• albeit •
awl-bee-it • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Conjunction
Meaning: Although, but (emphatically), even though, though on the other hand.
Notes: Today's Good Word is one of the most strikingly curious words in the world: a conjunction that seems to agree in number. Albeit is a singular conjunction, a concept that does not even make sense to linguists. Conjunctions do not agree: there is only one form of and, but, if, or. Albeit, however, has a plural which is used fairly widely today: albethey.
In Play: Today's Good albeit most peculiar Word conjoins a word or clause that markedly contrasts with the preceding word or clause: "Maude Lynn Dresser came in a colorful, albeit garish, spring frock." However, if the subject of the clause that albeit would introduce is plural, albeit might/should be replaced by albethey: "Maude's sisters, albethey the progeny of the same parents, always show impeccable taste in clothing."
Word History: The fact that this 'conjunction' changes its grammatical number raises the question of whether it has completely been transformed into a conjunction. It shows that at least some speakers still feel that it is a phrase, "all be it". We might just nod our heads at this point and go about our business, except for the fact that neither phrase makes any sense, neither "all be it" nor "all be they"—evidence that it has become a conjunction. Another possibility is that the actual conjunction here is albe while it and they are perceived, at least by some English speakers, as independent pronouns. What do you think? (At this point I would like to offer this small albeit sincere note of gratitude to Jesse Koplowitz and our close albeit [albehim?] distant cyberfriend, Chris Stewart of South Africa, for suggesting today's Good Word.)
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