Abeyance > obeyance

A legal officer wrote that a certain issue was “in obeyance” for certain reasons. Obeyance exists – it simply means obedience – but is very, very rare, even in comparison to abeyance, which means “at bay -ance” and is merely very rare. This is not a finger typo – o and a are too far away – but it’s improbable that anyone would pull obeyance from the back of their mind (I can’t recall ever hearing/seeing it, and had to check that it actually exists). I think the legal officer was momentarily distracted by the much more common word obey, even though the context had nothing to do with obedience

Non-compulsory suggestion: if you want to use obeyance, use obedience instead. If you want to use in abeyance and are not in the field of property law (in which case abeyance has an established technical meaning), use in suspension, suspended or on hold instead. 

PS Even though obeyance is in multiple dictionaries, it’s not immediately easy to find real examples. I found this page, the authoritativeness of which I’m not sure of.

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illumine v illuminate

One of the prayers for Christmas morning asked God to “illumine” us or some people or the whole world (I can’t check because I didn’t bring the service sheet home). Illumine and illuminate are both valid English words. Both are from Latin illuminare (verb) and lumen (noun). According to Dictionary.com, illumine is earlier  (1300-50), but it is defined only as “to illuminate”.  Illuminate dates from 1400-50, and –ate is certainly a more common verb ending. 

Illumination covers actual and metaphorical light. Sometimes the Bible talks about actual light and sometimes about metaphorical light, and sometimes it is hard to know which is meant. This morning’s Gospel reading was from John 1, which includes “In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood [or overcome] it” (vv4-5 NIV, see also vv8-9).

Even though illumine is the older form, Google Ngrams shows that it was very rarely used until about  1700. From about 1750 to 1900, it hovered around a quarter of the frequency of illuminate, after which illuminate has grown and illumine has declined in use.

To me, illumine sounds more poetic, and more metaphoric (no doubt the growth of actual illumination after 1900 largely accounts for the growth of illuminate). While it is possible to ask God to (metaphorically) illuminate us, it would be very unlikely for a movie director or director of photography to ask the gaffer (chief lighting technician) to (actually) illumine the set in a certain way. 

Unlike preventive and preventative, where I would unhesitatingly recommend the shorter alternative, here I would recommend the longer version, illuminate.