These people are educators. They are teaching your children. Remember that as you read and cringe.
Four peaceful protesters, some dressed in full-length black and yellow bee costumes, represented the American Literacy Council and the London-based Spelling Society and stood outside the Grand Hyatt on Thursday, where the Scripps National Spelling Bee is being held. Their message was short: Simplify the way we spell words.
Roberta Mahoney, 81, a former Fairfax County, Va. elementary school principal, said the current language obstructs 40 percent of the population from learning how to read, write and spell. …
According to literature distributed by the group, it makes more sense for “fruit” to be spelled as “froot,” “slow” should be “slo,” and “heifer” â€” a word spelled correctly during the first oral round of the bee Thursday by Texas competitor Ramesh Ghanta â€” should be “hefer.”
Meanwhile, inside the hotel’s Independence Ballroom, 273 spellers celebrated the complexity of the language in all its glory, correctly spelling words like zaibatsu, vibrissae and biauriculate.
My guess is that these people are part of the movement to do away with red pens for grading, too.
When challenged by a 15-year-old on the issue, the principal said that if spelling bees were so important, the bees could just make up their own dictionary of new words that would be harder to spell.
8 thoughts on ““Enuf is enuf. Enough is too much.””
One of the advantages of “rationalizing” spelling is that all those old evil works like Wealth of Nations, Declaration of Independence, and U.S. Constitution would become unreadable within a couple of generations. It’s not quite Newspeak, but has many of the same “opportunities.”
One of my wife’s fellow grad students was from mainland China. He said that as a result of the Chinese government’s simplification of the written language, quite a bit of their classical literature was now unreadable by anyone but specialists.
For a few weeks while I was working on my doctorate, I was on a “simplified alphabet” kick. I tried to come up with a better, more phonetic alphabet. All that came to a screeching halt when I was reading a paper written by my adviser. It occurred to me that, if we can’t read our current English, no one would ever be able to read my adviser’s papers!
My adviser is a mathematician, specializing in commutative algebra. While I wouldn’t say that only ten people understand his papers, it could very well be that only hundreds do; and certainly, there are probably only thousands or tens of thousands who would have the background to understand it. Anyone who would attempt to read it would have to read some rather dense mathematics. The papers would become significantly much more difficult if we also had to learn “old English” to read it as well! because it was unlikely that it would be “translated”, either by hand or by computer, because it was just too obscure.
Later, I was reading a cereal box about Egyptians that said “Egyptians had a complicated hieroglyphic system; while they developed a simpler system, they seldom used it, and no one knows why…”; I just smiled, because *I* knew.
It’s an interesting point that changing to strictly phonetic spellings would turn all our current literature into the equivalent of “middle English” for future generations (for an advanced English class I spent an entire semester reading “The Canterbury Tales” in middle English — fun stuff, but hard).
But that said … I don’t think it’s an idea without some merits. I also studied German in college, and while they have a bizarre way of stringing together sentences (why put the verbs at the end?) their phonetics are near perfect.
And no serious language should have a legitimate sentence like this:
Wright writes about right wing rites.
I have to to disagree with you, Stephen.
“Wright writes about right wing rites.”
That sentence is more intelligible because of the different spellings for different words.
“Rite rites about rite wing rites.”
That takes more head-scratching to ascertain the meaning.
Just my opinion.
The Japanese use three alphabets: Kanji, Hiragana and Katakana. How would they do a Bee there?
Everyone have their little chuckle over this, and move on. This isn’t the first time something like this has been touted, nor will it be the last.
Both English and French (there are probably others, but I’m sure of these two) had their spelling conventions pretty well set because of the introduction of the printing press. About the only difference was that French had just undergone a Latinization fad (which is why the older ‘ki’ was replaced with modern ‘qui’, for instance), while English was amidst the transition from Middle to Modern forms. Another bit of useless trivia: the ‘ye’ as in, Ye Olde Towne was an abbreviation of ‘the’ using an Old/Middle English letter that wasn’t used by the Anglo-Norman/Latin speaking elites after the Conquest. The stuff you pick up in college, heh.
Complicating the English spelling is that much of the first book typesetting after the movable type printing press was introduced was done by Dutchmen. We also had a change in vowel sounds a few decades later, called the Great Vowel Shift.
Franklin was interested in the subject as well, but Noah Webster was the only other person to take him seriously–and with just those two involved, it wasn’t enough.
Clayton, if you start talking about the Great Vowel Shift, pretty soon you’ll be going on about Grimm’s Law. That way lies madness!
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