Friday, November 03, 2006
Look I is gettin reely upset cos boath my mum and my bruvver danl is sayin that they ca'nt reed der blog cos of der spellin. Orl I doo is spel fings der way day sound and sum times der is too spellings two a werd or maybe three and i guess der rong wun. well, im' sorry. I reads der Guardeninian as yoo can sea hear and i tries my best. i woz not ver good at spellin at cat skool, i woz a big helper and fings but spellin was difficult. so my dad has tried to help me and it do'nt make no sense just like der propostroffee make no sense to me.
my dad try to eggs-plane how you spell and pronounce werds that have OUGH in dem and its' bonkers!!
bough is bow
cough is coff
ought is ort
tough is tuff
though is thoa
through is throo
caught is cort, so wot about ought/ort den. compleetly bonkers.
if i rite MINUTE do i mean sixty seconds or sum fink ver tiny? minnit or mynyoot?
i is always gettin muddled up wiv to too and two (speshly as no wun says twoo, cept for owls), but how doo yoo know.
why is do pronounced doo, but you is pronounced yoo?
why is'nt London spelled Lunden? nyther of der vowels is rite.
how cum 'come' is 'cum' and not 'coam' but 'comb' is 'coam' and not sound like 'bom'????
sea.......sorry dad........see wot i mean???
now ders annuver wun .........at werds
that.......what; what should be wot. word should be werd.
what about right, write and rite.......terrible for me. only the therd wun looks rite to me. wots der gh doing in der ferst wun and wots der W doing at der beginning of der second wun. and der opposite of right is wrong not roghng, and der opposite of write is speak.
oh yes, wot about one and won. der ferst maikes no sense at orl and der second shood be wun.
wood.......would........its' hopeless. i think Inglish not English (cos we say inglish) is compleetly stoopid and rong and I is rite. and dats' orl i've got to say on der matter. im' sorry if it makes der blog difficult to reed but i do my best cos inglish is big and hard and stoopid, and has two menny werds, and if every body followed me den their woodnt be no problems with spelling and we could be like der italians (wot live outside my territtorree) and pronouns things der whey we rite dem.
i is quite upset but do'nt tell anybody. i shall carry on reedin der paper.
ooh, gess wot!!! my dad has ternd over the pages wiv his horizontally opposed thum, show off, and he has read to me an article in der Guardinia twoday by Simon Jenkins saying that inglish spelling is stooooooopid!!!!!!!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!!!! I is less upset now. The article is below.
A million fingers are tapping out a challenge to the tyranny of spelling
The texting generation may yet realise George Bernard Shaw's dream of liberating the English language for all of us
Friday November 3, 2006
Thank you, Scotland. First John Knox, then the Enlightenment and now the Scottish Qualifications Authority. In a direct challenge to the English at their most reactionary, the authority has declared that it will accept text-messaging short forms in school examinations. The dark riders of archaism will protest and the backwoods will howl. No spell is cast as dire as spellcheck. But the champions of reason are massing north of the border and need our support.
It is plain silly to regard doughnut as "better" than donut. The same goes for alternatives to night, through, colour and wholesome. When the great Noah Webster invented American spelling after independence, he left British English immured in bigotry. He chided "even well-bred people and scholars for surrendering their right of private judgment to literary governors". To Americans, spelling reform was the sovereignty of common sense. For that reason the British treated it as foreign, vulgar and, worst of all, American.
I have no quarrel with grammatical authoritarianism. Grammar is a vehicle that needs a highway code of human communication. To parse is to prosper. Grammar evolves to reflect the new uses that language requires of it, as dictionaries include new words. Adverbs and adjectives fight the good fight against poverty-stricken nouns and verbs. Prepositions and conjunctions are hurled into the fray. A controversial time is had by all.
In contrast, spelling has become a no-go area, an intellectual tundra. While plain writing is considered a stylistic virtue, plain spelling is a vice. English orthography is an edifice of unreason. Word endings are the last gasp of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman invasions, embedded in the cultural DNA of literary Brahmins. Not to spell properly is a sign of being common, as once was ignorance of Latin. Knowing your "ie" from "ei" or -ible from -able does not affect a word's meaning one jot. It is a caste mark, its distinction deriving from its very obscurity.
