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Is Simplified Spelling Worth Reform?

timothy posted about 8 years ago | from the a-pruh-po-or-rediculous dept.

1183

digitalhermit writes "I guess many folks are of very little brain, and big words bother them... There's a push for simpler spelling. Instead of 'weigh' it would be 'way.' 'Dictionary' would be 'dikshunery' and so forth. Dunno if it's a joke, but it seems in earnest. Mark Twain must be spinning around somewhere." Twain is often credited with the satirical call for spelling reform called "A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling," though according to Wikipedia, Twain was "actually a supporter of reform," and the piece may have been written by M.J. Shields. Benjamin Franklin was another champion of spelling reform, and even came up with a phonetic alphabet to implement such reform.

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Never going to happen (2, Funny)

IntelliAdmin (941633) | about 8 years ago | (#15668929)

You no what? It aint never gonna happen. People hate change, and unless you force them to (Like the communist Chinese switch to simplified) people will spell the way they want. (Kind of like trying to get Americans to switch to metric)
Windows Admin Tools [intelliadmin.com]

Re:Never going to happen (2, Insightful)

CharAznable (702598) | about 8 years ago | (#15668971)

j00 no wut? Its alr33dy h4ppening. j00 n33d juts to log to a CS servar LOLOLOL. Peeps r spalling teh wurdz liek they sound an hav b33n doin it fer a loong tiem. LOLOLOLLOLZORZ!!11!!!

Re:Never going to happen (5, Interesting)

IAmTheDave (746256) | about 8 years ago | (#15668972)

You no what? It aint never gonna happen.

Agreed, especially considering it was originally proposed [sdsu.edu] in 1789 by our most famous dictionary's namesake, so if he can't get it going, well then, I ask you, who really can?

Re:Never going to happen (5, Interesting)

Trifthen (40989) | about 8 years ago | (#15669134)

Part of the problem is context. In English, since there are so many words which are homonyms, information is actually transmitted by the spelling of the word. It's bad enough one word can have dozens of meanings, but then you have cases like: Weigh, way, and whey. If we compressed that to simply 'way', which way would you way the way? (In which manner would you determine the effect of gravity upon watery milk byproducts?) See the problem?

Simplified spelling destroys context and meaning in English. We would basically have to rewrite the language from scratch to avoid problems like the one outlined above. In not so simple terms: that will never happen.

Re:Never going to happen (2, Funny)

lebski (931360) | about 8 years ago | (#15669153)

Are you kidding? That's a pretty stupid thing for a dictionary maker to want to do.

Re:Never going to happen (4, Insightful)

bunions (970377) | about 8 years ago | (#15668982)

yeah. You'll never see people abbreviating things like 'you' and 'your' to 'u' and 'ur' or spelling 'through' or 'night' to 'thru' and 'nite'.

Sadly, I've seen 5th grade papers where the kid spelled through 'thru' and the teacher didn't let out a peep. :(

Re:Never going to happen (1)

Yahweh Doesn't Exist (906833) | about 8 years ago | (#15669025)

>Sadly, I've seen 5th grade papers where the kid spelled through 'thru' and the teacher didn't let out a peep. :(

isn't that standard in America? when I visited I saw a sign on a lift that said floors "x thru y". it stuck in my mind because I thought it was stupid to use a word in the first place let alone an abbreviated one when a simple dash would be far better.

Re:Never going to happen (1)

kisrael (134664) | about 8 years ago | (#15669117)

isn't that standard in America? when I visited I saw a sign on a lift that said floors "x thru y". it stuck in my mind because I thought it was stupid to use a word in the first place let alone an abbreviated one when a simple dash would be far better.

What, and have it look like "X minus Y"?

And you were looking at an elevator, not a lift.

--Kirk, ever the diplomat.

Re:Never going to happen (1)

Meagermanx (768421) | about 8 years ago | (#15669142)

I've been seeing these McDonalds signs that say "i could go for something new" or "i'm lovin' it." I've also been noticing signs that say "CRAZY DAVES FIREWORKS."
 
I get really pissed off when I read those. I think I might be a nerd.

Re:Never going to happen (1)

russ1337 (938915) | about 8 years ago | (#15669002)

and you 'mericans already killed the ENGLISH language...

Sox = Socks
Check = Cheque
Color = Colour
Favorite = Favourite
Honor = Honour

to name a few...

Re:Never going to happen (3, Funny)

nebaz (453974) | about 8 years ago | (#15669033)

and you 'mericans already killed the ENGLISH language...

