dioceses pron. "diosees"

Geoffrey Nunberg nunberg at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Sat Apr 1 18:41:06 UTC 2006

>This plural may be based on the annoyingly-common singular,
>"'diocis" [dai at sIs].
This pron, or something like it, probably goes
back a long ways. In 1865, back when
prescriptivists were prescriptivists, Matthew
Arnold wrote in "The Literary Influence of

Every one has noticed the way in which the Times
chooses to spell the word "diocese;" it always
spells it diocess, deriving it, I suppose, from
Zeus and census. The Journal des Débats might
just as well write "diocess" instead of
"diocese," but imagine the Journal des Débats
doing so! Imagine an educated Frenchman indulging
himself in an orthographical antic of this sort,
in face of the grave respect with which the
Academy and its dictionary invest the French
language! Some people will say these are little
things; they are not; they are of bad example.
They tend to spread the baneful notion that there
is no such thing as a high, correct standard in
intellectual matters; that every one may as well
take his own way; they are at variance with the
severe discipline necessary for all real culture;
they confirm us in habits of wilfulness and
eccentricity, which hurt our minds, and damage
our credit with serious people.

Geoff Nunberg

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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