Need authority to transcribe strange term “obeah”

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  • #35962

    I did a quick search to see if anyone asked this question already. I apologize in advance if this is a repeat.

    A request to assist transcription decisions with regard to contractions came up recently on a listserv.

    The word is "obeah."

    Here's an example on the way it is used: It's evidently useful to keep a Martinique obeah woman on the premises.

    It's in the Webster's Dictionary as English, West African origination as early as 1711.

    obeah (oh-bee-ah): a system of belief among blacks chiefly of the British West Indies and the Guianas that is characterized by the use of magic ritual to ward off misfortune or to cause harm

    I admit it, I'm curious to see what UEB authorities do with this!


    Dan Gergen

    Hello and thank you for bringing this question to the attention of the UEB Literary Committee. You have no doubt already viewed the answer to your inquiry, provided by Kathy Riessen, an ICEB Code Maintenance Officer.

    For the benefit of our NBA members and guests, I will include her reply in this forum:

    Looking through the rules and accompanying examples, to me it is clear that "ea" in the word "Obeah" should be contracted.

    The word "obeah" having googled it, appears to have been adopted into English, and does not remain as a foreign word used solely in another language.

    The fact that the "e" and "a" are pronounced separately is immaterial the same as the example words in 10.6.5 such as acreage, borealis, Carribbean etc.

    When we look at what "other rules" are, the ones which come to mind, none of which apply are:

    1. 10.10 Rules of preference, eg strong contractions taking precedence
    2. 10.6.7 Prefix followed by word: obeah can't be broken down to "obe" as the prefix and "ah" as the word
    3. 10.10.9 Seriously distort pronunciation: This is not the case, the same as for the words listed in item 2 above.

    Kathy agrees that these are very interesting discussions. Thank you again for posting it here on Ask and Expert.

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 9 months ago by Dan Gergen.

    Thank you Dan. Kathy Riessen's response was so timely after I posted here I thought it was in response to the post. Could also have been coincidental, just answering the email earlier in the day, resurrecting the discussion.

    I totally agree with this decision. It was my initial thought. The EBAEr in me is screaming, but the UEB rules speak for themselves.

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