Horrifying…Just Horrifying

Oh my God, this made my hair stand on end. I cannot begin to describe how incredibly appalled I am by this concept. In fact, I meant to post about this earlier in the summer and for some reason it fell off my radar within the WordPress Dashboard until the other day.

The Simplified Spelling Society has been campaigning for a century to make the spelling of the English language easier and recently picketed a spelling bee in the U.S. to make their point.

Masha Bell, a member of the society and author of Understanding English Spelling, believes that reform of the spelling of the English language could help children learn to read and make life easier for some adults too.

Learn – lern
Slow – slo
Beautiful – butiful

Prof Vivian Cook, a linguist, expert in second language learning and author of Accomodating Brocolli in the Cemetary, believes changing spellings would be unnecessary, expensive and could harm children’s ability to read.

So yeah the remainder of the post is the debate between the two women. Go read it. It’s shocking.

I am so astonished, dismayed, and horrified by this idea that it renders me all but speechless.

Now I am a college instructor. Anybody who’s been around my blog for a while will have heard me mention it from time to time, grousing about the horrific spelling and grammar of many of my students. It is stated clearly in my syllabus that there will be half a point counted off for every error in every submitted assignment, which doesn’t alarm my students until I start actually counting off and they realize how many errors they make. I had one excellent post on discussion board last week (worth 5 total points) that was worthy of the full point value. It was excellently argued and supported. He got a 3.5 because he didn’t know how to use a comma.

It’s bad enough to have to deal with students who try to use texting or instant messaging abbreviations in class assignments (yes, this does happen). But reading (or rereading actually) this post just makes me want to weep. I cannot possibly describe how ignorant these people look. Butiful indeed. Bah. They look stupid and uneducated. What they propose is essentially to grant permission for people to be lazy and not bother to learn how to do something properly. I feel the same way about these people who want to allow Ebonics in school. For the love of Pete! Anybody can learn proper English! Personally, I’m not a huge fan of phonics. My spelling was hellacious up until about high school because, yes, English is not generally a phonetic language. But you know how I finally learned to spell? I read. All of those years of spelling words in school meant absolutely nothing because without reading them and using them on any regular basis, they didn’t stick.

The Simplified Spelling Society’s time would be better spent devising ways in which to encourage reading. It’s the only really good way to teach spelling and grammar–frequent exposure to the written language. Make people love to read again, such that they take time out of their hurry up lives of texting, instant messaging, and constant TV watching and internet browsing and actually, I don’t know, use their brain.

I will, no doubt, offend someone or other with this post. Please no hateful comments. I am entitled to my opinion just as the SSS is to theirs.

31 thoughts on “Horrifying…Just Horrifying

  1. U say: ‘The Simplified Spelling Society’s time would be better spent devising ways in which to encourage reading.’

    Thats exactly what its ames ar!!!

    U may very wel hav masterd our stupid spelling and lernd to enjoy reeding, but one-fifth (aka 20%) of ALL English speeking peeples worldwide ar flummoxd by our spelling at a formativ age (ie, about 7-11 ) when they ar being taut reeding and riting.

    Unlike u, they cant cope with its ireggularity and unpredictability. They see ‘lead’ as leed and ‘led’ as led, but then find its not ‘ read’ and ‘red’. Etc. After this frustration, and always having to ask the teecher, or thare mate, or being markd incorrect so menny times, they giv up.

    They becum our adult ilitrats, all 20%+ of them. If we want to mach uther nations whose languages hav sensible spellings which dont pose thees problems for lerners, we should be prepared to change our spelling convention.

    Thats all it is: a convention. It is not a holy cow. Its not eeven set in stone. It can be changed, in fact has been, sloly over the yeers. But not fast enuf to help our lerners. We need to step on the gas.

  2. I hardly think we should desecrate a language centuries in the making based on 20% of the population. We would do better to reform the methods used to teach reading. From a developmental standpoint, people only read phonetically in the beginning when they are learning. There should come a time when you look at a word and know simply what that word is from exposure. The problem is not the language itself. That 20% of people are perfectly capable of learning English as it stands, but they need some additional methods of learning that they simply are not getting. We need to reform education, not the language itself.

  3. I’m not going to go read the article because…I just don’t have the time to waste on it, so this might have been brought up in the article or whatever.

