Don’t you believe it! There are are many exceptions to the rule we learned in grammar school, and there are more than “or as sounded as ‘ay’ as in neighbor and weigh.”  Here are some exceptions identified by Bob Cunningham at the site http://alt-usage-english.org.

  • Bob says the rule doesn’t apply to digraphs like in deity and science.  A digraph is a pair of letters representing a single speech sound like the “th” in path.  So, I would argue that these two words don’t contain digraphs at all.  I have always pronounced them as if the subject vowels represent two separate sounds.  I say that the rule doesn’t apply when the vowels make up separate syllables.  Therefore, it does apply to piece but not to conscience.
  • The rule doesn’t apply to recent foreign imports to the English language like gneiss, dreidel and enceinte.
  • The rule also doesn’t apply to the large number of plurals of words ending in “cy” (fallacies, frequencies, vacancies, etc.)
  • And these: codeine, eider, either, feisty, foreign, forfeit, heifer, heigh-ho, height, heinous, heir, heist, neither, seismic, seize, sheik, surfeit, weir and weird.

Can you think of others?