"discernable" vs. "discernible" (Split from APOD: 2011 Sep 03)

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"discernable" vs. "discernible" (Split from APOD: 2011 Sep 03)

Post by Guest » Sat Sep 03, 2011 9:26 am

Many thanks for the pleasure I have had from APOD for many years. In today's caption, the word "discernable" should be "discernible". Sorry, but some of us are autistic, and this sort of thing grates badly.

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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by neufer » Sat Sep 03, 2011 11:33 am

Guest wrote:
In today's caption, the word "discernable" should be "discernible".
Sorry, but some of us are autistic, and this sort of thing grates badly.
"Discernible" is certainly the preferred spelling;
however, "discernable" is also acceptable (acceptible :?: ) in the UK & Australia:

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

"At length the Parsonage was discernable."
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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by owlice » Sat Sep 03, 2011 12:26 pm

Oh, that's interesting, Art, as from the guest's punctuation, I thought he might be British/on the other side of the pond, and that perhaps "discernible" might be the the (preferred) British spelling.

Merriam-Webster lists both spellings.
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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by owlice » Sat Sep 03, 2011 2:18 pm

In any case, the APOD has been edited to discernible.

I've just posted more comet image submissions, including a very nice video, to this thread.
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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by Chris Peterson » Sat Sep 03, 2011 2:45 pm

neufer wrote:
"Discernible" is certainly the preferred spelling...
What makes it the preferred spelling?

When I went to school, it was generally given that if a dictionary had two or more variant spellings, the first was "preferred". However, I don't think that is the case anymore. Most dictionaries in their keys now carry an explicit statement that the order of variants should not be taken as an indicator of preference, and I think the very idea of a "preferred" spelling has lost standing. In English, any spelling that is used somewhat widely is acceptable, and neither better nor worse than any other.
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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by bystander » Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:21 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:What makes it the preferred spelling?
It's the one my spell checker likes. :)
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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by owlice » Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:23 pm

Chris, I definitely saw info this morning that "discernible" was the preferred spelling, but as "discernable" is also acceptable, didn't note where I saw that.

I think your last statement goes too far. Certainly there are spellings used widely which are not acceptable, and I'd correct them were I editing the prose in which I see them. I'd be happy to share the information I get from the school system here, should you need any examples! :shock: I would always look over my son's spelling lists when he brought them home from school; there was (alas) good reason for that.

(And I won't even go into the issues with the math "instruction" he got some years.)

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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by Chris Peterson » Sat Sep 03, 2011 3:33 pm

owlice wrote:I think your last statement goes too far. Certainly there are spellings used widely which are not acceptable, and I'd correct them were I editing the prose in which I see them.
I was just making an observation about how I think linguists view this matter these days. If a spelling is widely used, it is acceptable, and I believe the idea of "preferred" spellings is generally deprecated.

Certainly, some differences are regional or cultural, and that will impact how "correct" a particular spelling looks to different people, which in turn will help define style books used by publications and the threshold of editing used by teachers. Just because editors, authors, or teachers have preferred spellings doesn't mean that linguists necessarily see things that way. One of the characterizing principles of English is that what is correct is determined solely by usage, not by any well defined rules.
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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by owlice » Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:11 pm

Chris, which linguists view the matter the way you see it? I don't ask to be challenging; I'm truly interested.

Regardless, even if some linguists see it that way, I'm under the impression that others (editors, teachers, English mavens, etc.) don't, and certainly I as the parent of a (still for a little while) minor child do not! Nor does Firefox, which flags "discernable," but not "discernible." :D
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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by Chris Peterson » Sat Sep 03, 2011 4:55 pm

owlice wrote:Chris, which linguists view the matter the way you see it? I don't ask to be challenging; I'm truly interested.
You merely need to look at the explanatory notes in a modern dictionary. Those I have here... MW Collegiate and OED... both state explicitly that where variant spellings are given, no preference should be inferred from the order. That also seems to be the viewpoint most commonly seen in alt.usage.english discussions. That English is defined by usage and not formal rules, however, is very widely accepted.
Regardless, even if some linguists see it that way, I'm under the impression that others (editors, teachers, English mavens, etc.) don't, and certainly I as the parent of a (still for a little while) minor child do not! Nor does Firefox, which flags "discernable," but not "discernible." :D
Spell check dictionaries are hardly the definitive statement on what is correct! These dictionaries tend to be quite simple- as evidenced by the number of additions you need to make yourself. All you need do is right-click "discernable" in Firefox and add it to your dictionary, and it will no longer be flagged.