Sorry, but you forgot one

"'mericans" = Merkins

Thank you

Re:Never going to happen (1)

assassinator42 (844848) | about 8 years ago | (#15669067)

I assume you're referring to the things you wear on your feet? Americans spell it socks, not sox. At least, I only see it spelled "sox" in the names of baseball teams.

Re:Never going to happen (1)

bradkittenbrink (608877) | about 8 years ago | (#15669077)

Color = Colour
Favorite = Favourite
Honor = Honour
We just hate the french, we go straight to the Latin suffixes. We thought you brits would understand that...

Re:Never going to happen (1)

Don853 (978535) | about 8 years ago | (#15669084)

Sox = Socks is a baseball team.

We still wear socks between our feet and our shoes.

Re:Never going to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669131)

Yeah, what a fag ;)

Re:Never going to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669087)

and 'football' = 'soccer'

Re:Never going to happen (1)

teasea (11940) | about 8 years ago | (#15669125)

Sox = Socks
Check = Cheque
Color = Colour
Favorite = Favourite
Honor = Honour


Socks is still spelled Socks, except for the baseball teams. (They're athletes and get a pass.) The unnecessary 'u' seemed too French; doubly so for the 'que.' You know how we feel about that!

Though when I see crap like the following, I just ignore it.

j00 no wut? Its alr33dy h4ppening. j00 n33d juts to log to a CS servar LOLOLOL. Peeps r spalling teh wurdz liek they sound an hav b33n doin it fer a loong tiem. LOLOLOLLOLZORZ!!11!!!

Re:Never going to happen (2, Insightful)

bradkittenbrink (608877) | about 8 years ago | (#15669039)

While I think you're right, I don't think you've hit the root of the problem. Assuming we could come up with a standardized pronunciation for every word across all dialects and accents of English, and then assuming we could get everyone to agree to use a simplified phonetic spelling system on those pronunciations, the system would still go obsolete in about 50 years as pronunciations start to vary again. While people are very resistant to organized change, disorganized change is somewhat inevitable. There's got to be a sociological equivalent to the second law of thermodynamics in here somewhere...

difference: (5, Insightful)

conJunk (779958) | about 8 years ago | (#15669043)

You're right, it won't/shouldn't happen, but it's not like metric:

Our spelling of words inherits from their roots. English is the kind of language the hunts down other languages and corners them dark alleys to nick their vocabularies, and that history is in the spelling. If a words is unfamilliar, its spelling is a clue to its meaning. "Simplified Spelling" robs us of an ability to learn new words easily.

TFA says that these weirdos claim that illiteracy rates would drop if spelling were simplified. Not likely. The reson folks are illiterate is that we refuse to fund our schools sufficiently, or pay teachers enough to hire qualified ones. Not to mention that (and I wish I had a cite for this handy) the fact that junk food is cheaper than fresh food with plenty of veg means that kids in the poorer parts of America tend to have diets that reduce their ability to concentrate and learn. The problem isn't the language, it's social.

Metric on the other hand was regected out of misguided nationalism, and because people tend to refuse to acknowledge a good thing when they see it.

Re:Never going to happen (2, Insightful)

omeomi (675045) | about 8 years ago | (#15669080)

You no what? It aint never gonna happen.

I can't decide whether to think your misuse of the word "no" is meant to be ironic or not, given the context...

Re:Never going to happen (1)

aramael (892701) | about 8 years ago | (#15669109)

It can happen. Dutch and Turkish both have extremely regular spelling. In the case of Turkish, this is because the entire alphabet was changed in the 20s from an Arabic script to a Latin one (i.e. they had the guts to break backward compatibility for long-term gain). Dutch spelling is regular because, well, the Dutch are like that. Polder model and so forth.

The problem English would face is that it's so widespread that anybody who pioneered regular spelling would look pretty stupid. Alas.

Re:Never going to happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669132)

But admit, it would make sense. English is absolutely horrible for guessing the pronounciation of words by just seeing them in the written form, most prominent example being "ghoti":

gh in enough, o as in women, ti as in inflation -> fish

French or German e.g. are a lot more logical in that respect, and yes I know these languages have a "historical advantage" through the central state or the "re-invention" of the language through the luther-bible, respectively.

even German hasn't really succeeded in doing so (3, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about 8 years ago | (#15669141)

There have been attempts to reform German spelling [wikipedia.org] , and they have not entirely caught on [wikipedia.org] . This is despite a few advantages that attempt has over any potential English spelling reform: 1) There are recognized organizations responsible for the language, at least officially, and they got together in a big conference, agreed upon it, and got all the relevant governments to agree; and 2) the reform was relatively minor, not nearly as enormous a deviation from established spelling norms as these proposed English reforms.

If many German newspapers and normal people simply ignore the reforms under those circumstances, what do you think the chances of English spelling reform ever catching on are?

