On the use of ‘st’

Blogging of unbeknownst, have you ever noticed that when conversation around the punch bowl inevitably turns to linguistic conundra (no, really), most people end up debating the comparative correctness of while/whilst, amid/amidst, among/amongst and, well, unbeknown/unbeknownst?

I’ve always played by the rule that the “st” is archaic, and therefore suitable for use in bucolic poetry and art reviews (but not in technoblogs or hard news).*

But now my favourite solution (adopted after many brain explosions trying to find consistency with my own writing) is: Do what the Copyeditor’s Handbook says to do when faced with the issue of inanimate objects and possessive apostrophes:

“Trust your eye and your sensibility…

In other words, go with what looks right, and if you can’t make it look right, start from scratch with prettier words.


* NB for bloggers: Apparently Google gets 1.5 billion hits for “while” compared to 74 million for “whilst”… Yep, that’s about right.

First published at tumblr Proof (v.)

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