As a teacher, I would not tell a student using "discernable" that they had misspelled the word. I probably would tell them that "discernible" is a more common spelling, and they would be wise to use it simply to avoid confusion, and the mistaken view by some that they had misspelled the word.

BTW, I don't really agree with the modern viewpoint that there is something wrong with preferred spellings. While I have no issue with the way in which language shifts and evolves, there is a definite value to uniformity of usage as well. I'd hate to go back to the way things were before a couple hundred years ago, when everybody simply adopted their own spellings for many words. That is a very confusing way to run a language!
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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by owlice » Sat Sep 03, 2011 5:12 pm

Chris, since linguistics is practically a sport in this household, I was curious who/what you'd read on this. I was hoping for specific info, rather than general, but no matter.
Spell check dictionaries are hardly the definitive statement on what is correct!

Hence the smilie. I did not protest the use of "discernable."
I would not tell a student using "discernable" that they had misspelled the word.
Neither would I, but then, I did just finish Lady Susan (again).
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The Holy Bable of (2011 Sep 03)

Post by neufer » Sat Sep 03, 2011 5:48 pm

http://blog.metrolingua.com/2009/07/able-ible-conundrum.html wrote:
Metrolingua: The -able/-ible Conundrum
Posted by language fan and friend Silas McCracken.

<<I've previously written about the trickiness of adjectives in English ending in -ic vs. -ical. Another thorn in my side when it comes to the language of Milton is the confusion over adjectives ending in -ible versus adjectives ending in -able (or their corresponding adverbs ending in -ibly and -ably respectively). Part of the problem is that the two suffixes sound exactly alike in many, if not most, dialects of modern English, with the "i" or "a" being reduced to a schwa sound. Another difficulty is that these adjectives, borrowed from other languages, sometimes swap endings in the transition. The French adjective "responsible" has become the English "responsible" for no apparent reason in my mind other than possible lazy spelling by medieval English speakers.

A trawl through the internet offers some clues as to possible rules governing which spelling to use.

Bhacharada.com lists the following points:
  • Point 1: –able is the basic form. Many more words end in –able than in –ible.
    When in doubt, and if your dictionary is temporarily unavailable, use –able (or –ably).

    Point 2: An a for an a and an i for an i: If the adjective is closely related to a noun that ends in –ation, the adjective is almost certain to end in –able; if a related noun ends in –ion instead of –ation, the adjective is pretty sure to end in –ible.
The site essentially says that 1) -able is preferred because it is statistically more probable and that 2) someone who is writing in a hurry should take the time to search for a related noun ending in -ation to determine whether the suffix is -able, which is already the preferred form. These rules don't seem to be terribly helpful in most cases because for words like understandable or responsible, without corresponding -ation nouns, it's a guess because the rule doesn't state that adjectives without an -ation form can't have -able or -ible as a suffix.

Englishclub.com states that:
http://www.englishclub.com/writing/spelling_ible.htm wrote:
<<Many words end in -ible and -able. Sometimes it is difficult to remember which spelling to use.

The -ible ending is for words of Latin origin. There are about 180 words ending in -ible. No new words are being created with -ible endings. Here are the most common examples:
  • accessible
    admissible
    audible
    collapsible
    combustible
    compatible
    comprehensible
    contemptible
    credible
    defensible
    destructible
    digestible
    divisible
    edible
    fallible
    flexible
    gullible
    horrible
    illegible
    implausible
    inaccessible
    incontrovertible
    incredible
    indefensible
    indelible
    inedible
    insensible
    intelligible
    invincible
    invisible
    illegible
    irresistible
    irreversible
    ostensible
    permissible
    plausible
    possible
    responsible
    reversible
    sensible
    susceptible
    suggestible
    tangible
    terrible
    visible
    ......................................
Rule of thumb:

The -able ending is for:
  • some Latin words, for example: dependable
    non-Latin words, for example: affordable, renewable, washable
    new (modern) words, for example: networkable, windsurfable
This rule can help you decide the correct spelling.

