‘Commingled' is the correct way to spell the term applied to collecting all material together for reprocessing, a waste industry expert has claimed.Bruce Terrell, director of London-based Atlantic Paper and Community Waste, has researched the etymology of the term used to describe the collection method and concluded that the use of ‘co-mingled' is not grammatically correct.
The term, which is a verb meaning ‘to mix or be mixed', has many variant spellings throughout the waste and recycling sector, with both the Waste & Resources Action Programme and Defra mostly using the spelling ‘co-mingled' while others, such as letsrecycle.com, favouring ‘commingled'.
However, Mr Terrell, who has a degree in languages from Oxford University, which he followed with a further degree in business, claims to have found the correct spelling.
He said: “Grammarians call assimilation the process by which contiguous sounds are rendered easier to pronounce by making them similar or identical. It applies especially to words of Latin or partially Latin origin.
“Assimilation is itself an example of this (ad + simulation). In the case of ‘commingled', the relevant rules are: con becomes com before b,p and m; con becomes co before vowels and h; con becomes col, or cor before, respectively l and r; and con remains con everywhere else.
“The general rule is that while the two sounds may be assimilated, the place in the word of the assimilated sound is retained, leading to a doubling of the consonants. So for ‘commingled', you need one ‘m' for the prefix and another for the root (i.e. con + mingle = ‘commingled'),” added Mr Terrell.
Less confusingWRAP has chosen to spell the term as co-mingled and argued that the choice of this spelling was because it was less confusing. WRAP said: “To begin with there were people within WRAP using different spellings [of commingled] which we thought was inconsistent so we decided on ‘co-mingled' as we thought it was the most accurate and the least confusing. The Oxford dictionary also allows for prefixes to the word 'mingled'.”
Echoing WRAP's stance, a spokeswoman for the Environment Agency explained that the Agency favoured the use of ‘co-mingled' as opposed to ‘commingled'. She said: “We don't have a formal direction to use this spelling but suspect we use the hyphen version because it is easier to read.
“The way we speak English in this country would be to read the 'com' part of the word followed by the 'mingle', giving a much different sound to the word when spoken. We would rather read and speak the 'co' and 'mingle',” added the spokeswoman.
The earliest use of the term recognised in the Oxford English Dictionary was in 1602 by William Shakespeare in Hamlet, with what Mr Terrell highlights as a “variant and now obsolete spelling” of ‘co-mingled'. Mr Terrell drew attention to the first recorded use of the modern term ‘commingled' in 1626 by Sir Francis Bacon.
Steve Eminton, editor of letsrecycle.com, said: “We have always believed this is the correct way to spell commingled based on our knowledge of grammar and by consulting a range of dictionaries. We are glad to see Bruce's expert knowledge confirms this.”
Mr Terrell said: “In conclusion, no matter how it is spelt, it is reassuring to learn that our most famous authors were also fans of commingled.”