Re:Never going to happen (0, Troll)

proverbialDan (987274) | about 8 years ago | (#15669154)

if Americans won't even switch to the blasted metric system we will never, NEVER employ this spelling reformation. No matter how logical it is to spell things how they sound, it won't happen.

Re:Never going to happen (1)

caluml (551744) | about 8 years ago | (#15669155)

If you want to troll your "intelliadmin", put it in your sig.

nothing? (5, Funny)

IAmTheDave (746256) | about 8 years ago | (#15668933)

Nuthing fore u tu see here. Pleez mov alon.

Re:nothing? (1)

MarkByers (770551) | about 8 years ago | (#15668968)

What do you mean nuffin to see? I bought front seat tickets for the flamewar that is about to break out.

I expect this article to get over 500 comments, and most of them will be -1 Troll or Flamebait. Fun!

Finally! (2, Funny)

Rob T Firefly (844560) | about 8 years ago | (#15668936)

A chance to use the metric alphabet! [jt.org]

Re:Finally! (2, Funny)

Hoi Polloi (522990) | about 8 years ago | (#15668984)

You mean the "Decibet"?

Slashdot already WAY ahead of the curve (1)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 8 years ago | (#15668937)

We are great at spelin and stuf.

Thomas Jefferson: (2, Funny)

Dis*abstraction (967890) | about 8 years ago | (#15668938)

"It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word."

I've never had any problems with spelling, myself, but I have to agree with Mr. Jefferson here.

Wrong Attribution (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669152)

Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson - Not the esteemed Thomas Jefferson.

We should standardise! (1)

MarkByers (770551) | about 8 years ago | (#15668945)

We should standardise on spelling so that we only need to use one tag: 'vapourware'.

Simplified spelling? (1)

Megaweapon (25185) | about 8 years ago | (#15668948)

lol, teh dum

Re:Simplified spelling? (1)

MarkByers (770551) | about 8 years ago | (#15669037)

If this is simplified spelling:

But for aul th hi-proefiel and skolarly eforts, the iedeea of funy-luuking but simpler spelingz didn't captivaet the masez then -- or now.

then I'm happy to stick with what we've got today. How many e's in iedeea again?

No! (1)

jpardey (569633) | about 8 years ago | (#15669108)

It's way cool!

This is exactly what America needs. (4, Insightful)

XorNand (517466) | about 8 years ago | (#15668949)

This is exactly what America needs: something that allows the populace to think even less in their everyday lives. The aversion to expending a little extra effort seems to be a uniquely American thing. We invent all of these machines to save us from having to perform manual labor. Then we all get fat and develop health problems from lack of physical activity. So now we pack it into gyms where we run in place, climb fake staircases, and lift heavy pieces of iron up and down for no useful purpose. Mindboggling. Taking mental shortcuts will be just as beneficial.

Re:This is exactly what America needs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669092)

You know, you've got one hell of a point there. By that logic, to encourage more thought by Americans, we should have some sort of Complicated Spelling Reform. Increase the psilent letpters. Phormulate new spellings for words, in order to make things more complex and hence (by your thought process) to get the stupid lazy Americans to think more.

Since when is efficiency in language (and hence thought) a bad thing?

Re:This is exactly what America needs. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669101)

There's always going to be a current of Anti-Intellectualism in any country predominantly governed by or giving sympathy to theocratic or conservative ideals.

While this does not necessarily inherently inhibit the natural progression of the nation, it will, if taken to extremes, lead to this sort of utter tripe.

As an example, religious people in the United States simply abhor the idea of Evolution and view its teaching as an un-American attack on religion. This, however disheartening, is not, though, actually going to bar a student from engaging in, for example, competent business with others.

Taken beyond that to a new extreme such as this though... well, now we have a problem.

Re:This is exactly what America needs. (1, Interesting)

hunterx11 (778171) | about 8 years ago | (#15669133)

What has spelling got to do with thinking? Some great writers are poor spellers, and some poor spellers are great writers. If any American stereotype is being fulfilled here, it is that they are loud and opinionated despite being ill-informed (assuming that you are American).

Stupid lazy... desk workers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669146)

Yeah, there's no need for people with 8-hour desk jobs to go to the gym. You get much better cardio and weight-training holding your computer and running while you type, fat American desk-jockeys!

Insightful? Really?

Most other countries did it two centuries ago (3, Interesting)

Hoplite3 (671379) | about 8 years ago | (#15669156)

Seriously. Look at the explosion of diacritical marks. Spelling reform (in the limited sense of having only one way to write each sound) was carried out in the 1800's. All spelling reforms will cause words to look funny, if not stupid. This is because, to the chagrin of middle schoolers, people judge your intelligence and content based on spelling.

