My husband affectionately (mostly) calls me Conan the Grammarian.
I take that as a compliment.
It’s a helpful trait as an editor, even a fiction editor. But it does lead to some interesting discussions with writers.
Why, for example, are accents used on some words but not others? Why, for example, do I take the accent off wingéd but add it to résumé—twice, no less.
A good question, in fact, and one that requires a bit of a linguistics lesson. And a dictionary. And an Internet connection.
Résumé is an English adaptation of the French word, thus it keeps its French accent(s). Resume is pure English (well, technically it started out as Middle English meaning to assume then was corrupted by Middle French to mean again) and has never had accents.
Now, technically speaking, the dictionary allows for resume and resumé as alternate spellings for résumé. They’re listed as an allowance at the end of the definition, which basically means Webster’s has given up trying to get people to spell the darned word correctly and conceded to the inevitable future evolution of the language. (This is where grammarians usually start grumbling about the bastardization of the English language.)
Wingéd doesn’t actually make it to the dictionary, but it has been used with the accent in literature before. The earliest example I found was in an eighteenth century poem (time’s wingéd chariot). But, technically speaking, it should just be plain old winged, with the sentence construct acting as the readers’ cue to pronounce it wingd or wing-id.
Having this kind of discussion with a writer who’s also very knowledgeable about grammar is academically stimulating.
Then, there’s the aforementioned husband who thinks grammar rules are meant to be broken.
Take this recent discussion, for example…
Me: I changed a misspelled word in your book.
Him: Which one?
Me: Bupkis. You spelled it “bubkus.”
Him: I can spell it any way I want. I made it up.
Me: No you didn’t. It’s Yiddish for “nothing at all.”
Him: Mine’s different.
Cue dramatic eye roll and head banging (and not the ‘80s hair band kind.)
The good news is, if you don’t know how to spell something, you can just say my husband made it up.
Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer.