playwright/playwrite

Sun14

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello, my friends,

I came across these sentence in a book named Common Errors in English Usage:

"It might seem as if a person who writes plays should be called a "playwrite"; but in fact a playwright is a person who has wrought words into a dramatic form, just as a wheelwright has wrought wheels out of wood and iron. All the other words ending in "-wright" are archaic, or we'd be constantly reminded of the correct pattern."

I still cannot distinguish these two words. Would you explain it a bit?
 
  • velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    There aren't two words. The correctly-spelled word is "playwright", though some people assume it must be "playwrite" since it involves writing. They are wrong.
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    The correct word for a person who writes plays is a "playwright": although you might think it should be "playwrite", that isn't a proper English word.

    The book is making the point that the noun ending -wright to describe a person who does things is otherwise now archaic in modern English.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    We can add millwright, shipwright and cartwright. It's not so much that the words are archaic (we understand them perfectly), but that these artisan trades no longer exist.
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    The correct word for a person who writes plays is a "playwright": although you might think it should be "playwrite", that isn't a proper English word.

    The book is making the point that the noun ending -wright to describe a person who does things is otherwise now archaic in modern English.
    Does the author mean they are archaic except playwright and wheelwright?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    RE: post #5

    I'm not sure that everyone does understand those words perfectly. I think most people wouldn't have a clue what they mean, even if they have vaguely heard of such occupations. ;)
     

    DonnyB

    Sixties Mod
    English UK Southern Standard English
    Does the author mean they are archaic except playwright and wheelwright?
    That's the inference, yes. :)

    As Einstein points out in post #5 there are others which still exist as words but which are almost obsolete as the occupations they describe are now very rare.
     

    Einstein

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    The book is making the point that the noun ending -wright to describe a person who does things is otherwise now archaic in modern English.
    Actually I hadn't considered this point precisely. I think that we can say "-wright" is obsolete in the sense that we can't use it to coin new words, like softwarewright, for example. Shipwright and cartwright are not in themselves obsolete as words, but they are fossilised terms and we can't form other terms by analogy with them.
     

    Sun14

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Actually I hadn't considered this point precisely. I think that we can say "-wright" is obsolete in the sense that we can't use it to coin new words, like softwarewright, for example. Shipwright and cartwright are not in themselves obsolete as words, but they are fossilised terms and we can't form other terms by analogy with them.
    Got it. Thank you very much.
     
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