Friday, February 24, 2012

Sombre or Somber?


I hesitated before writing somber. My first thought was sombre and it turns out my first thought was right.  The grammarist blog tells me that somber and sombre are both used,  somber being preferred in American English, whilst sombre is preferred in all other major varieties of English.   It gives three examples of each.

From The Guardian:

      Derek Cianfrance’s film is a sombre, painful portrait of a toxic marriage ...

And from The Washington Post:

      Those events complete a somber week at the White House ...

Delighted to have found this blog which I'm sure I shall be visiting again some time. Actually, the blog says while sombre, not whilst sombre. Whilst is better here.

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  2. An advantage of the spelling sombre, which I ought to have mentioned, is that it better calls to mind sombrero, which I was surprised to find from the OED, has meant a broad brimmed hat in English since 1770 (and is found as early as 1598 meaning oriental sunshade). Sombre and sombrero both derive from the Romance root umbra, shade, as in umbrella.

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