Sunday, 15 June 2014

gaol or jail?

I'm pleased that one of my stories has been published online at World City Stories. It's set in  a museum in  a former prison in central Melbourne in Australia.
The museum is called The Old Melbourne Gaol.

When I was a child, 'gaol' was the accepted spelling for this word, but it's been many a year since I've seen it written this way in any other Australian context.
I've always wondered why it's pronounced like 'jail', when it's a g followed by an a, and a Google search using the terms 'etymology gaol' clears up the mystery. It used to be pronounced with a hard g.
Middle English; based on Latin cavea (see cage). The word came into English in two forms, jaiole from Old French and gayole from Anglo-Norman French gaole (surviving in the spelling gaol), originally pronounced with a hard g, as in goat.
 An article from 5 April 2014 in The Spectator gives a more in-depth look at the history of these two spellings. I particularly enjoyed the passing references to such interesting linguistic oddities as 'Go to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not pass Go. Do not collect £200'; gaggia (as in the coffee machines); and rage.

Linguistic change over time is fascinating.


proud womon said...

i fluctuate between jail and gaol when i write too parlance... it was always taught as gaol when i was a school - i always assumed gaol was the english version, jail the american adaptation - very interesting...

and i loved your short story parlance - wonderfully evocative of a time gone by... congratulations on the publishing of it - are their more to come?

parlance said...

proud womon, I've taken to only using 'jail' and I can't remember when I made that change, but it always bothered me that the spelling 'gaol' didn't follow the pronunciation rules.

Thanks for reading my story! It's a bit nerve-wracking putting a story on the internet, so it's lovely to get positive feedback.

I do have another story online, at Alfie Dog fiction but I hesitate to mention it on my blog, because people have to pay to download it. Less than a dollar, but my blogs are non-profit, so it's a bit iffy to include a reference to that story.