Thursday, July 06, 2006

If u cn rd ths

Wired News is carrying an Associated Press story about yet another attempt at “reforming” English spelling, by which the proponents mean turning a perfectly reasonable orthographic system on its head and turning the writing system into gibberish.

Ho-hum. Again, huh? Will they ever learn?

There have been successful spelling reforms (in , in , and in , for example). There have also been failed spelling reforms, in most recently.

The last successful spelling reform in English was promulgated by a certain , of Massachusetts, although many, on both sides of the pond, have tried repeatedly since.

What the successful attempts have in common is that they preserve the information contained in the original orthography. Changes are small and subtle and do not discard etymological clues. What the crackpot schemes have in common is precisely that they discard all etymological coding in favor of phonological coding.

Some people spell well. Some people don’t. Part of it is early training. Part of it, I’m convinced, is genetic. But throwing out the baby with the bathwater is not going to help anyone spell better. Have trouble spelling? Learn to use a dictionary. Harrumph!


Kristen King, Inkthinker said...

Thank you for telling it like it is, as usual. I'm sorry, but words have been spelled this way for quite some time now, and if you read anything, ever, you have ample opportunity to learn exactly how that is.

There are absolutely some people who for one reason or another simply are not capable of retaining certain types of information, including spelling, numbers, specific words or parts of speech, etc. These people are legitimately excused from knowing how to spell. But they recognize that spelling is something they struggle with, and by and large those people rely on dictionaries and other tools to make sure their written communication makes sense. So why does everyone else get to be lazy? Spelling doesn't need to change, folks. You just need to learn how to do it.

I once dated a guy who didn't know that "allowed" and "aloud" were two different words. For obvious reasons, it didn't work out.

Anonymous said...

When I say "Why not look it up in the dictionary?" the kids get a dismayed expression, as though what they actually heard was "Why not look it up on the summit of Mount Everest?" or "Why not look it up through the Hubble Space Telescope?"