Run That by Me Again
A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling
Do you spell it with a "V" or a "W"?' inquired the judge.
- Charles Dickens
by Mark Twain
Fainali, xen, after sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewaat xe Ingliy-spiking werld.
Shortly after I posted the above, I discovered the following:
Psycholinguistics to the Resku
Having chosen English as the preferred language in the EEC, the European Parliament has commissioned a feasibility study in ways of improving efficiency in communications between Government departments.
"European officials have often pointed out that English spelling is unnecessarily difficult, for example: cough, plough, rough, through and thorough. What is clearly needed is a phased programme of changes to iron out these anomalies. The programme would, of course, be administered by a committee staff at top level by participating nations.
In the first year, for example, the committee would suggest using "s" instead of the soft "c". ' Sertainly sivil servants in all sities would resieve this news with job. Then the hard "c" could be replaced by "k" sinse both letters are pronounsed alike. Not only would this klear up konfusion in the minds of klerikal workers, but typewriters kould be made with one less letter.
There would be growing enthusiasm when in the sekond year, it was announsed that the troublesome "ph" would henseforth be written "f". This would make words like fotograf 20% shorter in print.
In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reash the stage where more komplikated shanges are possible. Governments would enkourage the removal of double leters whish have always been a deterent to akurate speling.
We would al agre that the horible mes of silent "e"s in the languag is disgrasful. Therefor we kould drop them and kontinu to read and writ as though nothing had hapend. By this tim it would be four years sins the skem began and peopl would be reseptive to steps sutsh as replasing "th" by "z". Perhaps zen ze funktion of "w" kould be taken on by "v", vitsh is, after al, half a "w". Shortly after zis, ze unesesary "o" kould be dropd from vords kontaining "ou". Similar arguments vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.
Kontinuing zis proses yer after yer, ve vud eventuli hav a reli sensibl riten styl. After tventi yers zer vud be no mor trubls, difikultis and evrivun vud find it ezi tu understand ech ozer. Ze drems of the Guvermnt vud finali hav kum tru."
I take it you already know
Beware of HEARD, a dreadful word
A MOTH is not a MOTH in MOTHER,
A dreadful language? Man alive,
When the English tongue we speak, why is break not rhymed with freak?
by Lord Cromer, published in the Spectator 9 August 1902
Source: spellingsociety.org © The Simplified Spelling Society updated 24 October 2004
To Be Read Aloud...
Dearest creature in creation,
Playwright George Bernard Shaw was fond of pointing out that the word "ghoti" could just as well be pronounced "fish" if you followed common pronunciation: "gh" as in "tough," "o" as in "women" and "ti" as in "nation."
When I was in elementary school, I was runner-up in the regional spelling bee. Spelling was thereafter something I took pride in because I felt I was good at it. If I noticed a misspelling in the company president's memo, I felt a bit of intellectual snobbery - despite the fact that his salary was probably 10 times mine, I felt a little superior. Two things have caused me to feel differently. The first is, of course, spell checkers. No one need misspell a word - or, if they do, they can always blame it on the automatic correction feature of their spell checker. (Come to think of it, the president's misspelled word years ago was possibly due to his secretary.)
The other, more important thing is that we moved from the US to New Zealand. There, many of the words I thought I knew how to spell I found were spelled differently. Further, some of those words, I learned, were spelled like the Australians spelled them, some were spelled like the British spelled them and some were unique to the Kiwis. Some Kiwis preferred the British spelling even when a Kiwi spelling existed. I could find no New Zealand dictionary. The New Zealand option on my spell checker didn't seem to match the reality of the words I saw printed in newspaper and magazine articles. Several words I am very unclear on and just guess about.
You'd think, with all the variation, it wouldn't matter much to anyone. Not so! I have been contacted by more than one Kiwi who chastised me for using a US spelling on my website. There is a certain amount of national pride tied up in the way you spell a word - which country is more important to you, after all?
I've given up long ago on having perfect spelling, Kiwi, US, British, Australian or otherwise. I have my own unique blend - not intentionally, but because that's the best I can do under the circumstances. I hope everyone reading this will understand and be tolerant. I've learned to be tolerant toward others and no longer judge someone's worth in the slightest by whether or not he/she can spell perfectly. As long as the message is clear, that's what matters.
My fellow citizens, it is an honour and a pleasure to be here today. My opponent has openly admitted he feels an affinity toward your city, but I happen to like this area. It might be a salubrious place to him, but to me it is one of the nation's most delightful garden spots.
When I embarked upon this political campaign, I hoped that it could be conducted on a high level and that my opponent would be willing to stick to the issues. Unfortunately, he has decided to be tractable instead - to indulge in unequivocal language, to eschew the use of outright lies in his speeches, and even to make repeated veracious statements about me. At first I tried to ignore these scrupulous, unvarnished fidelities. Now I will do so no longer. If my opponent wants a fight, he's going to get one!
It might be instructive to start with his background. My friends, have you ever accidentally dislodged a rock on the ground and seen what was underneath? Well, exploring my opponent's background is dissimilar. All the slime and filth and corruption you can possibly imagine, even in your wildest dreams, are glaringly nonexistent in this man's life. And even in his childhood!
Let us take a very quick look at that childhood: It is a known fact that, on a number of occasions, he emulated older boys at a certain playground. It is also known that his parents not only permitted him to masticate in their presence, but even urged him to do so. Most explicable of all, this man who poses as a paragon of virtue exacerbated his own sister when they were both teenagers! I ask you, my friends: is this the kind of person we want in public office to set an example for our youth?
