For the love of libraries
Issue 2, June 2022
Issue 663 of The Big Issue features a story I wrote, entitled ‘The Book Place’, about my local library service. The special library edition has finished its sales run, but some vendors keep recent issues to sell, so it’s worth checking if you haven’t yet got a copy, and if like me, you prefer to read print. Otherwise, you can download and read a pdf version on your preferred device.
The Big Issue is a fantastic street publication that provides employment opportunities for vulnerable members of our community. Consider subscribing for a fortnightly delivery to your home, or support your local vendor and pick up a copy on the street.
Illuminating your search for words
An error in Issue 1 of The Raptorial was brought to my attention by subscriber Teneille Clerke. I’d used ‘Melbournian’ rather than ‘Melburnian’ to describe a person hailing from Melbourne. And so follows a little lesson in etymology, Latin, and the wonders of the Internet to understand why ‘Melburnian’ is the correct spelling (for now).
Let’s start with the ending. The suffixes ‘ian’ or ‘an’, used to turn nouns into adjectives, are Latin in origin. So far, so clear.
Now, a quick wade into Latin (no deep dive): ‘Melbourne’ contains the diphthong ‘ou’, which does not exist in Latin. Okay, enough Latin!
On to etymology: from my research, I’ve learned that in 1876, Melbourne Grammar School (in Melbourne, Australia) named their publication The Melburnian to avoid incorrectly mixing a Latin suffix with a non-Latin word (remember, no 'ou' in Latin). The Latin for ‘Melbourne’ is ‘Melburnia’, hence the adjective formed with the Latin variant and the Latin suffix ‘an’ is ‘Melburnian’. This, subsequently, influenced the use of 'Melburnian' in the capital city of Victoria, Australia.
Finally, looking at the Google Books Ngram Viewer for use of the two spellings in publications over the years, it appears that despite having had the case made for it in 1876, it took almost a century for ‘Melburnian’ to overtake ‘Melbournian’.
In the years between 1876 and 1972, Melbourne Grammar alumni may have been ‘correct’, but the masses (of published text) begged to differ. Unfortunately, those were pre-internet days and Ngram wasn't available to resolve disputes with Melbourne Grammarians. However, it is worth noting that filtering the Ngram for only Australian publications was not possible, so perhaps the influence of Melbourne Grammar School is lost in data that includes all English language texts.
I hope you’ve found this illuminating, whether or not you are Melburnian.
If you need help finding, crafting or refining your words, get in touch.