Diacritical remarks

The English language doesn’t go in much for diacritic – literally ‘distinguishing’ – marks. This might be one of the reasons why we look at foreign languages, and think, “That looks impossibly exotic/ unpronounceable/ hard to learn.” Good old plain English, we think, and, unless we are discussing the Brontë sisters, and not always even then, we avoid them like the ague or the plague (how does one justify that we say the first of those as two syllables, and the second as one?). (Of course I am neglecting the fact that in this paragraph, I have used over thirty tittles – that dot over a lower-case ‘i’ or ‘j’ – we don’t use the jot any more. A jot would be a sub-script dot like this one: ῃ. )

Still, I think it would be quite good sport if we played with them a bit more, especially as English is full of an indeçent number of odd rules, bursts with quirks. It might be quite good fûn if we were to introduce a few more peculiarities, and to do it almost at ran’dom (as with the ill-fated çelebrities, Hear’say, who shøt to the top of the charts with a song so forgettable that I have now completely forgotten whǎt it actually was). 

It might also help with our catastrophic approach to the apostrophë, especially when it gets near to an s, and it has to do with an absent letter, as in the dead genitive, e.g. cattes whiskeres, now cat’s whiskers. The French use a circumflex to show when an s has døne a bunk, as in fenêtre. We still defenestrate. We could use it in more typographically barmy ways, e.g. ‘The sûn has got his hât on, hip hip hip, hooré.” Whǻt abơut that? 

Onçe we had muckëd abơut with the çedilla, the diaeresis, the circumflex, and the not very brightly named o-slash (although it does what it says on its tin), and had thrown in a few accents, acute or grave, we could start on specialities like the tilde, the suspicious eyebrow of diãcritic marks. And started bänging in some umlauts. Perhaps a caron, a breve, a hook, a horn or a macron. Or the slightly twitchy ogonek, which the pęople of Poland use. Ăfťėř that, Bøb’s your üncle.

Ỡr ẳụňŧ.

Ÿėś, ļēť’š ĥąvë å ŗįġĥţ řōŷǽĺ ċėľěbŗăţịồņ: after all, it’s August, and the start of the silly season.


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