Reform isn't a mental shortcut, its a good idea to encourage correct communication in a language with world-wide significance. If the Anglosphere could promulgate a change in spelling, it will improve commerce and reduce misery for students around the world. It isn't just an American thing, it's a rational thing.

But coordination is key. A change must be made by England, Australia, India, South Africa, and America simultaneously for best effect. The difficulty is that the question of which letter groups make the same sound depends on accent, so any change will require compromise. It's doubtless this is the reason why languages such as Croat could change spelling quickly, while English lags behind with an unravelling of standard spellings and a profusion of meaningless letter groups.

Not again (4, Funny)

luder (923306) | about 8 years ago | (#15668953)

(sigh) Don't they ever learn? From this page [wordpress.com] :

"The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the European Union rather than German, which was the other possibility.

As part of the negotiations, the British Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5- year phase-in plan that would become known as "Euro-English".

In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour of "k". This should klear up konfusion, and keyboards kan have one less letter. There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome "ph" will be replaced with "f". This will make words like fotograf 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double letters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horibl mes of the silent "e" in the languag is disgrasful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer people wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th" with "z" and "w" with "v".

During ze fifz yer, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and after ziz fifz yer, ve vil hav a reil sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech oza. Ze drem of a united urop vil finali kum tru.

Und efter ze fifz yer, ve vil al be speking German like zey vunted in ze forst plas."

Re:Not again (1, Troll)

LordKazan (558383) | about 8 years ago | (#15669076)

clever abuse of the major phonetic differences between the germanic language english and the germanic language german :D

german is honestly the superior language IMHO - rules are solid, it structurally allows for more interesting usage

(and german is my second language)

Re:Not again (1)

orzetto (545509) | about 8 years ago | (#15669122)

Where's the "-1 Karmawhore piggybacking on a blog plagiarizing an age-old apocryphal Twain script" mod option when you need it?

I like the idea... (-1, Flamebait)

ModernGeek (601932) | about 8 years ago | (#15668956)

...simply because it would rid of us snobbery that people with higher education have over the uneducated as spelling would not have to be an exquisite skill anymore. Why should we have one more barrier between the rich/poor or educated/uneducated?

Re:I like the idea... (2, Informative)

NineNine (235196) | about 8 years ago | (#15669073)

Last I checked, reading and writing (including spelling) is taught in the US at around 6-8 years old. There's no education excuse in the US for ANYBODY not being able to spell. Proper spelling is not a college course.

Re:I like the idea... (1)

IAmTheDave (746256) | about 8 years ago | (#15669093)

Why should we have one more barrier between the rich/poor or educated/uneducated?

Because it wouldn't work anyway. Spelling requires a knowledge of the roman character set - which is where like 99% of illiteracy begins.

Now, my spelling stinks. Partially, because I type at an incredible rate of speed, partially because I don't care to check over my Slashdot posts. But my ability to spell "word" and "wurd" still require an introduction to the language, understanding the phoenetics of the language, the letters, basic sentence structure, etc.

Changing the spelling of wurds isn't going to suddenly eliminate illiteracy.

Re:I like the idea... (2, Interesting)

mrxak (727974) | about 8 years ago | (#15669110)

Because it's better to educate people than leave them in ignorance. That's why we have public education.

Re:I like the idea... (1)

x2A (858210) | about 8 years ago | (#15669128)

"Why should we have one more barrier..."

Because the barrier often manifests itself between those people who give a damn, and those who don't.

As for the rich/poor thing, shouldn't we be looking at bringing them up, rather than dumbing the rest down?

speling erorr (1)

rongage (237813) | about 8 years ago | (#15668958)

hookt ahn fonix reely werkd fer me

Hasn't American been trying this for a while? (1, Funny)

caluml (551744) | about 8 years ago | (#15668970)

Hasn't American been trying this for a while? Night -> nite. Colour -> color. Laser -> Lazer. Licence, terrorize, etc. I don't even know how to spell licence the correct English way now. Damn you!

Re:Hasn't American been trying this for a while? (1)

Dadoo (899435) | about 8 years ago | (#15669150)

"Laser" is an acronym. Changing it to "lazer" would be like changing "SCSI" to "SCSY".

What a Brilliant Idea !!! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15668976)

Let's just go ahead and dumb-down the whole friggin world to the obvious level of illiteracy that it really is... and advertise that fact profusely in all our writings.

Blechhh!

I don't like it (1)

treeves (963993) | about 8 years ago | (#15668977)

Dik-shoon-err-ee?
That's lewd-ick-rus.