    Our language includes a fascinating sampling of the words of other languages. We’ve come to amass so many words, many of which have the same or similar meanings, that our thesaurus is a treasure trove of words with beautiful shades and degrees of meaning and connotation.

    But how does one learn all these words? Once you get past the basics, there comes a time when you just don’t know all the words. And the two ways in which most of us come to understand new words is from the context in which we read them, and also from studying the words themselves- yeah, the spelling. That whole prefix, root, suffix, where did this word come from, what words are similar thing. Yeah, um, if you take away the spelling, how are those of us who use the spelling as a learning tool supposed to learn new words?

    Or do we just drop them because they’re too hard? Part of our new simplification plan because it will level the playing field for everyone?

    I don’t consider myself an intellectual or an elitist. In fact, I’m often irritated (and you, Kettle, know that’s a mild word) by people who seem to try very hard to make their writing too complicated to be easily understood by the masses. Reading isn’t something that comes very easily for me. I’m one of those people who often has to go back and over a sentence because I read “read” as “reed” the first time when it should have been “red”. This is the way I process, and it does make reading slower and more difficult for me.

    I do it anyway, and in the periods of my life where I’ve done it a lot, it’s been easier for me. During the periods of my life where I was forced into trying to read stuff that I absolutely hated and therefore didn’t want to read anything at all, reading in general became harder. It’s just like everything else.

    (If you want to tip holy cows, I vote for finding more literature that might have a bit more enjoyment value for girls. Tackle the fact that Jane Austen is good and challenging reading and never appeared in my curriculum. Challenge the constant “greatest book” surveys that include one or two female authors out of 100. But that’s my deal.)

    I’m sorry for the 20% who find reading so challenging. I really am, and I would like to see them helped. But I have to say that I think it’s a lot more fair to the rest of us, and to the 20%, to work on their education rather than tear down and dumb down our language. Yes, it does evolve. Let it do so at it’s own rate.

  4. Sorry for the 20%, but let’s be fair to the rest of us?

    Do you have any idea how much it costs the rest of us in special education programs, in losses to businesses who are forced to hire functionally illiterate people because of the lack of literate ones, of taxes to support our prisons because they are full of dysfunctional, disenfranchised people who never learned much of anything because they were so discouraged at such an early age by ridiculous spellings such as day/they, man/many, turn/learn, well the list goes on and on. These spellings lead many children to conclude that they themselves must be stupid, or there must be something grossly wrong with their sense of logic, so they give up on learning reading, spelling, math, science, all learning.

    How can we afford to have a society with this many illiterates? A democracy cannot function without a well-educated populace, and a person who cannot read misses out on a lot of important learning. Without their participation, we don’t have a true democracy, and it crumbles, not just for the 20%, but for all of us.

    Let’s straighten out our spelling just as most other modern languages do on a regular basis, so we don’t have to pour so many resources into learning to read and write. In non-English-speaking first world countries learning to read and write is mastered completely in the first year or two of school. Learning new words? Never a problem in those countries; for the rest of their lives, those children know how to pronounce a new word they’ve never heard before just by seeing it written, and how to spell a word they’ve never seen written just by hearing its sounds.That’s what the alphabet is for. Let’s use it properly.

    I’m an English teacher too, and hold two degrees in Linguistics. I am not advocating dumbing down anything; I am advocating lifting out of the ludicrous.

  5. I agree with the idea of spelling reform (those with a closed mind stop reading now) as I am concerned about the social and finantial costs of having 20% illiterate in our communities. We are not talking about – or even desecrating – the language but talking about introducing more regularity into a spelling system. It is in the nature of languages & spelling systems to change over time anyway – it is just that we need to plan for it rather than to let it become even more chaotic than it is now. Most European languages have had upgrades to their spelling systems and they do not have the illiteracy problems that we in the anglo-phone world have. My guess is that we can go on upgrading teaching techniques but while we have an antique spelling system (pretty much fixed mid-18th century) we will continue to see large percentages of our children fail.

    P.S. Prof Vivian Cook is a man – I’ve met him; Viviane/Vivienne would be women. The name is sometimes spelled with a “y”too. It seems even the most literate of us fall into spelling traps.