It works most (but not all!) of the time.

Remember, if you are not sure about a word, it is probably best to use a dictionary. Here is the rule:
  • If you remove -able from a word, you are left with a complete word.

    If you remove -ible from a word, you are not left with a complete word
(note that accessible, contemptible, digestible, flexible and suggestible above are among the exceptions to this rule)>>
Interesting, but there seem to be quite a few exceptions to that rule. To the ones listed, we might add "destructible," "combustible," "resistible," among others. So the rule seems rather flawed, at best.

The Pennington Publishing Blog goes even further, stating

End a word with "able" if the root before has a hard /c/ or /g/ sound (despicable, navigable), after a complete root word (teachable), or after a silent e (likeable). End a word with "ible" if the root has a soft /c/ or /g/ sound (reducible, legible), after an "ss" (admissible), or after an incomplete root word (audible).

but concedes the following common exceptions:

Exceptions to the rule: collapsible, contemptible, flexible, formidable, indomitable, inevitable, irresistible, memorable, portable, probable

That rule seems awfully involved and confusing, especially when we consider that many words fall into two categories. Take "pass," which is a complete root word, so it should end in -able. However, it also ends in the letters -ss, suggesting that the adjectival form should be "passible." In this case, the first guideline applies, and the word is indeed correctly spelled "passable," yet there is no way a native or non-native speaker of English would know this based on the stated rule.

Ultimately, it seems that the best way to deal with words ending in -able and -ible is to buck up and memorize them. And, as with the case of adjectives ending in -ic and -ical, words ending in -able and -ible will probably continue to force people to head to their nearest dictionary to dispel the almost inevitable (one of those pesky exceptions!) doubts.>>
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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by BMAONE23 » Sat Sep 03, 2011 8:27 pm

And I always thought that Dictionaries carried words in Alphabetical order where any word ending in ...able would be listed before any spelling variant ending in ...ible

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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by Chris Peterson » Sat Sep 03, 2011 9:00 pm

BMAONE23 wrote:And I always thought that Dictionaries carried words in Alphabetical order where any word ending in ...able would be listed before any spelling variant ending in ...ible
Dictionaries don't usually list variants as separate entries. What they put as the main word entry is the spelling that the editor considers most common, and any variants are listed inside that entry. I don't think anybody would seriously argue that when you have variant spellings, some may be less commonly used than others. It's just a question of whether you can say, outside of any particular context, that any is "preferred".
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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by neufer » Sat Sep 03, 2011 9:50 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:
It's just a question of whether you can say, outside of any particular context, that any is "preferred".
Discernible, a. [L. discernibilis.]
Italian: discernibile
Portuguese: discernível

"Discernible" was first used in popular English literature: sometime before 1485.
"Discernable" was first used in popular English literature: sometime before 1743

discernible ~7,110,000 Google results
discernable ~2,990,000 Google results
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Re: APOD: Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars (2011 Sep

Post by Beyond » Sat Sep 03, 2011 11:12 pm

Hmm... The thread title says "Comet Garradd Passes Ten Thousand Stars". Maybe the title should be changed to "Ten Thousand Ways to Spell Words" :?:
I'm not complaining, or anything like that, but Garradd seems to have gotten a bit lost amongst the Spelling Bees that flew in. Buzz Buzzzzz Buzzzz :mrgreen:
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Re: "discernable" vs. "discernible" (Split from APOD: 2011 S

Post by StarCuriousAero » Wed Sep 07, 2011 11:47 pm

It may be a few days late but this seemed relevant to the playful banter here... although I certainly wouldn't be surprised if this isn't new information to y'all. ;-)
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12474/12 ... 2474-h.htm

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Re: "discernable" vs. "discernible" (Split from APOD: 2011 S