Of course, it's not surprising that he should have such a typically pristine background - no, not when you consider the other members of his family:
Now what shall we say about the man himself? I can tell you in solemn truth that he is the very antithesis of political radicalism, economic irresponsibility and personal depravity. His own record proves that he has frequently discountenanced treasonable philosophies and has perpetrated many overt acts as well:
Finally, at a time when we must be on our guard against all foreign -isms, he has coolly announced his belief in altruism - and his fervent hope that some day this entire nation will be altruistic!
I beg you, my friends, to oppose this man whose life and work and ideas are so openly and avowedly compatible with our way of life. A vote for him would be a vote for the perpetuation of everything we hold dear.
40 Tips for Proper English
Washington Post's Mensa Invitational
Readers were asked to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing of one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are the 2007 winners:
Source: allhatnocattle.net 9 March 2007
Take My Word for It
Had an "alphabet weekend" lately? You know, when you take class A (LSD), B (amphetamines) and C (cannabis) drugs and maybe do a bit of D for drinking. Cap it off with an E if you want, but that’s really a class B drug. (I challenge anyone to make it through to P in two days.) "Alphabet weekend" is one of the new terms derived from the crime world that has been collected by the NZ Dictionary Centre. A joint venture between Victoria University and Oxford University Press, the centre is devoted to compiling, categorising and researching new words and the development of a New Zealand English dialect.
Dibbly-dobbler (a cricket bowler slightly slower than medium pace - think Chris Harris), poozler (scavenger) and RONZ (Rest Of New Zealand as opposed to JAFA) are Kiwi words that will appear in the first New Zealand Oxford Dictionary which the centre plans to release in November. Lexicographer Dr Dianne Bardsley, manager of the centre and editor of the annualNZ Words update, says the new dictionary will be a window on society.
Maori and Pacific Island influences on NZ English are evident through the inclusion of words such as waka-jumper, cyber-hui and fa’afine (interestingly, Counties Manukau rugby player Blair Feeney was nicknamed "Fafa"). But the growing Asian presence in New Zealand has yet to be reflected in our language, Bardsley says. "The irony is that these people come to learn English in New Zealand but we don’t use their language."
Rural terms collected by the centre betray a dry sense of humour. A thin cow with visible ribs is a "toast rack". Farmers no longer drench, they "shout for" their animals, as in shout them a drink (of drench). Lambs are no longer castrated, they are "put into neutral".
The NZOD builds on the pioneering work of Dr Harry Orsman, who compiled the award-winning Dictionary of New Zealand English published in 1997. Staff at the centre have supplemented Orsman’s dictionary with new words and meanings, but it remains a key resource for the study of the New Zealand dialect. The team find words through extensive reading and derives meanings from the context in which the words are used. Alongside its staff, the centre has its own "surgeons of Crowthorne" - volunteers around the country who contribute new words to the database.
When a neologism or unusual meaning might be specifically Kiwi, the word is checked against the main Oxford Online database and against the combined brainpower of the centre to find out if it really is a Kiwi usage. "Is this a New Zealand word or something that has been used in the 1940s in the US? Is it a dialect word that came over with settlers? The Oxford Online is very useful for tracing etymology. Written citations are very important to us. A dictionary reflects a population’s use of words now, rather than proscribing how words should be used. It used to be seen as the other way around." Capital Times is a useful source of citations, she says.
Nowadays, new words tend to come from three main areas - crime, politics and sport, Bardsley says. A recent escapee from the world of politics is the phrase to "do a Brash", which means to say something un-PC. Say something in line with the National Party leader’s Orewa speech and you identify yourself as part of the "Brashpack", she says. "Brashpack" is an example of the way New Zealanders like to mutate popular phrases, in that case a reworking of bratpack. Another good local example is the way Wearable Arts competitions have spawned events such Shearable Arts (at A&P shows) and the Scareable Arts (at the Gladstone Scarecrow Festival).
Bardsley says that, contrary to popular expectations, New Zealand English has proved remarkably resistant to the influence of American television. While new American words find their way into our speech, few Americanisms are strong enough to displace the words we already have - most Kiwis say footpath not sidewalk, jandals not flip-flops, car park not parking lot, and carpet not rug. "After 50 odd years of television we don’t use elevator for lift, or car trunk for boot. We have duvets, not comforters. Language is much more influenced by local culture and the international influence is kept at bay."
However, New Zealand English develops in parallel with the international variety and we share many new words with other English-speaking countries. New words added to the Oxford English Dictionary Online in September this year include bimbo, bootylicious, home-sitter, threequel, shit-stirrer and latte - words as Kiwi as they are Ocker, Pommy or Yank. But there is room for No. 8 wire-ish Kiwi innovation in the English language. Bardsley points out a great phrase that will surely one day make its way into the dictionary - baked potato. When you park up on the sofa with a few beers to watch the NPC rugby final this weekend, watch out you don’t become a "baked potato" - a delightfully Kiwi phrase for a couch potato who is also very stoned.
What comes after once, twice, thrice...?
Nothing. These three are the only words of their type and no further terms in the series have ever existed. (The suggestion of "quince" for "five times" is picturesque but no more!) Presumably the language has not felt the lack of them.
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