  6. Did not know Vivian was a man. Interesting. That’s not a name I was aware was for either gender. In the United States, Vivian (with that spelling) is traditionally a woman’s name. In any event, it is natural that a language evolve over time but the idea of making mass, radical changes to a language would cause considerable difficulty for the 80% of us who read, write, and spell with traditional English. I do not read phonetically at all (came up through school with the whole language approach), and I can barely understand the passage written in in the style of the proposed change. It doesn’t make logical sense for a mass overhaul.

  7. Nigel-
    I found your P.S. a bit snarky. I thought I would point out that Vivian Vance was the actress who played Ethel Mertz on the “I Love Lucy” series. There are a lot of people who have the opening credits to those reruns embedded in their consciousness who would easily make the same assumption. Additionally, Vivian Liberto was the first wife of singer Johnny Cash, and I’m sure there are other examples of women whose names have been spelled this way. I would hardly call this a spelling trap, but more of an honest mistake based on people’s prior experience with the name.

  8. I’m not a fan of planning and laying down the law about language. I have a very practical reason why I think an attempt to regularize (regularise?) the English language phonetically is pissing in the wind.

    1)Double letters. Do we abolish them? Some change the sound, most don’t. If we abolish the ones that don’t change the sound of the word, we’re introducing a new irregularity into the language.

    2)English is spoken in a handful of countries as a first language, and in many more as a second language. Is it plausible to suggest that we can get all these countries to adhere to a uniform set of guidelines? If anything, it seems to me that as more people learn the language the more variations there will be. There are already a lot of differences between English, US-ian, Irish and Australian varieties – and lots more within them, too.

    3) Connected to point 2. If we decide we want to base written English on spoken English, the question has to be asked, _whose_ spoken English? ‘Should butter’ be ‘budder’, ‘buttah’, or “bu|ah” with a glottal stop? For speakers (like me) of a rhotic dialectic, spelling ‘budder’ as ‘buddah’ would be as irrational as spelling ‘Knight’ the way it is spelled – a new reader or a weak reader would have no idea how to pronounce it. In short, to standardize the way we write it phonetically, we’d have to standardize the way people world-wide speak. Not sure I like that idea.

  9. Great point prospectus! I hadn’t thought of that, but it’s very true. Even within countries or STATES there are wide regional variations in pronunciation. I had a student last semester who repeatedly spelled the word “on” as “own” (despite correction). Presumably this is how she pronounced it. I’m from the same area and I say “on” as it is intended to be pronounced. It really wouldn’t make sense to standardize spelling phonetically due to the complete lack of standardization of the way it is spoken.

  10. Where is the proof that this would improve literacy? Belief should not immediately translate to public policy. I *believe* that monogamy within marriage and abstinence before marriage would cut down on sexually transmitted diseases, but does that mean we should teach sex ed that way? The proof so far is that that style of sex ed doesn’t make a dent in rates of transmission, so I’ll go with what’s proven when voting about tax dollars’ allocation.

    The number one predictor of scholastic achievement is parental involvement. Children whose parents read to them are better readers. It seems to me that instead of completely revamping our spelling structure (which is ridiculous and completely implausible), we should support nonprofit organizations that focus on improving adult literacy and encourage parental involvement in children’s education.

    When I came home from the hospital with my newborn daughter, we were given a wrapped gift on our way out. Inside was a copy of Peter Rabbit, with a note from a local society whose sole goal is to increase the prevalence of parents’ reading to children. I believe an organization founded by Dolly Parton also sends children’s books to families that have trouble making ends meet. I would prefer we look into these concrete ways of improving literacy rates rather than endorsing an unproven overhaul of the entire system simply because we feel sorry for those who are functionally illiterate.

    In a nutshell, I think if you *truly* care about the fate of others, you will look into realistic solutions and get involved, rather than spending endless time and energy trumpeting a silly “solution” that will never be.