Across the globe, students of English are driven to distraction by its spelling. Britons ridicule the French for their rule-based language, but at least they have a scholarly academy to discuss and approve (or resist) reform. While English adapts its vocabulary to circumstance, it has no way of adapting its spelling. Every time I write cough, bough, through and thorough (not to mention write), I think of the teeming millions of students who ask their teachers: why? There is no answer. I suggest they learn American English instead.
The dogmatism of English orthography is a bond of lexicological freemasonry, a conspiracy against the laity. Orwell rightly associated such dogma with totalitarianism. Wrong is right, as in war is peace. In Shakespeare's day authors conveyed the clearest of messages with random spelling, even of Shakespeare's own name. As David Crystal points out in The Fight for English, not until the 18th century was Chesterfield able to chastise his son on his poor spelling, warning that "I know a man of quality who never recovered the ridicule of having spelled wholesome without the w."
Orthographical purity is perpetually under strain. Crystal estimates that the Oxford dictionary gives alternate spellings for some 25% of words at some time in history. "Hence the notion of standard spelling needs to be taken with a huge pinch of salt." Yet propose that Britain should spell colour without a u and it is like burning the flag. In 1992 the Guardian reported a Gallup poll suggesting that only one in six adults could spell accommodation, business, height, necessary, separate and sincerely; 10% got them all wrong. This was considered a shocking example of public illiteracy. In truth it was a comment on the archaism of the spellings. Italians would not consider such a poll worth holding.
When George Bernard Shaw, leading champion of a simplified alphabet (or alfabet) was censored for writing shant, he asked why shan't and not the more accurate sha'n't. He said of most apostrophes, "There is not the faintest reason for persisting in the ugly and silly trick of peppering pages with these uncouth bacilli." He was right in claiming that archaic spellings were maintained to keep the poor illiterate, but wrong to think that they would impede the spread of English as a world language. Spelling is the last fig leaf of empire, the last bastion of nanny (or Lynne Truss) knows best. It is stuck in the tramlines of the past, and nobody thinks straight on the subject.
Reform has seen many false dawns. Some hoped for a breakthrough with the telegram. But by charging for words, not characters, the Post Office dropped this pass. Isaac Pitman created a new English script with shorthand, but its boycott by teachers and restriction to a servile class of secretaries and journalists stamped it as a manual skill. The same applied to stenography.
Another opportunity came with the qwerty keyboard. Designed to avoid the jamming of mechanical arms, it was a golden opportunity for simplified spelling. Yet even when electronic keyboards ended the jamming problem, nobody thought to reform the qwerty layout or spelling with it. I am told that Mandarin can be transmitted faster, by a skilled operator, than Roman script with English spellings.
Most English words are twice as long as they need to be, staggering under a weight of unvoiced vowels and consonants surplus to requirements. Computer users may be hard-wired to qwerty, but millions still plod across the keyboard searching with single-finger typing. Thousands are disabled by repetitive stress injuries.
Can texting finally spur revolution? Young people have evolved both a new script and a cost-effective reason for using it. They are breaking free of spelling dogma and expanding the alphabet with emoticons. Texting is the shorthand of the computer age. It is concise, cutting through the verbal jargon by which the professional classes seek to exclude the less educated. The Txtr's A-Z, a dictionary compiled by Andrew John, points out that mobile texting literally puts a price on waffle, while "ingenious abbreviations have been contrived to capture a vaguely philosophical thought, a loving sentiment or a beautifully crafted obscenity". He describes what is a chaotic literary pidgin.
The Scottish examiners are adamant that they are not rewarding text spelling, since there will be no marks for it, only for accuracy of meaning. Pupils will be credited for quoting "2b or not 2b" but will get higher marks if they spell it conventionally. That they should be penalised for an offence that Shakespeare himself committed is strange. Surely pupils are saving paper and helping examiners by their brevity. But all change must start somewhere.
Shaw left the British Museum a legacy for the promotion of spelling reform, a legacy which the museum stole after a case of Jarndyce obscurity in the court of chancery in 1957. To make amends the British Library should now summon a conference in Shaw's name of lexicographers and writers to declare a thousand English spellings archaic and thousands more as common usage, including texting short forms. If not, the world will pass on and the nation's young will reform English spelling on their own. Already a million fingers are tapping out a revolution. The Scots are showing the way.