Welcome to the Wordlady blog!

This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
You can also order my best-selling books, Six Words You Never Knew Had Something to do With Pigs and Only in Canada You Say. Fun and informative!


Subscribe! Fun facts about English delivered weekly right to your inbox. IT'S FREE! Fill in your email address below.
Privacy policy: we will not sell, rent, or give your name or address to anyone. You can unsubscribe at any point.

Follow by email

Search This Blog

Monday, October 30, 2017


OK, what's that ridiculous C doing in the word "indict"? Or, conversely, why don't we pronounce it "in DICKT"? Which, come to think of it, might be appropriate. It could mean "to accuse someone of being a dick". (How full our prisons would be!)

But no, it's pronounced "in DITE". And back in the 1300s when we borrowed the word from French, it was sensibly spelled "indite" (sometimes "endite"). The French had done their usual consonant-dropping thing on the Latin original indictāre (to declare), in turn derived from indicere (proclaim, appoint) from in- (towards) + dicere (pronounce, utter).

As with so many other words, the Latinomania of the Renaissance put paid to the sensible spelling: "It had a C in Latin so it should have a C in English!!!!". And there we are.

You may have been puzzled by the apparent use of this word in Handel's beautiful Coronation Anthem, "My heart is inditing", a setting of Psalm 45. This started out as the same word as "indict", but branched out to mean "express in words" rather than "accuse".  The King James Version is
My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.
As this sense is now obsolete, modern translations have
My heart is stirred by a noble theme
    as I recite my verses for the king;
    my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.
My heart is overflowing with a good thought;
    I am speaking my works for the king;
    my tongue is the pen of a skilled scribe.

"Stirred by a noble theme" indeed.
To have fun facts about English delivered weekly right to your inbox, click here to subscribe by email. 
Looking for an entertaining speaker? Here are some of my topics:
Why is English so wacky?
A fun-filled and light-hearted but informative look at the weirdness of the English language and how it got to be the way it is. Includes things you never suspected about husbands, ptarmigan, porcelain, and much more. Laughs guaranteed...even when you find out why "guarantee" has such an odd spelling.

Bachelor for Rent: Things You Never Suspected About Canadian English”
A hilarious look at what is distinctive about Canadians and their language
English Schminglish: How Jews have Enriched our Language
An entertaining look at how Hebrew and Yiddish words have enriched the English language for thousands of years

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

My photo
Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.