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This is a Wednesday’s Wonderful Words post, in which I chose a word, well-know or otherwise, and discuss why I think it’s so wonderful.

Neighbour

[ˈneɪ bər]

Noun

1. A person who lives near another.

2. A person or thing that is near another.

3. One’s fellow human being: to be generous toward one’s less fortunate neighbors.

4. a person who shows kindliness or helpfulness toward his or her fellow humans: to be a neighbor to someone in distress.

5. (Used as a term of address, especially as a friendly greeting to a stranger): Tell me, neighbor, which way to townverb (used with object)

Adjective
6. Situated or living near another: one of our neighbor nations.

Verb (used with object)

7. To live or be situated near to; adjoin; border on.

8. To place or bring near.

Verb (Used without object)

9. To live or be situated nearby.

10. To associate with or as if with one’s neighbors; be neighborly or friendly (often followed by with).

Etymology

before 900 ad, Old English neahgebūr, nēahbūr (nēah; “nigh” + (ge) būr “farmer” or “dweller”); from Old Norse nābūi

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I forgot to include a poll for this week’s Wonderful Word in the last post (apologies…) so decided to choose one myself.

In terms of spelling and etymology, neighbour won by far…

Neighbour came initially from Old Norse, during the Viking Age, when many words came into the language (then old English).

Words with gh were often pronounced non-silently in the past (if that’s a word). Tough is a remnant of that time, along with night in some areas of Scotland where it is pronounced nicht. A general rule today, however, is that they are non sounded. Another complication of English spelling.

A second complication of the spelling of neighbour is that pesky ei. Whatever happened to “i before e except after c“?

Actually, the complication there is the rule, not the spelling.

The rule should not exist.

People, in trying to find some semblance of order in the English language, have created a rule which makes little sense. One variant of the rule is “i before e except after c, or when sounded like a, as in neighbour and weigh”.

Okay, so this exception works for eight weight yeild field… Oh, wait. While I’m there, should wait not be spelled weight? It’s ridiculous to make rules, because English spelling is so sporadic you’ll only end up confusing people more.

What I find strange is that the American spelling of the word, neighbor, addresses neither of the above issues, but changes the ou to an o, to circumscribe to the changes applied to favourite, flavour, humour, labour, honour, all of which are spelled with an o in place of ou.

Unlike many language-lovers, I have no problems with American spellings. Of course, I would never use them, being British, but I can see that spelling is complicated and a reform when founding a new country would be beneficial. But at least do it to the worst spellings!

My favourite part of the word neighbour, however, is the way it’s pronounced in my own accent. Pronounced very similarly in a multitude of accents, neighbour isn’t an exciting word except perhaps in Scouse. Scottish accents, however, pronounce it much like the RP pronunciation, but with soft vowels, especially in the first syllable, which make it sound wonderful to listen to.

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