Sunday, July 25, 2010

Longing vs. Lunging

A not-so-brief note about why I chose to use "lunge" and "lunging" rather than "longe" and "longing". I have come across both spellings online, in books and in dictionaries. I've even come across "longeing" in a couple of blogs, but not in any dictionary. Etymologically, "longeing" is probably closest to the historical spelling which came from the french fencing term "allonge" which means to thrust forward rapidly, which came from the French word "allonger" which means to lengthen or extend. Now this next part is my opinion since I couldn't find any dictionary that explained exactly how these two terms led to the English equitation term. But if you think about making a horse move forward on a lengthened or extended lead rope then you can see how adapting a fencing term and its earlier general meaning to describe an equine exercise would make sense. Now, with all that, you would think that I would decide to use "longe" and "longeing" because they were closer to the historical spellings. However... language is a virus. It is constantly mutating and changing to adapt to new conditions. And I am all in favor of adapting language and its spelling to more clearly (or more interestingly) express yourself.

Nowadays, when most American people see "longe", they think it is simply an olde English way of spelling "long" which is pronounced with a hard "G" sound and which is derived from the Latin word "longus" which is purely associated with length (or emotion (to long for something)), but not movement. I assume (though I did not research it) that the French word "allonger" is also derived from "longus". And, of course, "allonge" was derived from "allonger". However, "allonge" became its own word in English, "lunge" which is roughly defined as moving a body forward and is pronounced with a soft "g" sound, exactly the way that horse people pronounce the words associated with exercising/training a horse by getting him to move forward while on the end of a long rope. Now, if it were just a choice between "longe" and "lunge", I might go with "longe" because, although similar, it is distinct from "long" and more historically accurate. However, a problem arises when it comes to "longing" vs. "lunging".

Before I entered the world of horses, when I saw the word "longing", I assumed an emotional meaning. That someone was longing for their lover. When I saw the word "lunging", I thought of either someone suddenly moving forward towards something or a series of exercises involving forward movement used to build strength in your quadriceps. If I had seen the phrase "longing" a horse, I would have been completely confused as to what it meant. If I had seen the phrase "lunging" a horse, I would have assumed it was some sort of exercise involving getting the horse to move forward. I still wouldn't have known exactly what was being described, but I would have had a better idea of what was meant.

So which is more important? The long rope? The forward movement of the horse? The historical spelling? The spelling that most Americans would assume upon hearing the word, which is based on a word that is in common usage and whose meaning is associated with movement? Or some combination of the above? I chose to focus on the forward movement of the horse and the spelling that most Americans would assume based on the word's pronunciation and the fact that "lunging" is a commonly used word that is associated with movement.

So anyway, both spellings are accepted, but I believe the "lunge" and "lunging" spellings to be the easiest and most descriptive, therefore those are the spellings that I will use. However, I can completely understand that others may choose to use the "longe" and "longing" spellings either for their history or because they like the fact that you must be in-the-know in the horse world to understand what is meant.

On a side note, when I was looking for a new "lunge" line, the only spelling I found for that item was "lunge line". When I typed in "longe line" in the Google shopping search, the only results were for "lunge lines". Google shopping apparently automatically changes "longe" to "lunge" when the word "line" is added. (Though Google web search still finds articles about lunging when "longe line" is searched.) Also, in all the online tack stores that I searched individually, I only found items when I used the spelling "lunge line". So it seems that, at least when it comes to commercial uses, the spelling "lunge" has been decided upon. Yet another reason for me to use that spelling. But still... it is a personal choice.

1 comment:

  1. And then there are those folks who "lounge" their horses.
    I bet the horses really enjoy THAT! hee hee!