as in "Saturday Night Live".
Again, you are misrepresenting what I have said.
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Does your rule bank on the fact that we currently use the 'ea' to create the 'ee' sound in 'leave' to remove that sound from the list of possibilities? Do you have a rule in your New Spelling Order transform 'leave' into 'leev' to fix that problem?
The redundant silent e in "leave" is only there so that you know it's not a u.

As for the ea digraph, I count it as a regular spelling. I have already said that.
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Old 05-15-2009, 08:57 PM   #165
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Originally Posted by DanaC View Post
The name 'Liv' is in common currency. In a title like the one you just mentioned, 'Live' is spelt with a capital letter. In the title you suggest the article would read:

"Zendikar (codenamed Liv) is a Magic: The Gathering expansion set, set to be released on October 2, 2009."

Tell me again, why 'Liv' in that context couldn't refer to a female character called 'Liv'?
If the available context was good enough for Shawnee123 to avoid "eating a smilie", it is good enough for you.
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In what way have I demonstrated that I don't know how to spell proper nouns? Because I used a nick-name? They are commonly used in fiction, so why not gaming? You offered an example of how spelling reform might disambiguate but in fact it offers alternative areas of confusion. It's no more a stretch than your original example.
Proper nouns always begin with capital letters, and can be easily disambiguated from similarly-spelt words by that alone. How can you tell the difference between bob and Bob? Do you confuse bob and Bob?

This name "Liv" is not as common as you suppose, and it is certainly less common than either pronunciation of the word "live". It would reduce confusion; and how much confusion can there be with two words pronounced the same? There would be no more confusion with liv and Liv than there currently is with bob and Bob, or rob and Rob: one is a verb, the other is a shortened version of a name. The rules for disambiguation would therefore be very similar as well.

Why do you consider it OK for two common words with different pronunciations to have the same spelling, but if we respell them and there's a slight chance one of the respellings can be confused with a relatively rare proper noun that always begins with a capital letter and that (presumably) shares the same pronunciation, somehow that's worse?
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