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Friday, March 17, 2017

The Spell it RELICKED Club

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Once upon a time I created a UG Group called, "The Spell it RELICKED Club".  It was a bit of fun to try and spread correct spelling through the UG community.  Then I was away from UG for a while and when I came back my club was gone.  So it seems, are all the UG Groups.  Unless they've hidden them really well.  Anyway, rather than giving up or having a dead link in my signature I thought I'd try and reproduce the club manifesto here.

This article is not a discussion about my opinions on the actual practice of artificially distressing a guitar to make it look older than it is.  That's a completely personal aesthetic preference that you either appreciate or you don't.

What it is, is a rally against the word that the guitar community seem to be insisting on using to describe the practice. Namely,


Ugh! The very sight of it makes my scalp prickle.  'But why?' you ask.

Let's start with the reasons why the word itself is just plain wrong, before we even get into the issue of spelling.

Firstly, 'relic' is still a noun.  No dictionaries I have checked are listing it as a verb (yet, I'm sure it's only a matter of time).  So as things stand a relic is a thing, not something you do to a thing.  I know it is a modern trend to turn nouns into verbs; it's not that long ago that a 'gift' was still something you gave to someone and not something you did to them.  This alone makes it unacceptable to an old stickler like me.  And as Calvin (of Calvin & Hobbes) says, 'Verbing weirds language.'

Furthermore, there are plenty of other perfectly acceptable verbs that could be used to describe the process of creating (something that looks like) a relic.  How about, 'ageing' or 'distressing'?  This business of simply turning a noun into a verb to avoid having to think of a suitable, pre-existing verb is just plain lazy.  It’s like, do you even grammar, bro?

So let's say that this epidemic of turning nouns into verbs is inescapable and we just have to learn to live with it.  Even if I accept the inevitable creation of this new, unnecessary verb, there are still general grammatical rules that dictate how we should be spelling this abomination.

The majority of words in the English language that end in '~cing' are pronounced with a soft 'c' sound, like an 's'.  Icing, pricing, convincing, dancing, lacing, glancing, facing, and many more besides.  I cannot think of a single one that is pronounced as 'king' rather than 'sing'.  So when I see 'relicing' written down, my brain can't help but sub-vocalise 'relising', because that's what the rules of English pronunciation dictate.  The '~cing' form is used for verbs ending in '~ce', which 'relic' does not.

So if we want to make a hard 'c' in the middle of our word, what do we do?  Generally we add a 'k'.  Not only is this within the bounds of normal English pronunciation, there are also existing verbs ending in '~ic' that set a precedence. 'Mimic' becomes 'mimicking', 'panic' becomes 'panicking' and 'traffic' becomes 'trafficking'.  So by all rational reasoning the act of creating a relic, if you must be lazy about it, should be


'Ah,' you say, 'but I'm posting a letter and I've licked the envelope but it didn't stick properly and I'm licking it again.  What am I doing?  Surely I'm relicking it?  But I'm not making a relic of it, so get out of that, smarty-pants.'

Well, wouldn't you know, there are rules in place that deal with that, too.  This time, regarding the use of the 're~' prefix.  The general rule of applying the 're~' prefix, to mean 'back' or 'again', is that it does not require a hyphen (yet many people insert one anyway, but that's another story) unless it would cause confusion with another, existing word.  Before we created this new abomination of a verb, everyone knew that if you were relicking something then you were licking it again.  Now we have to clarify with a hyphen: 'I'm just re-licking the envelope because it didn't stick last time,' you might write.

So there you have it.  I don't care what abuse you inflict upon your instrument, but if you're going to go telling everyone about it then remember, what you're doing is relicking.  If you leave out the 'k' you're just adding lice to it again.

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