Prophesy Prophecy

Islam ProfitI’ve had this photo on my wall since September. There are hundreds of other pictures with other Libyans holding up the exact same message. These people probably do not speak English, but they know what they want to say. I assume they are all copying the same text because of the repetition of the same grammar error: “Islam and profit.”

Seeing an English error like this is very sweet. It is only an ogre who can’t identify. English is a really annoying language! And homophones are the worst. “Profit” and “Prophet” have exactly the same pronunciation. If you only speak English (and don’t write it), there is absolutely no way you would know that these are anything but the same word. You might even speculate: was it once considered profitable to be a prophet?

There is another prophet-oriented problem in the English language that I dare say most Americans are unaware of. “Prophecy” is a noun meaning a prediction of what will happen in the future. It is pronounced the way you think it is: praw-fe-see. But there is another word: “prophesy.” It is a verb and it means to make a prophecy. But it is pronounced differently: praw-fe-sigh.

Why is the language this way? Who knows. I think as good a guess as any is that the English were dicks in more than one way. It was not enough to create a global empire, they had to push one of the most dysfunctional languages ever invented. Just to show you how totally ridiculous it is, the plural of “prophecy” is “prophecies” or “prophesies.” That’s right! Even if you get this distinction right, writers can still confuse you with the plural.

So now you know. I wish I had some good advice, as I normally do. (I enjoy simplifying the language when possible.) I’m afraid we will all have to learn the different spellings and pronunciations. But we can say one thing for sure: anyone who writes “prophesies” is either an ignorant fool or a total dick.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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