Speling riform (2, Funny)

Kelson (129150) | about 8 years ago | (#15668978)

Yu shud bi shur tu rid this artikel on speling riform [upenn.edu] . It wil mayk yu laf, i hop.

Simple solution (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15668983)

A simple solution involves solving these spelling problems around the world. It's a simple, six letter word.

It's called SCHOOL.

I think you mean... (2, Funny)

ModernGeek (601932) | about 8 years ago | (#15669032)

... skewl

It is actually called SKOOL (1)

jameskojiro (705701) | about 8 years ago | (#15669034)

Get it right....

And in the future for Valentine's day we will be handing out hot dogs and weiners instead of candy....

European English - old forward.. (-1, Redundant)

groovy.ambuj (870307) | about 8 years ago | (#15668987)

The European Union commissioners have announced that agreement
has been reached to adopt English as the preferred language for
European communications, rather than German, which was the other
possibility. As part of negotiations, her Majesty Government
conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and
has accepted a five-year phased plan for what will be known as
EuroEnglish (Euro for short).

In the first year, "s" will be used instead of the soft "c".
Sertainly, sivil servants will reseive this news with joy. Also,
the hard "c" will be replased with "k". Not only will this klear
up konfusion, but typewriters kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when
the troublesome "ph" will be replased by "f". This will make
words like "fotograf" 20 per sent shorter.

In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be
expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are
possible. Governments will enkourage the removal of double
letters, which have always been a deterent to akurate speling.
Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of silent "e"s in the
languag is disgraful, and they would go.

By the forth year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as
replasing "th" by "z" and "w" by "v". During ze fifz year ze
unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords kontaining "ou" and similar
changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

After zis fifz year, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer
vil be no mor trobls or difikultis and evrivum vil find it ezi tu
understand ech ozer. Ze drem vil finali kum tru.

language reform (1)

LordKazan (558383) | about 8 years ago | (#15668989)

If we want to do major reform of the english language to simplify it's spelling we should perhaps restrengthen the germanic identity of the langage - reform pronounciation and spelling, bring bad solid language rules with almost no exceptions - use consistent pluralization rules

-a goes to -ae: ie supernovae, larvae
-is goes to -ii: virii, penii
some other things that I cannot think of at this moment

Re:language reform (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669063)

you just strengthened the romantic identity of the language instead of the germanic. oops.

Re:language reform (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669104)

We could start by learning to spell "its". :-(

oops - proof reading++ (1)

LordKazan (558383) | about 8 years ago | (#15669107)

s/bad solid/back solid

no, British English makes sense (4, Interesting)

Yahweh Doesn't Exist (906833) | about 8 years ago | (#15668990)

the prefix + stem + suffix model is far better than this phonetic bullshit.

e.g. centre, centripetal, centrifuge are all connected concepts and share the stem "centr".

the American spelling "center" has the stem "cent" which suggests center is something to do with 100; a center is a machine/person that makes cents?

you only make things more difficult for yourself in the long run if you wimp out of learning things properly in the beginning.

Re:no, British English makes sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669089)

...a center is a machine/person that makes cents?

Of course it makes sense.

Oops, I mean 'cents'.
Or is it 'sens'?
Um, senz?

Someone's going to need to codify the new approach and we're back to the original problem. So what's the point?

Wimping out is the Great American Way (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669149)

Who was it that said American will always do what's right, after they've tried everything else first?

NuSpeak (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15668991)

I for one welcome our NuSpeak overlords. They're double-plus good!

Aggressive refactoring .. (1)

Tx (96709) | about 8 years ago | (#15669009)

Aggressive refactoring of the language would be nice. But IMHO you also ought to ensure words are unique i.e. the example given in the summary, changing "weigh" to "way", wouldn't work because then you've just introduced another meaning for "way" - you've just swapped one confusion for another. So we should eliminate words that are phonetic dupes, rather than rationalising their spelling.

Of course this'll never wash anyway, simply because people are used to the language as it is, and there's so much stuff already written that people would have to learn two sets of spellings for decades.

Re:Aggressive refactoring .. (4, Insightful)

gilroy (155262) | about 8 years ago | (#15669112)


But IMHO you also ought to ensure words are unique


Wasn't eliminating words the modus operandi of Newspeak? :)

its not about spelling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669010)

its not about spelling .. its about simplification.

I for one would like to dump the 'i before e' crap, and all those damn silent letters..

Like 'would' .. honestly, why not not just spell it 'wood' ? many languages have the same words for different concepts, and ou need to use the context of the conversation to determine which you should (shood?) use..