  11. Apologies for introducing snark into your blog. (I’m an anglo and not a Lucy/J.Cash aficionado – no excuse). We already have much spelling diversity (US, Anglo, texting etc). David Crystal -another Prof – suggests that 25% (!) of the dictionary have variants. For the 80% – save for the odd gender confusion – it doesn’t make for a whole lot of problems for the majority of us will work out what is being said. As spelling is already in flux (and dumded down) if we were to introduce rational alternatives we would havc a chance of having a regularity that we havn’t had since the days of Alfred the Great. Writing “verry” in alignment with “berry”& “merry” will have no implications for pronunciation that I can think of. Ditto pruning silent letters: “frend” “send” “mend”. Regularity cashes out in greater literacy as evidenced by those European languages that have up-graded their systems. Dyslexia in Spain/Finland is diagnosed at about one-fith that of the U.K. and is not a barrier to literacy. We are habituated – and therefore attached – to our irregular system and resist change. However re-spelling 300 or so problem words could be learnt in 20 minutes (or lernt in 20 minnits if you like) – would be a begining and wouldn’t frighten the horses.

  12. “Regularity cashes out in greater literacy as evidenced by those European languages that have up-graded their systems. Dyslexia in Spain/Finland is diagnosed at about one-fith that of the U.K. and is not a barrier to literacy.”

    You’ve given an effect here, but you seem to be jumping to conclusions as to the cause. Economics, education system, how it is funded, what size the classes in schools are – it seems to me that the spelling system is one of the less influential ingredients in a country’s literacy rate.

  13. “desecrate a language centuries in the making”. Huh? Do you genuinely believe that the language as we speak and write it now is the same as it was in Shakespeare’s day? Let alone in Chaucer’s.
    Languages change over time. It’s not decay. It’s natural progression.
    A spelling system which fossilises pronunciations that may have been current 500 years ago is not protecting the language. Far from it. It means that the spoken language and the written formulations drift ever further apart, until the written language become merely arbitrary pictograms. And if you think I am exaggerating I suggest you read a scholarly book about the evolution of Egyptian hieroglyphs, Babylonian cuneiform and Chinese pictograms. They too set out as meaningful shapes, but ended up as arbitrary collections of lines that had to be memorised one by one.
    “Desecrate a language centuries in the making” was exactly the reaction of those who tried to hold back “arabic” numbers (ie the ones we all use) and claimed that roman numerals were older, and therefore by definition superior and to be used at all times.
    You may not believe it, but for a very long time many of those doing calculations used arabic numerals for the workings, then wrote down the answers in roman numerals.
    Hmmm, I see a parallel there with the UK experiment with the Initial Teaching Alphabet:- learn with the sensible system, then as soon as you are fluent and comfortable using it, stop using it straight away and use a harder and less logical system, simply to show how clever you are.
    I vote we go back to Old English spellings: after all, by the argument used in earlier messages above, these must be even more pure and desirable than 17th and 18th century forms.

  14. I did not say that language should never change. It does and should. But it should do so at a rate in keeping with society. Radically changing the language in one fell swoop (which seems to be what is being suggested here–and if I’m wrong in that interpretation, I apologize) is impractical and will confuse the heck out of the overwhelming majority of the population who already speak/read/write with the prevailing system.

    I am a scientist. I would adore it if someone can point me to some scientific studies from developmental psychology or other areas that legitimately indicate that this would alleviate the illiteracy problem. I agree with Skeptical and Prospectus–if you do not address the other social factors that contribute to illiteracy, whatever solution you envision is doomed to fail. The problem does not have a single root and will not be fixed with a single solution.

  15. You seem to use “language” when you mean “spelling”. The language is what you hear and speak, and what you say when you read out writing. “Spelling” is simply the notation for the written language.
    The point about notation which you make above would be the same as saying that Mozart sounds better when written down in bars and clefs, but sounds awful when written down in tonic-sol-fa.
    Or that a medical prescription cures a given disease when written in English, but the same prescription written in shorthand will not work.
    Or that writing a chemical formula in words makes it react one way, but writing it down in abbreviations gives a different reaction.
    Nobody is talking about “Radically changing the language”; what we are talking about is how we write down the language. “Language” is not “spelling” any more than “music” is “musical notation”. It’s a fundamental typological fallacy.
    Changing the spelling does not affect the “language” in any way whatsoever.

  16. For me spelling is an inherent part of language, not just a notation. And I have to wonder what iatrogenic linguistic deficiencies would develop as a result of such sweeping change. But regardless of viewpoint on that, how do you choose what phonetics to base such spelling changes upon? Who would qualify as the “master version” so to speak? There are so many regional variations within each country, not to mention across countries in how English is pronounced. How would anyone possibly decide who is “right” in terms of phonetic spelling? And who would make that call?