Post by Chris Peterson » Wed Sep 07, 2011 11:55 pm

StarCuriousAero wrote:It may be a few days late but this seemed relevant to the playful banter here... although I certainly wouldn't be surprised if this isn't new information to y'all. ;-)
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12474/12 ... 2474-h.htm
It's an interesting read, because it shows how clearly language (the English language, anyway) evolves. Many of the complaints on the blacklist are rather absurd in light of modern usage, if not outright incorrect.
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Re: "discernable" vs. "discernible" (Split from APOD: 2011 S

Post by neufer » Thu Sep 08, 2011 12:29 am

Chris Peterson wrote:
StarCuriousAero wrote:
It may be a few days late but this seemed relevant to the playful banter here... although I certainly wouldn't be surprised if this isn't new information to y'all. ;-)
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/12474/12 ... 2474-h.htm
It's an interesting read, because it shows how clearly language (the English language, anyway) evolves. Many of the complaints on the blacklist are rather absurd in light of modern usage, if not outright incorrect.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Occurrence_at_Owl_Creek_Bridge wrote:
"An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is a short story by Ambrose Bierce (June 24, 1842 – December 26, 1913). It was originally published in 1890, and first collected in Bierce's 1891 book Tales of Soldiers and Civilians. The story is famous for its irregular time sequence and twist ending.

An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge was also a 1962 French short film (La Rivière du hibou = "Owl River") that became the last "produced" episode of the classic Twilight Zone.

Plot summary

Set during the American Civil War, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" is the story of Peyton Farquhar, a Confederate sympathizer condemned to death by hanging from Owl Creek Bridge. At the beginning of the story, the protagonist stands bound at the bridge's edge. It is later revealed that a disguised Union scout enlisted him to attempt to demolish the bridge, and subsequently he was caught in the act.

Part I

A gentlemanly planter in his mid-30s is standing on a railroad bridge in Alabama. Six military men and a company of infantry men are present. The man is to be hanged. As he is waiting, he thinks of his wife and children. Then he is distracted by a tremendous noise. He can not identify this noise, other than that it sounds like the clanging of a blacksmith's hammer on the anvil. He can not tell if it was far away or nearby. He finds himself apprehensively awaiting each strike, which seem to grow further and further apart. It is revealed that this noise is the ticking of his watch. Then, an escape plan flashes through his mind, "throw off the noose and spring into the stream. By diving I could evade the bullets and, swimming vigorously, take to the woods and get away home." His thoughts stray back to his wife and children. The soldiers drop him down.

Part II

Peyton Farquhar is a planter in his 30s. He lives in the South and is a major Confederate supporter. He goes out of his way to perform services to support and help the Confederate side. One day, a grey-clad soldier appears at his house and tells Farquhar that Union soldiers in the area have been repairing the railroads, including the one over Owl Creek Bridge. Farquhar takes interest and asks if it is possible to sabotage the bridge, to which the soldier replies that he could burn it down. When the soldier leaves, it is revealed that he is a Union scout who has lured Farquhar into a trap, as anyone caught interfering with the railroads faces summary hanging.

Part III

When he is hanged, the rope breaks. Farquhar falls into the water. While underwater, he seems to take little interest in the fact that his hands, which now have a life of their own, are freeing themselves and untying the rope from around his neck. Once he finally reaches the surface, he realizes his senses are superhuman. He can see the individual blades of grass and the colors of bugs on the leaves of trees, despite the fact that he is whirling around in a river. Once he realizes that the men are shooting at him, he escapes and makes it to dry land. He travels through an uninhabited and seemingly-unending forest, attempting to reach his home 30 miles away. During his journey through the day and night, he is fatigued, footsore, and famished, urged on by the thought of his wife and children. He starts to experience strange physiological events, hears unusual noises from the wood, and believes he has fallen asleep while walking. He wakes up to see his perfectly preserved home, with his beautiful, youthful, immaculately preserved wife outside it. As he runs forward to reach her, he suddenly feels a searing pain in his neck, a white light flashes, and everything goes black.

It is revealed that Farquhar never escaped at all; he imagined the entire third part of the story during the time between falling through the bridge and the noose finally breaking his neck.>>
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