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General Category => Words => Topic started by: Jacki on May 12, 2020, 08:49:00 PM

Title: Nonplused?
Post by: Jacki on May 12, 2020, 08:49:00 PM
Title: Re: Nonplused?
Post by: Morbius on May 12, 2020, 09:39:46 PM
I was a little nonplussed myself by the fact that nonplus was rare and nonplussed (and nonplused) were common.  An anomaly, surely.
Title: Re: Nonplused?
Post by: mkenuk on May 12, 2020, 09:54:43 PM
You beat me to it.

English spelling may sometimes be a little confusing, even for native speakers, but a basic rule is that in a multi-syllable word,  a single consonant at the end of a stressed syllable is doubled when adding a suffix - incur - incurred, unwrap - unwrapped, beget - begetting, dispel - dispelled etc etc.

nonplused spelled with a single s clearly breaks this rule.

 ??? ??? ??? ??? - quadruply nonplussed

Title: Re: Nonplused?
Post by: Alan W on May 13, 2020, 02:00:01 PM
The question of nonplused was raised in 2018 (https://theforum.lexigame.com/index.php?topic=3789.msg58445#msg58445) by mkenuk, and is still awaiting my consideration.

But I feel I must comment on the claim that it's simply a misspelling. It's listed as a variant spelling by the online dictionaries from Merriam-Webster, Collins, Dictionary.com, American Heritage and Wiktionary. At the online-literature.com site I find that the spelling was used by authors including Joseph Conrad, Mark Twain, James Fenimore Cooper and L Frank Baum. The New York Times has mostly used the double-S spelling, but the single-S form has appeared on its pages, for example in a 1997 heading "All Hail the Conquering (And Nonplused) Hero"; more recently, in 2016, "Brexit Triple-Plus, Britain Nonplused"; and as far back as 1932, with "BERLIN NONPLUSED BY LINDBERGH CASE; Kidnapping for Ransom Unknown There -- Ireland and England Stirred by the Crime."

Perhaps we should remember the English spelling rule: "For every rule there is an exception"!
Title: Re: Nonplused?
Post by: Jacki on May 13, 2020, 02:57:21 PM
That's fine research Alan. I just don't think it's a commonly known word - hammiest too. Not saying they aren't words, just questioning how common they are seeing most of us didn't play it.
Title: Re: Nonplused?
Post by: mkenuk on May 13, 2020, 04:52:45 PM

Perhaps we should remember the English spelling rule: "For every rule there is an exception"!

Indeed. To quote one of the better-known 'rules' - 'i' before 'e' except after 'c', yet we find words like seize and protein ignoring this rule.

However, these two words would still be pronounced in the same way if they were to be spelled sieze and protien.
A foreign learner would have no problems pronouncing either of these forms.

I'm not sure that that is true with nonplused.
A foreign learner might well have to ask if the second syllable was  pronounced to rhyme with 'bust' or 'boozed'!

To quote Michael Swan [in 'Practical English Usage'] : The reason for doubling is to show that a vowel is pronounced short. This is because, in the middle of a word, a stressed vowel letter before one consonant is usually pronounced long or as a diphthong 

He illustrates this with examples 'hoping /hopping, later/latter and diner /dinner'.

I realise that Professor Swan uses the word 'usually', which implies that there may be exceptions to the 'rule', however a comparison of nonplussed / nonplused on the Google NPlan Viewer for all varieties of English can leave little doubt that, if not wrong, the 'one-s version' is most definitely the less common of the two forms.