I have been angry about English spelling for nearly 60 years now. – Ever since I first started learning English not long before my 14th birthday. The encounter with ‘inchoate’ rekindled that anger again a few years ago.
I came across the word in my Sunday paper and did not know what it meant. But it was not the need to find out its meaning that made me cross. That happens in any language. Looking up the meaning of words helps us to expand our vocabulary and continues into old age.
What made ‘ichoate’ hateful to me was that I was not sure how to pronounce it either: incho- ait? Or incho – at? – To rhyme with ‘delicate’ or ‘dedidacate’?
Looking it up in my Oxdic made me even angrier. – I discovered that in addition to the uncertainty about the -ate ending, the ‘h’ was totally silent as well. – The pronunciation of ‘inchoate’ is simply ‘incoat’.
There is no good reason for not spelling ‘incoat’ the way it is meant to be pronounced. It is spelt stupidly mainly on the whim of Samuel Johnson. – A man whom I detest deeply for making learning to read and write English far more difficult than need be.
My dislike of English spelling started with the irregular pronunciations of words like ‘one, two, four, said, friend’. – I could not simply learn to sound them out, but had to remember how the teacher pronounced them. Not just for a word or two, but hundreds of them.
What ‘inchoate’ brought home to me once again is that it is impossible to ever quite finish learning to read and spell English. Even after many years of reading and writing a great deal, a spelling like ‘inchoate’ can still flummox u. – It is inconceivable that any German or French spelling could ever do this to an educated adult who is fluent in those languages.
Because I hate the spelling of ‘inchoate’ so intensely, I will definitely never use it. I will find another word for that idea – ‘embryonic’, ‘starting to develop’, ‘evolving’, ‘recently conceived’, ‘just beginning to …’. Something like that.
I will eschew ‘inchoate’ for as long as its spelling remains so stupid.