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16 April 2008


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David Atkinson

"And I'm sure if you searched this blog you'd uncover a few howlers: but I do try - honest."

You're going to kick yourself …

Mike Reed

David - I think the pointers you give should be sufficient. Quite right to jump on this, though - one of the most common of errors.

(And strictly entre nous, while no one's listening, it's 'lily'. Sorry. Can't resist an open goal.)


Well, almost hoist by my own petard there, Mike. But in my defence, some definitions of the phrase refer to the lilly as being an ornamental device, rather than lily the flower. And if double 'l' is good enough for Nigel Slater http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/experts/nigelslater/story/0,,2062643,00.html it's good enough for me.

Mike Reed

Ah: perhaps it's my petard I should be looking out for, David. A skim through the OED (online edition: a wonderful thing - http://dictionary.oed.com) reveals that 'lilly' is a form of 'lily' (the OED's only official form).

But then so, apparently, are lilie, lely, leli, lilye, luly, lylye, lyle, lely, lylie, lylle, lelly, lele, lyl(l)y, lile, lillie, lyllie... the list goes on.

The OED also quotes Shakespeare (King John, IV. ii): 'To gilde refined Gold, to paint the Lilly...' A wonderful defence, one might think, except that, if so, we'd all better start spelling gild with an e at the end.

What are we to do? I think you, Nigel and I, along with everyone else, had better stick with 'lily' or all hell is likely to break loose. That's my professional opinion, anyway.

Mike Reed

Never happier than when poking about in the recesses of the English language, David, so it's a pleasure.

Your previous post is a great one. My Mum lives in Winchester (Morley College), and is frequently awoken by 'rowdy yobs' yahoo-ing around after hours. Maybe that's another source of Winchester guilt.

David Atkinson

Nice recovery, David!

As a result of Mike’s OED-fuelled alternative-spelling marathon I now have a mental picture of legendary Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillee meeting his end in the same way as Shirley Eaton in ‘Goldfinger’ …

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some old enamel signs

  • Sign41
    Lovely, aren't they?

instead of helvetica...

my pantone past

top tips for typesetters

  • six golden rules
    The post that first spelt it out: the important things to get right when you start dealing with type.