SIC Idea (1)

FrankDrebin (238464) | about 8 years ago | (#15669013)

Man evry [sic] sentance [sic] wood [sic] look stoopid [sic] with awl [sic] thows [sic] sic [sic] notes.

Past spelling reform (1)

nero4wolfe (671100) | about 8 years ago | (#15669014)

There actually was a past effort at spelling reform in the US that "succeeded"; though it was quite a while ago. It's one source of the differences in American and British spelling; honor vs honour, etc.

My memories vague, but I think the first pushes for general literacy in the American colonies, with McGuffies (?) readers, etc. tried to "improve" British spelling. This was described in a cable tv show I once saw on the history and evolution of the English language.

English (5, Insightful)

Distinguished Hero (618385) | about 8 years ago | (#15669017)

Due to the way that written was English developed, it is one of the few Indo-European languages to not be written in a phonetic manner (if you only know English, you may not completely comprehend what this means). That being said, now that English is an international language, and a huge portion of the world's population is already familiar with the way it is written, fragmenting and reforming it at this point is an asinine idea. Furthermore, there exist languages which are even less phonetic than English (e.g. Mandarin ("Chinese"), the Kanji portion of Japanese) and those people manage to do fine.

P.S. Implementing this idea would also mean that people would soon lose the ability to read the vast body of works already written in English; a huge translation effort would have to be undertaken, and a lot of works would still remain untranslated. Such a loss is not acceptable (unless you have Orwellian intentions in mind).

Twain was not for simple spelling...crap article (1)

lambadomy (160559) | about 8 years ago | (#15669028)

Here's one quick link indicating that Twain was not for simple spelling:

http:\\www.twainquotes.com\19071210.html

It's a NYTimes article from 1907, with Twain commenting on Andrew Carnegie, who was for spelling reform. A snippet:


"The trouble with him is that he attacked orthography at the wrong end. He attacked the symptoms and not the cause of the disease. He ought to have gone to work on the alphabet. There's not a vowel in it with a definite value, and not a consonant that you can hitch anything to. Look at the 'h's' distributed all around. There's 'Gherkin.' What are you going to do with the 'h' in that? It's one thing I admire the English for; they just don't mind anything about them at all.

"But look at the 'pneumatics' and the 'pneumonias' and the rest of them. A real reform would settle them once and for all, and wind up by giving us an alphabet that we wouldn't have to spell with at all, instead of this present silly alphabet, which I fancy was invented by a drunken thief. Why, there isn't a man who doesn't have to throw out about fifteen hundred words a day when he writes his letters because he can't spell them! It's like trying to do a St. Vitus's dance with wooden legs.

"Now I'll bet there isn't a man here who can spell 'pterodactyl,' not even the prisoner at the bar. I'd like to hear him try once - but not in public, for it's too near Sunday when all extravagant histrionic entertainments are barred. I'd like to hear him try in private, and when he got through trying to spell 'pterodactyl' you wouldn't know whether it was a fish or a beast or a bird, and whether it flew on its legs or walked with its wings.

"Let's get Mr. Carnegie to reform the alphabet, and we'll pray for him if he'll take the risk."


Sox (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669036)

We are already living with the effects of this from the first time they tried it. The Red Sox and White Sox get there odd-ball spelling from the simplified spelling of "socks", i.e., "sox".

Franklin's h'alphabet... (1)

mopslik (688435) | about 8 years ago | (#15669040)

One of the problems I see with Franklin's alphabet is that there are a number of letters that, to me, look way too similar. Take a look at 'h' (as in "Hi") vs. 'longer serif h' (as in "THin") vs. 'longer serif but straighter h' (as in THey) vs. 'curly h' (as in "SHare"). I understand that all of these combinations involve the letter 'h', but they'd be awfully hard to discern, especially in my sloppy handwriting. Couldn't he have made a few other shapes instead, or at least made them somewhat relate to the other letters they are joined with -- e.g. for "THey" maybe make an 'h'-type shape with a cross through it, as you would a 't'?

skrable skores (1)

WinEveryGame (978424) | about 8 years ago | (#15669041)

This may push down on my skrable skores..

Be grateful (1)

jaqen (928157) | about 8 years ago | (#15669046)

People who have a problem with English spelling should be thankful that the Welsh didn't take over the world.

It's already here (1)

APLowman (968256) | about 8 years ago | (#15669048)

xe intirnet alredy did xis! Soon we wil al use simbols insted of leters. 1!|3 7h!5

This is founded on a common misconception... (5, Insightful)

gilroy (155262) | about 8 years ago | (#15669051)

... That the written language "should" reflect the spoken language. We make the unconscious (but unsupportable) connection that "written English" and "spoken English" are the same language, but they're not. They just happen to have easy mappings -- not as easy as these folks want, apparently, but nonetheless, not too difficult.