  17. ‘“desecrate a language centuries in the making”. Huh? Do you genuinely believe that the language as we speak and write it now is the same as it was in Shakespeare’s day? Let alone in Chaucer’s.
    Languages change over time. It’s not decay. It’s natural progression.’

    I didn’t really like the first phraze uzed (sorry, yoozd). It sounds a bit like preserving a mummy. But I think you took her point wrong – it is not the same as Shakespeare’s or Chaucer’s precisely because it was ‘in the making’.

    As for ‘natural progression’ – it is happening now, just as evolution didn’t stop when Darwin died. It will happen without a masterplan to help it. It’s beautiful, bountiful, varied and rich, just like evolution has given us such beautiful animals and plants. It’s so much better for being developmental instead of everyone following a legal code of language, and long may the changes continue!

    It doesn’t need a forced introduction, it’s happening, so let’s enjoy it.

    The musical annotation comparison is an interesting one and touches on an earlier point I pondered about. Tubas don’t have accents or dialects, speakers do. So whose accent or dialect are we going to annotate in the revised spelling scheme? All we’re doing is recording sounds with symbols, so which sounds?

  18. Sum interesting points being made!

    Spelling is not the language, which is words and how they ar used, mostly in spoken form, but also in riting. If u change the tires on your car, dus that change the car? It should make it perform better. But change?

    Which dialect to base change on? At present our traditional spelling (TS) rufly represents what we call receevd pronunciation (RP, = Brit English) and GA (genral American). If the upgraded spellings wer based on an amalgam of thees two (as represented by BBC and NBC news ancors), we wouldnt be far out.

    Proof that change would leed to better litracy? Publishd reserch has shoen that Italian children at age 7 can reed better than English children at 11; Turkish children lern to decode riting two yeers sooner than American children; English dislexics suffer mor seveer imparements in reeding than German dislexics; while dislexia is equally prevvalent in the three cuntrys, its mannifestation in the US (and France) is twice that in Italy; Scottish children take up to two yeers mor to master reeding than children in 12 uther European languages.

    We oldys not being able to understand the new? Change would need to be graddual and compattible. By that i meen the lerners of the new (manely the yung) would need to be able to reed the old, and the TS stalwarts would need to be able to reed the new. It should be an upgrade of TS, not an entirely new sistem

    In an IT age, can we aford to hav 20% plus of our workforce ilitrat?

  19. Do you happen to have the citations for those studies? I would like to read them. I have to question whether the methodology controlled for differences in how children learning English as a second language are taught versus how native English speakers are taught.

  20. Ansering your request, heer is a sumry of sum reserch findings on difficultys in litracy lerning publishd in the past three decades, which i hav prepared for the Society.

    1984: Journal of Educational Psychology, vol 76, #4, pp 557–568: Decoding and comprehension skills in Turkish and English: Effects of the regularity of grapheme–phoneme correspondence; Banu Oney and Susan R Goldman, University of California, Santa Barbara.
    The decoding and comprehension skils of Turkish and American first and third graders lerning to reed thare respectiv languages wer assessd. Turkish students wer faster and mor accurat on the decoding task than Americans at first-grade level and equally accurat but faster at third-grade level. ‘The data suggest that languages with more letter-sound correspondences lead to faster acquisition of decoding skills.’

    1991: British Journal of Psychology, #82, pp 527–537: The effect of orthography on the acquisition of literacy skills; Gwenllian Thorstad, The Tavistock Clinic, Child and Family Department, London.
    This studdy compared Italian and British children, showing, for example, that 7-yeer-old Italians wer able to reed words they did not kno, and sum 11-yeer-old British children could not reed words they DID kno [in speech]. The report concludes: ‘As a result of this learner-friendly orthography, Italian children do not need to spend so long learning the mechanisms of literacy skills as English children do, and have more time for other studies.’

    1997: Cognition 63, pp 315–334: The impact of orthographic consistency on dyslexia: A German–English comparison; Karin Landerl, Heinz Wimmer, Uta Frith (variusly of University of Salzburg and MRC Cognitive Development Unit, London).
    ‘The main finding of the present cross-orthography comparison of development of dyslexia was that English children suffered from much more severe impairments in reading than the German children.’

