eac

This weekend is the annual conference of the Editors’ Association of Canada. It’s happening right up the street from me; I can almost see the venue from where I’m sitting writing this. There will be much convening and learning, and eac mickle fun.

Did you think I had that eac wrong? Well, yes, arguably. Oh, you think it should be EAC in caps for the Editors’ etc.? No, no. It’s just that the current spelling of the word I have written as eac is eke. But since we don’t use eke anymore, really, I don’t see much harm in using the Old English version here for a lark.

There’s another reason to use the eac form. As you read here yesterday, Iva Cheung sought an archaic adverb and found swoopstake, which is suitable for what she wanted, but unlike off it’s not also a preposition. Eke is likewise not also a preposition – it’s just an adverb meaning ‘also, as well’. But eac as it was used in Old English was also (if less often) a preposition, translatable as ‘besides, in addition to’ (and, for those who know and care about such things, taking a dative object): hæfst þu oþre eac him? (hast thou others eac him?). So I should say that eac an adverb it was a preposition.

A little point on pronunciation, by the way. Eke is pronounced like “eek,” but eac was not. The diphthong written as ea (and in this instance it was a long one, literally said for a longer time) was pronounced [æa] or [æə], where [æ] is as in back, [a] is as in bark (North American version, not including the r), and [ə] is as in buck. In other words, eac was pronounced about the same as the way a person from Mississippi pronounces back, minus the b.

If you know German, you’ll know the word auch ‘also’; if you know Dutch, you’ll know the cognate ook. These two words are eac descended from the same old Germanic word as eac. But they survived into modern times. English now prefers to use also (and as well, besides, in addition to, etc.) for historical reasons that are probably worth a master’s thesis for someone.

So be it. We still have this word, gathering dust but not altogether lost. It’s like one of those bottles of liquor pulled out of the back of the cabinet, where it has been languishing for many years. “Are you really going to drink that? What is it?” “Dunno, but it could be fun.” “Ugh. Don’t put any in my martini, please.”

Well, de gustibus non est disputandum. I will be romping with the words and the word people this weekend, and eac having much fun. Nunc est bibendum; join me if you wish.

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