Monday, June 1, 2009

Not Lightening Up

Pretty picture, isn't it? I'm not sure if the coloration of the lightning is due to some kind of polarization, photoshopping or if it's a natural phenomenon -- because the Grammar Nazi has seen green lightning as an eyewitness.

I'm just pleased the photographer -- whoever it was -- chose to spell lightning correctly in his caption.

I've noticed one thing about the lightning/lightening conundrum. Those who know how to pronounced the word correctly are the most likely to spell it correctly. The word has two syllables: light and ning. Saying it this way, the correct way, also leads to the correct spelling: lightning. Those who add a third syllable and prononuce the word light en ing more often than not misspell the word as lightening. A few snobs may point out that lightening actually has its roots in the old English word -- spelled lightening -- from which we get the word lightning. Those snobs, however, pronounce and spell the modern word incorrectly.

The word lightening is correct, however, in another context: It is the present participle of the verb lighten. Thus, if you're speaking of the effect of lightening (or increasing the amount of light) the night sky with lightning, lightening is correct. It's only correct, however, as a present participle of the verb. If you're speaking of the object -- the noun -- the only way to correclty spell (and say) the word is lightning.

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