Tuesday, 25 June 2019

The teacher said what?

It's my first year in what Americans would call High School (in truth it was more like a Junior High and Senior High School combined)

I am eleven years old. It's my first English Language Class.  The teacher gives us an assignment -  to write an essay.

Together with many other children in the class I dutifully wrote the following on in my note book. S.A.  Oh dear, most of us had written compositions in earlier grades.  We had never heard or read the word "essay".


As many of you know I grew up in the one and only true church in the world (the Plymouth Brethren), where we read from the one and only totally accurate Bible translation (The Authorised Version - in the U.S.A. called the King James Version). 

Thus I was familiar with an older form of written English, for example this from Hebrews 11:26  "By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned."



Sixty four years on from that English Literature class  I learned that the two words have a common root in Middle French and before that in Latin.

My new learning came from a wonderful book which my good friend Ann Albritton gave me as a birthday gift The Book of Delights by Ross Gay (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill 2019).

Ross Gay teaches at Indiana University.  His book is a series of yes, you have it, essays!


So now I must assay the possibility of writing an essay about the work of assayers!   (jmp)

The following is from Webster's Web Page.  I know that it could spark a huge argument.  Please argue with Webster, not with me!

Usage experts warn against confusing the verbs "assay" and "essay." Some confusion shouldn't be surprising, since the two words look alike and derive from the same root, the Middle French word essai, meaning "test" or "effort" (a root that in turn comes from Late Latin exagium, meaning "act of weighing"). At one time, the two terms were synonyms, sharing the meaning "try" or "attempt," but many modern usage commentators recommend that you differentiate the two words, using "essay" when you mean "to try or attempt" (as in "he will essay a dramatic role for the first time") and "assay" to mean "to test or evaluate" (as in "the blood was assayed to detect the presence of the antibody").

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