For example, when you speak, what do you do to separate words form one another? The surprising answer is, nothing. Take a tape of ordinary conversation. Run it through an oscilloscope. Look for the breaks. You won't find them. We "blur" words together in sentences. (I suspect this is why anyone speaking a different tongue always sounds like he/she is speaking very quickly... your brain hasn't learned to put the "spaces" back in by context.)

And that's for words. It's worse for letters. In an oscillograph of the word "bat", you won't see discrete units for "b", "a", and "t". It's just one sound. Heck, the "letters" we pronounce depend on what comes before or after.

The people behind this movement also act as if pronunciation is fixed, while of course, it is not. Some of the "nonsense" words they offer up as looking the same but not rhyming did rhyme, once. Then the spoken language evolved and, since the written language is considerably less plastic (an advantage, I would maintain), the oddness is frozen in.

Finally, when we adopt spelling that "looks like" the pronunciation... whose pronunciation will it look like? Bostoners and New Yorkers and Atlanteans pronounce many words in different ways. Who gets to be the official "correct" one?

Moving in favor of spoken English won't help literacy. I suspect, albeit without proof, that such a move would hurt it.

Oh the irony! (1)

WhiteBandit (185659) | about 8 years ago | (#15669054)

Hah, does anyone see the irony in the submitter complaining about shorter spellings... and then he goes on to use "dunno"? :-P

"I guess many folks are of very little brain, and big words bother them... There's a push for simpler spelling. Instead of 'weigh' it would be 'way.' 'Dictionary' would be 'dikshunery' and so forth. Dunno if it's a joke, but it seems in earnest. Mark Twain must be spinning around somewhere."

Yu no wat? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669060)

Awltho English iz awlredy prity standord, artikl iz ryt, it cood b improovd.

Yay for Nuspeek!

"dunno" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#15669066)

Well, I don't know if you noticed but the word "dunno" was used in the posting instead of the phrase "I do not know." Apparently, short hand language is more commonplace than the author of the post realized.

Won't somebody think of the children!!! (1)

Armchair Dissident (557503) | about 8 years ago | (#15669068)

Those in favor of simplified spelling say children would learn faster and illiteracy rates would drop. Opponents say a new system would make spelling even more confusing.

This is clearly not a serious attempt at arguing for "simplified spelling": this one line alone is a paradoy of the "won't someone think of the children!!!" argument (argumentum ad libererum? Seriously, there's got to be a recognised logical fallacy here with a latin name. If not, there should be. Dagnamit.)

It CAN'T happen (3, Insightful)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | about 8 years ago | (#15669074)

I gave this a lot of thought one time. Everybody wants this and thinks it's a good idea, but there's a fundamental reason that it's simply impossible to reform spelling into a logical phonetic system:

People pronounce words differently.

Think about it... would it be to-may-to or to-mah-to? And that's just for starters. Factor in regional dialects and different vowal pronounciations. It simply can't happen.

Formerly known as ... ?? (1)

tsandholm (266502) | about 8 years ago | (#15669081)

And, while we're at it; lets redo the entire alphabet, but instead use symbols now.
So now when I say the alphabet, I can say ...
" and ... is the letter formerly known as A " (I'll bet Prince is big on this!) *LOL*

English spelling is actually quite simple... (1)

dghcasp (459766) | about 8 years ago | (#15669082)

... as long as you realize that words are spelled the way they were pronouced back in the 15th century, before the great vowel shift [wikipedia.org]

Might as well replace To, Two, and Too with "2" (1)

ScentCone (795499) | about 8 years ago | (#15669090)

I mean reely. Its rich white conservatives with there natsi spelling - their to worried about preserving power for they're corporations.

But seriously folks: this smacks of the silly ebonics episode. If someone were to really have a go at removing the leftover Germanic, Scandinavian, Gaelic, Italian, Olde English and other bits of slightly complex spelling from the language, that would just be the opportunity for everyone with a political axe to grind to... well, grind.

Spelling variations in phonetically similar words provde instant visual context. Consolidating things like "weigh" and "way" is nothing more than lowering the intellectual bar and our collective expectations for what a young mind can (and should) do.

If they think it's unfair to expect people to understand that "cough" sounds like "koff" instead of "koo," then imagine how unfair it is that millions of people in the country that only speak Spanish are having to learn to conjugate verbs in English. Or, not, actually, in my neighborhood. I'm starting to feel more like a conjugal visitor every day.

