Posted: 12 Feb 2014 08:50 PM PST
A reader commenting on my post about the difference between discreet and discrete was shocked by the spelling judgement in my definition of discreet (“Showing discernment or judgement in the guidance of one’s own speech and action”):
For that reader, spelling the word with an “e” creates a misspelling.
Other readers, commenting on other posts, objected to my use of judgment without the “e”:
Strong feelings, these. Like “could care less” and statements like “my head literally exploded,” the “judgment vs judgement” issue evokes passion in many English speakers.
The first reader was correct to fault me on spelling judgment as judgement, not because judgement is a “misspelling,” but because I write these posts in standard American English and spelling judgment with an “e” is contrary to American spelling convention.
The other two readers do not indicate what standard dialect they speak. I’m guessing that they are American speakers because they resort to the argument about the “e” being necessary to the correct pronunciation of the word. British speakers would probably defend the judgement spelling simply on the grounds that it is the preferred British spelling.
The suggestion that the spelling judgment would “according to the rules of English phonics” produce the rendering “jud-GUH-ment” is preposterous. The word is formed by adding a suffix to the root word: judge+ment. Unlike the “e” we use to maintain the /j/ sound in words like rage, Marge, and usage, the “e” in judge is not necessary to signal a /j/ pronunciation.
The letter combination dge is a phonogram in its own right, used to represent the /j/ sound. Dropping the “e” from it is not common, but I cannot imagine that any native speaker would attempt to pronounce dg as anything but /j/.
Changeable does need the “e” to soften the “g”; judgment, abridgment, and lodgment do not. Look up judgement andlodgement in the OED and you will find the the spellings judgment and lodgment dignified as alternative spellings. (Abridgement is the only spelling given for that word.)
According to the OED,
In sum, there’s no reason American speakers can’t choose to put an “e” in judgment if they wish, but there’s nothing historically, phonetically, or morally superior in doing so. And if they’re writing for publication, a U.S. editor would surely correct it.