    2000: Nature Neuroscience, vol 3, #1: A cultural effect on brain damage; E Paulesu and 15 uther reserchers from Italian and English educational institutions.
    The studdy was to see how the difrent orthografies of English and Italian wer accessd by the brane. It found that Italians showed grater activation of the part of the brane that deels with foneme processing. In contrast the English had grater activation of the part of the brane that deels with word retreeval. That is, reesoning vs memmory. Amung uther results: ‘Italian students wer faster at both word and nonword reeding, eeven when the nonwords wer derived from English words.’

    2001: Science 291, March 16: Dyslexia: Cultural diversity and biological unity; Eraldo Paulesu and 11 uthers (from Italy, France, England, and Quebec).
    This studdy found that tho the neurological basis for dislexia is the same across English, French, and Italian languages, the disorder mannifests itself in difrent ways acording to the regularity of the orthografy. The reeding disorder is twice as prevvalent amung dislexics in the United States (and France) as it is amung Italian dislexics. Agane, this is seen to be because of Italian’s ‘transparent’ orthografy.

    2001: How do children learn to read? Is English more difficult than other languages? Paper presented to the British Festival of Science, Glasgow, September; Professor Philip H K Seymour, University of Dundee.
    English-speeking children take up to two years mor to lern reeding than do children in 12 uther European languages.

  21. Wow – what a debate. I’m in the middle of a comp theory class right now and most of what has been said here is in some part an element in our on going debate. I know the hardline you take on grammar is not something I could quite agree on, but I understand the frustration 100% I’m not sure what the answer is – I have a feeling it has something to do with the little TV that we feed our braincells to everyday – but that’s just me.

    This debate has been going on for almost 200 years – take a look at what Harvard said in the late 1800s and you’ll could almost lift it word-for-word into our most recent academic debate.

    I also agree with the idea that we should not change our curriculum based on 20% of the population – as one of my history profs put it to someone trying to talk to him in colloquial English – “Good men have died so that you can speak English, son. Don’t disrespect it.” I laugh, but honestly, I feel the same way.

    This is a question I’m considering all semester, so this is by no means my last word on it – I actually just saved a draft of a post all about how this issue should be handled in comp. 1 classes. I’ll probably post it later this week.

    – Nice debate beginning post. 🙂

  22. Is there even the slightest chance that such system could be imposed, in any practical situation? The USA hasn’t even converted to the metric system. It’s an amusing idea, but the logistical challenge of converting everything written in English to a new system is too large to fully comprehend .

  23. Yeah, I don’t think there exists such a body in the world that could make changes to the entire English language. It is used in too many places. It would have to be some sort of consortium between all those countries and considering that we can’t all seem to get along in matters of important things like world peace it hardly seems like they’re going to take the time to even LOOK at such changes. Besides, the United States won’t even formally declare that our national language IS English!

  24. Least we are thinking that it is being argued that we should be dumbing down to the standards of the 20% of educational “tail enders” – poor spelling is pretty much the norm. Informal tests of the spelling of teachers, doctors etc. often show this. Most of us have to use dictionaries, spell checkers or, like Charles Darwin, who was an poor speller, the wife. In fact there is a list of eminent poor spellers some of whom have won Nobel Prizes for literature. Poor spelling is often used as a shibboleth to make all sorts of judgements about others but in fact is an unreliable predictor of intelligence.

  25. It is most certainly an unreliable predictor of intelligence, but that doesn’t change the fact that people use it as a predictor all the same. It is a functional reality. I am a total hard-ass about it on my students because it is better that they learn that they are making mistakes and how to correct them from me than to miss out on a job opportunity because a future employer finds mistakes in their resume and never chooses to interview them at all or they get a poor performance review from said employer because their poor spelling reflects poorly on the company for which they work. That also bleeds over into poor grammar, but that’s a whole other can of worms I don’t want to introduce into this debate.

  26. Yes, organizing the change would be a colossal task.

    But it can be dun! I’m in New Zealand, and we, along with Oz and the UK, hav decimalized our munny and also with Canada hav metricated our mesurements. Tru, thats not US-sized changing, but its a start.

    Also, places such as Sweden, British Columbia, and China hav in the past century changed the side of the rode they drive on.

