i before e


So, how often do rules mess us up?

Iím talking about the best rules. The easiest to remember rules. The rules we almost take for granted.

How often do rules mess us up?

Right out of the gate, i before e, is weird. Iím not saying that to be funny. Weird. The word, weird, doesnít follow the i before e rule.

The rule continues. Except after c. But then thereís glacier. And, wellÖ


We could go on, but as the saying goes, even Einstein gets it wrong. (Twice.)

I think the problem is that in most cases, youíll find that these rules were invented to create an easy way of teaching something. A way to remember it. A way to show others how to apply it. And when you go one step further, the biggest issue tends to be that when people donít understand the rule, it creates all sorts of issues when attempts are made to bend and break it.

Red lights.

Most of us understand red lights. Red means stop. Green means go. (Yellow means floor it or risk being held up for a minute or more.) But how does it hold up as a rule?

Depending on how we apply definitions and interpretations, not well. Stop and go is the law. The rule is a way of simplifying the law. (For instance Ė ďIf itís red, stop.Ē End statement. End debate.) But red doesnít just mean stop. It also means someone else may be coming from a different direction, that person has the right of way, and if you donít stop bad things may be the result.

Rules, exceptions, facts, opinions, beliefs, principles, guidelines and more. We look to them to establish a way of acting, or more specifically, of problem-solving. If a, then b, move to step 3. And then we wind up with flow-charts, to allow us to shift when step 2 doesnít neatly slide into step 3.

The scary thing is that often the flow-chart needs to allow for some real stupidity. Have you ever read some of the warnings about using hair dryers and chainsaws? The idea that equipment using fuel has labels saying not to use a lit flame to check the fuel level implies that someone (or, plural, someones) at least once intentionally used a match to check and see how much gas was left. And if you think thatís funnyÖ

A friend of mine swears he once received medication for his dog, from the vet, that had a warning label saying it could cause drowsiness and not to operate heavy machinery or a vehicle while taking it. (Try not thinking about that the next time itís late at night and you see a Labrador driving a lawn mower in the breakdown lane with someone passed out in the cart itís pulling.)

Rules were made to be broken. Fair enough. But before they are, you need to understand the reason for the rule, while many times not forgetting how it may apply to someone else.


If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com