Can we please stop citing Wikipedia? (0, Offtopic)

silverbax (452214) | about 8 years ago | (#15669102)

I know this is off-topic, but can we STOP CITING Wikipedia as a reliable authority? Wikipedia has been proven to be riddled with inaccuracies, which is only natural since half of the editors are in middle school.

Evolution of languages (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | about 8 years ago | (#15669129)

Sometimes I think the various languages came about, not by trying to simplify communication, but by trying to obfuscate and hide meaning from outsiders, like a code, like children or gangsters creating a code language to talk about things without parents or authorities understanding it.

Did anybody else see the ad? Priceless (1)

gd23ka (324741) | about 8 years ago | (#15669130)



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Like with the metric system? (1)

Roadmaster (96317) | about 8 years ago | (#15669135)

This is the country that refuses to adopt the metric system out of nothing but stubbornness, and you expect them to actually reform the english language into something more sensical? PLEASE! at least the article is honest and all the "reform" example paragraphs are actually quite hilarious.

At Least Use the International Phonetic Alphabet (4, Insightful)

Fritzerei (516102) | about 8 years ago | (#15669136)

This is totally absurd. Simplifying English spelling would eradicate the link between words and etymologies, causing words to become mere signifiers of sounds. Words possess heaps of cultural significance that implicate literature, poetry, performing arts, and even visual arts. And practically speaking, what are we to do w/homonyms?

The simplification of Chinese characters represents a similar reformation, but at least traces of etymology remain in tact. A more accurate analogy to this proposal would be if the Chinese were to exclusively use Pinyin [wikipedia.org] instead of Chinese characters -- simplified or traditional. Ask any Chinese-speaking individual what she'd think of the idea, and she'd say it's malarky.

If Americans really wanted to do this -- simplify spelling to eliminate inconsistencies between words and sound -- it would be a slightly better idea to make everyone use the IPA [wikipedia.org] at least.

Phonetic spelling is a bad idea. (1)

Julian Morrison (5575) | about 8 years ago | (#15669137)

The core problem of spelling reform is that English spelling is not random. It's a code that has a dual purpose - as a phonetic reminder (not a purely phonetic encoding) and as an etymological hint. English words carry data on their origins and hints as to their meaning, very much like the Chinese system of Hanzi, such that a word can be at least partially guessed. A lot of that is in the spelling, rather than the sound. (Also, again like Chinese, regional pronunciation can vary, while the spelling stays constant.)

In believe that the richness of multi-contextual information in English spelling brings it closer to the way the words are conceived and stored mentally than any pure phonetic rendering. Have you ever read prose presented in a dense, spelled out accent? You have to "sound it out" to understand it, and some words may evade parsing until you finally guess them some minutes later. You can't anymore just scan with the eye, and read as fast as you can see.

Accents (1)

AtlanticCarbon (760109) | about 8 years ago | (#15669138)

Problem is that people say English words in different accents, and these accents change over time. So if you have phonetic spelling it will make less sense to someone with a different accents. Also, the standard spellings of a word tells you a lot about its history and therefore its meaning.

A silly idea (2, Insightful)

geekmansworld (950281) | about 8 years ago | (#15669140)

There's absolutely no sense in doing this. The proponents of such reform are ignorant of the fact that a "phonetic spelling" would depend largely on the particular speech dialect used. English is vastly used and varies widely. There's rhotic and non-rhotic accents of varying kinds in the United States, Canada, England, Wales, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Scotland... not to mention all the places English is spoken regularly as a second language. It's both ignorant and arrogant to assume that one can "correct" the English language oneself after hundreds of years of natural evolution.

HOW ABOUT THIS??? (2, Insightful)

Laura_DilDio (874259) | about 8 years ago | (#15669144)

Try starting with the metric system first. There's much more to be gained by switching to the metric system than by the further dumbing down of the English language to accommodate a bunch of dolts.

Yesh! (1)

Ice Wewe (936718) | about 8 years ago | (#15669145)

I say itsha about tyme people started learning to spell the simple waysh!

Phonetics is only half the problem..... (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | about 8 years ago | (#15669148)

Spelling often clarifies context/meaning. Phonetic spelling is awful vague in many cases.

I have to to many to choose from.

I have two too many to choose from.

Or how about this?

I killed the bor.

Do I mean I killed the Boar (wild pig), or Bore (someone who is boring?).

The problem is phonetics don't keep the word origins in mind. English is a conglomeration of Germanic, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Celtic, Gaelic and many other language families. It is both, its strength and its weakness.

I know right by looking that "Plumb" comes from the Greek word for lead (the element Pb) used in pipes. Whereas I know that plum (the fruit) comes from some other language. It also helps us track the changes to the cultural meanings of words through the years. If we go with phonetic spelling for everything, much of that might and probably will be lost.
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