    If the need is seen, the method is found. Our need is the removal of the cost that TS imposes on us: in teeching time in scools and in tertiary institutions that could be used for uther work; in the alienating of pupils from the bennefits and joys that litracy brings; and the loss of production in busness thru the inability to reed instructions without assistance, and the time devoted to litracy teeching.

    In New Zealand we hav an organization that sels its services to busnesses solely for the litracy traning of employees in the workplace.

    And thare wil not need to be a holesale changing of books. TS riting wil stil be reedable for decades after a change.

    Let me also repeet: spelling is not the language. Its a riting convention. Conventions can be and ar changed.

    Who wants revert to roman numerals in maths? To transport by horse and buggy? To tiperiters insted of computers? Wer thees changes dumming down?

  27. This has been an interesting debate and has definitely given me food for thought. Thanks to all the contributors for your thoughts and for being respectful to each other. However, I am declaring the discussion closed, as it really isn’t the purpose of my blog.

  28. Coverage of the Spelling Bee picket

    Some of the articles this year seem to make an effort to explain the point.

    The blogs continue calling anyone who would critique English spelling morons and nuts.

    Among the 50 or so comments on each article were a few that got it. For example:
    I was getting all geared up to make fun of these nuts but then I read the Kid’s Corner page and now I agree with them…enuf is enuf.

    A couple of people thought we had the support of the Whitehouse. ” I think Dubya is their paytrun saynt. Obviously another manifestation of the Bush administrations War on Brains.

    Sample comments: Get a life! Open a dictionary and take the time to learn something. If it is not a hoax or prank, you guys are idiots. It is hard to be sympathetic when I can only reed for of the seven signs – theez peepul are dum. What’s with the extra e and u in the sign that reads Spelling shuud bee lojical? This is performance art…I hope. The group should reinvent themselves next year as a faith based org: Jeezus for easyer words.

    In short, f*ck simplified spelling. English has hobbled along for a millenium or so without it, and we don’t need it now. On the other hand, these losers could be teaching kids to read, instead of holding up moronic misspelled signs.

    I’m so tired of the simplified spelling people. There are two questions they cannot answer.

    1) Whose spelling do you use? Do you spell things the way someone from New York says them? Or someone from London? Or Newcastle? Or Birmingham (any of them)? Because it makes a huge difference.

    SB: The questions have been answered. Why don’t you read them?
    The first spelling reform is just to remove the superfluous letters in English. This has little to do with representing accents. There is no need to closely represent every accent. It is sufficient to represent one or two broadcast dialects. The dictionary pronunciation guide does not try to represent every dialect, why should a reformed spelling?

    2) So what do you do with the thousand-year history of English Literature? Do you want to teach kids both systems of spelling so they can read the works of Shakespeare and Eliot? Why? Ask the teachers how they feel about that.

    SB: It would take extra effort to read the old books after a major spelling reform. English majors would still make that effort. Some Italians still make the effort to learn Latin. It is just not a requirement to read books published in Italy.

    A Christchurch spelling activist is picketing outside the US spelling bee in Washington.
    Allan Campbell is a member of Spell for Literacy, the New Zealand branch of the Simplified Spelling Society. Campbell, 77, demonstrated with seven others yesterday outside the Headquarters Hotel where the tournament was being held. The protesters wore sandwich boards and carried signs calling for an overhaul of English language spelling to make learning easier. Campbell said he had not met Kate Weir, but he hoped she did well.

    Mark Twain look-alike pickets bee

    Local people picket during Scripps National Spelling Bee
    Date published: 6/1/2007

    Dressed in white pants, a white dress coat and an old-fashioned bow-tie, Mike Carter of Stafford County picketed outside the Grand Hyatt Hotel in Washington on Wednesday.
    That was the site of this year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee, which ended last night.
    Carter was portraying Mark Twain, who he said was against irrational English spelling.

    He and others, including Timothy Travis of King George County, came to D.C. to promote an easier spelling system–not to protest the bee, they said.
    “The spelling bee is a great time to do it because that’s when the media is focused on spelling,” Carter said.

    But while smart youngsters spelled tricky words inside the hotel–words with silent consonants, diphthongs, homonyms and other complications–Carter stood outside urging the opposite. Spelling, he said, should be simple.

