Too harsh a sentence

June 5, 1998

The article by Diane McGuinness omitted details of her book Why Children Can't Read is published this month as a Penguin paperback original at Pounds 8.99.

YOU print "homogenous" with one "e" in your profile of Helena Kennedy (THES, May 22). "Homogenous" used to be a rare word (pronounced approximately "hom-ODGE-en-us", which makes an appearance in Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. It describes a family relationship between different species.

From the context of the article, the idea to be conveyed is a state of undifferentiated uniformity, so the appropriate word (with two Es) is "homogeneous", pronounced approximately "hom-oh-JEAN-ee-us".

Since the purveyors of milk with the cream distributed uniformly throughout the fluid invented the word "homogenised" to describe their product, by verbal contamination its original root word "homogeneous" has been fighting a losing battle against the unrelated interloper.

Perhaps, if, more appropriately, milk had been promoted as being "homogeneated" (homo-jen-ee-ated), this unfortunate slide away from "homogeneous" to an entirely different word would never have occurred.

John Little 17 Marchmont Gardens Bishopbriggs Glasgow

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