What's in a Word | All Blogs

Watching how “oui” spell, say “surveillance”

By Debra Dobbins

“Surveillance” is a tricky word to spell—and to pronounce.

Breaking the word down into its syllables (sur-veil-lance) helps in spelling it. Sur is a short, common prefix meaning over, so it is not hard to remember. A veil is a cloth that brides and other women sometimes wear over their faces, and a lance is a long, sharp weapon that knights used to carry into battle.

Often creating a story around a word helps us to remember its spelling. My story for surveillance would just be a scene out of a movie: Sir Lancelot is jousting (fighting with a lance) with another knight in an arena. In the stands sits a princess with a veil over her face. Perhaps both knights are vying (competing) for her affections. Using this story, I just have to remind myself that Sir becomes sur in the word surveillance.

Sir Lancelot, by the way, was a highly respected hero among the Knights of the Round Table, according to Arthurian legends.

While we are taught to sound out words, that strategy does not work well with surveillance. It comes from the French language, and French uses many letters that are not heard when words are spoken, or they sound like different letters altogether to an English speaker.

Take, for example, “mais oui!” It means “but yes!” and is used as a hearty agreement. Sounding it out, we may want to say “mays-ow-eye,” but the words are actually spoken as “may wee.” We do not hear the “s” in “mais,” and “oui” sounds nothing like its actual letters. So goes French. Though a beautiful language and worth studying, it requires quite a bit of memorization.

Surveillance is pronounced as sur-vay-lance. It means a close watch kept over someone, according to Webster’s. It comes from the same Latin word for “vigil,” also a watch that is kept.

To read the complete story on why federal officials want more surveillance of communication on the Web, go to www.gjsentinel.com or to our print edition or e-edition.

The French flag has the same colors as the American flag.


Please Login or Register to leave a comment.

Recent Posts
Something’s still alive in the garden in December
By Penny Stine
Friday, December 19, 2014

The Top 10 Top 10 Albums Lists
By David Goe
Thursday, December 18, 2014

By Nic.Korte
Thursday, December 18, 2014

Don’t throw out the inserts: Finding coupons you can use
By Julie Norman
Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Merry whatever you want this season to be
By Robin Dearing
Tuesday, December 16, 2014

  • Accounts Receivable

    ACCOUNTSRECEIVABLEPOSITION Must have previous A/R ex...

  • City Engineer

     The City of Fruita is seeking a to lead our Engineering Di...

  • Government

    Now hiring for the following positions: 911 Dispat...

  • Program Director

    Aspen Ridge Alzheimer'sSpecial Care Centeris seeking afor...

  • Automotive

    Full-time Mechanic5 years experience or ASE Certifications and own to...

734 S. Seventh St.
Grand Junction, CO 81501
Subscribe to print edition
Sign in to your account

© 2014 Grand Junction Media, Inc.
By using this site you agree to the Visitor Agreement and the Privacy Policy