Your Friendly Neighborhood Amoeba was sitting at his computer, polishing his tin cup preparing yet another grant proposal and generally minding his own business, when the following sentence popped out onto the screen:

They [the people with the money; see The Golden Rule of Arts and Sciences] will then say yea or nay, and if yea, make any changes that they require.

YFNA was about to press “Send” and move on to the next task, but this sentence grabbed him by the shirt collar, hauled him back, and demanded that he look at this.

Specifically, at the yea and the nay.

They’re spelled different.

But they sound the same!

Shouldn’t it be, like yea and nea? Or yay and nay?

But you can’t really use yay in this context. It looks too much like you’re in the crowd at a football game, not a meeting where votes are taken and decisions made. That would be an insult to the dignity of the football game.

But if you can’t use yay, how are you going to convince people to pronounce nea so that it rhymes with say? Aren’t they more likely to say nea rhymes with sea? And if they get into that habit, and apply it to yea as well, aren’t you going to wind up with people in the US Congress deciding on the fate of Medicare by proclaiming yeee or (k)neee?

Talk about insulting the dignity of the football game. And are we really sure we wish to know into what part of our collective anatomy they’re going to put that knee?

Awhile ago, this hack writer by the name of Twain wrote an essay, “The Awful German Language”, complaining about just how close to impossible it was for he, Twain, to make any headway trying to converse in that language.

Seems to YFNA that Twain needed to look just a little closer to home. Just sea-ing.

Quilly is the pseudonym of Charlene L. Amsden, who lives in the Pacific Northwest. When she is not doing book reviews or creating curriculum literature units, she is working on writing the next great American novel. You may visit her writing blog at To change this standard text, you have to enter some information about your self in the Dashboard -> Users -> Your Profile box.


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