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Are poetic contractions, such as "e'er", "o'er" and "ne'er" (and other less common ones), English? As in officially recognized?

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If they are, then I've found the largest group of homophones ever! Air, are, e'er, ere, err, eyre, and heir! Hooray! Seven! – Daniel Jun 26 '11 at 11:31
Are you saying that are sounds the same as air in your dialect? – Kosmonaut Jun 26 '11 at 12:01
It does in almost every dialect. Are as in "a surface measure equal to 100 square meters". – Daniel Jun 26 '11 at 12:33
Never heard of that before! – Kosmonaut Jun 26 '11 at 13:12
Even those who've not hear "Are" befor may have heard "hectare"---that is 100 Are or the area of a square 100 meters on a side which is often used as a measure of agricultural land or the area of a political subdivision much like "acre" is used in the tradition system of English units. – dmckee Jun 26 '11 at 20:33
up vote 7 down vote accepted

I'm not sure what it means to be "officially recognized" in English; there is no official list of English words.

If you mean appearing in dictionaries, then yes, it is a word.

(If you mean being employed in speech or everyday writing without sounding odd, then probably not. Its use is restricted to poetry, as you acknowledge.)

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So I can use it in my homophone list? – Daniel Jun 26 '11 at 12:36
@drm65: Well, why not? – Kosmonaut Jun 26 '11 at 13:12
I was afraid someone would say I was stretching English to get it. – Daniel Jun 26 '11 at 13:47
@drm65: I guess, then, it depends on your intended audience. – Kosmonaut Jun 26 '11 at 15:17
You wouldn't get away with EER in Scrabble (not if you were playing me, anyway! :) – FumbleFingers Jun 28 '11 at 2:00

These contractions are primarily relegated to literary usage nowadays, and such usage is sparing in modern literature.

There is one phrase, however, which enjoys continued popularity in the spoken vernacular:


Some might call it vestigial, but unlike the appendix, it still serves a useful purpose. No synonym carries the freight of implied prescience that this term bears.

"Wastrel" rolls deliciously on the tongue, and "good-for-nothing" judges those who are by present accounting utterly useless. But only "ne'er-do-well" pronounces "I have seen into your future, and there is no hope for you."


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Yes, they're real abbreviated English words, though I wouldn't use them unless I wanted to sound old-fashioned or poetic.

What do you mean officially recognised? English has no official arbitrator other than your dictionary of choice; so just check in your favourite dictionary!

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If we play our cards right, then in years to come EL&U will be recognised as the official arbitrator. And we'll all be such long-standing members we'll have the clout to just create and delete words at will! :) – FumbleFingers Jun 28 '11 at 2:03
@Fumblefingers, and we can excommunicate (exlinguate?) purveyors of poor grammar. I think I'll start writing the list now... – TimLymington Jun 29 '11 at 22:10
@TimLymington: Do we dare start by exlinguating Kosmonaut, for suggesting in a comment that OP can consider e'er a valid word for a homophone list? No way am I going to play him at Scrabble without argument! :) – FumbleFingers Jun 30 '11 at 19:56

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