    Many words, like “through,” should be spelled like they sound, he said.
    The American Literacy Council and the Simplified Spelling Society has staged the appearance for several years during the bee.

    Participants paced back and forth holding signs and wearing buttons, such as one that said, “I’m thru with through.”
    Carter, however, stressed that he supports the bee competitors, calling them elite kids.

    But “spelling should not be an elite practice,” he said.
    He held a sign stating, “Must you be a wizard to spell?”
    Many parents of spelling bee contestants warmed up to the picketers after they explained their position, he said.
    “We’re not protesting. We’re really here in support,” Travis said.

    He distributed handouts to the media, one of which included a statistic: A quarter of all English-speaking children cannot read properly by age 11.
    He attributes that partly to what he calls contradictory spellings, such as “plane” and “planet.” The words are pronounced differently but–for the most part–spelled the same.

    Travis gave The Free Lance-Star an excerpt of a Twain speech in 1906, in which he said:
    “What is the real function, the essential function, the supreme function of language? Isn’t it merely to convey ideas and emotions? Certainly. Then if we can do it with words of brevity and compactness, why keep the present cumbersome forms?”

    “Once you talk to people,” Travis said, “they all see the logic of it.”

    Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402
    Email: jbranscome@…

    SB: I agree that the function of written language is to convey ideas and if we can do it with brevity and compactness…why not? *thru makes more sense than through. *enuf is enough.

    plane and planet can be regularized. e.g. plane-plannet
    There are other ways to do this such as
    1. with adjacent marker letter. plain-‘ planet.
    2. with macrons or accent marks pla*n plan&t.
    3. with capital letters for long vowels: plAn plan&t
    4. with a more Latin or Spanish phonetic system plein/plain, plane, plannet

    WASHINGTON — Protesters delivered a message yesterday to the national spelling bee: Enuf is enuf!
    Members of the American Literacy Society picketed the 77th annual spelling bee, which is sponsored every year by Cincinnati-based Scripps Howard.
    The protesters’ complaints: English spelling is illogical, and the national spelling bee only reinforces the crazy spellings that they say contribute to dyslexia, high illiteracy and harder lives for immigrants.

    “We advocate the modernization of English spelling,” said Pete Boardman, 58, of Groton, N.Y. The Cornell University bus driver admitted to being a terrible speller.
    Protester Elizabeth Kuizenga, 56, is such a good speller that she teaches English as a second language in San Francisco. She said she got involved in the protest after seeing how much time was wasted teaching spelling in her class.

    Bee spokesman Mark Kroeger said good spelling comes from knowing the story behind a word — what language it comes from, what it means.
    “For these kids who understand the root words, who understand the etymology, it’s totally logical,” he said.

    The protesters contend that the illogical spelling of English words makes dyslexia more difficult to overcome and helps explain studies that suggest one in five Americans are functionally illiterate.

    “If these people were able to read and write with a simplified spelling system, they would be able to fill out a job application, stay employed and stay out of prison,” said Sanford Silverman, 86. The retired accountant was handing out copies of his book, “Spelling for the 21st Century: The Case for Spelling Reform.”
    Carrying signs reading “I’m thru with through,” “Spelling shuud be lojical,” and “Spell different difrent,” the protesters drew chuckles from bee contestants.

    “I can’t believe people are picketing against something this ridiculous,” said contestant Steven Maheshwary, 14, of Houston.

    ENUF IZ ENUF! Freaks Protest National Spelling Bee
    Wonkette operative “Sarah” sends a horrifying report from the National Spelling Bee:
    You know how they’re having the National Spelling Bee Championship at the Hyatt at 11th and H NW — well if you didn’t that’s where they have it — across the street from my office? Anyway, there have been protesters there all week. We thought originally they were protesting the fact that parents push their kids too hard, etc, etc. But no — check it out. They’re pissed because the English language is too difficult and unfair!
    Surely this is a clever prank, right? Who would protest the National Spelling Bee? Meet our new favorite nuts, the Simplified Spelling Society. They’re actually carrying signs with slogans such as “I’m thru with through” and “Enuf is enuf. Enough is too much.”

    Says one of the picketers: “Our odd spelling retains words like cough, bough, through and though. This increases illiteracy and crime.” Think about it.

    Shering is kering. Lov som niw words. Speling shud bi lojikal. Inglish is upsyde daun.

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