Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Grammar Nazi is Loathe to Mention This . . . Again

I know, I know. I've talked about this one before. I think. But misunderstanding between the words loath/loth and loathe are pervasive as they are irritating. I'm not sure there's anything we Grammar Nazis can do to stop it, either, unless we secretly infiltrate all elementary schools in the United States and strangle all those who teach phonics or at least tell them to caution their students that phonics, like evolution and intelligent design, while handy in theory, don't doesn't exactly meet up with reality or satisfy the anal retentives out there. Yes. Like me.

So here's the deal:

If you don't want to do something, if you're reluctant to look up words in the dictionary, you are "loth" or "loath" to do it. Both loath and loth are adjectives, meaning "Unwilling, reluctant; disinclined. Usually used with an infinitive: loath to go."

If you really, really hate something, you "loathe" it. Loathe is a verb meaning "To detest greatly; abhor."

I blame phonics for the foul-ups, like this one. I tend to pronounce loath/loth with the softer th as in theater and through, though most people use the harder th and in the and this. Loathe uses only the latter pronunciation, so it's easy to understand the spelling foul-ups, though not easy to countenance them.

I also blame English inconsistency. Take breath and breathe, two words that are also often misused. We don't pronounce the th in both words the same, but when it comes to using the correct word in written context, all bets are off.


Anonymous said...

Mister Fweem,

Please don't take it personally; I accidentally stumbled upon your blog entry here while looking up a grammar issue.

Please note that "phonics" is a teaching method and, as other abstract nouns, it is plural-defective.

Please take a moment to research first, before teaching others.

Take care!

Mister Fweem said...

Thanks for the correction. I learn something new every day. I have fixed the offending singularity.

Anonymous said...

In your explanation of the "th" sound in loathe, do you intend to say it is your "latter" not former pronunciation used?

Thank you.