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néytoe íngglic

Reasons to reform English


The English language has the most inconsistent system of writing in the world. If we forget for a second the obvious problems of dumb rhyming rules ( i before e except after... ) and exceptions to the same rhymes, we also find problems with morphology, or when one word comes from another. Why, for example, does high have an igh and height have an eigh? It also means that if an inventer of a word has a specific idea of how to say it, it is close to impossible for him/her to get his/her ideas across, as Lewis Carroll found out his poem Jabberwocky. Another potential problem is that of dialect. Languages that have a consistent alphabet and standardized spellings, such as French or German, either have no dialect problems or decreasing problems. Before German standardized its writing, a German in Munich couldn't understand a German in Berlin. Now that German has a standard, they both have a common ground, and the German dialects are constantly moving closer to the standard. In English the opposite is happening. British pronunciations of schedule and lieutenant routinely baffle American speakers, and the American pronunciations baffle the British. These problems didn't exist 200 years ago, and they wouldn't exist if there had been standardized spellings that consistently showed pronunciations. Without them, American and British English could be gibberish to each other in as little as one-hundred years. Let's not forget that the insane amount of unneeded letters is wasting paper and computer memory. The most important issue is education. Only in English language schools is there a spelling class. Students study spelling for six years or more. In other languages, including the not-all-that-logical French language, there is no more than a year of spelling lessons and all other spellings teach themselves. From personal experience, I've studied the German language for three years and I can correctly pronouce any word based on its spelling. This is not true for my native English. Instead, I have these great jems like dis-hevveld ( disheveled ) and vaheemently ( vehemently ). In the meantime, while our children are spending time learning spelling, other language's children are learning grammar, literature, history, science and other more important things.

At this URL is a chart showing common misspellings, the correct way, and the amount of times the words have been misspelled in Usenet posts. The words "dumbbell" and "millennium" are misspelled more often than they are spelled correctly. The author of the page calls it "...An embarrassment to the internet." This person is blaming the misspellings on you, saying that you are stupid. This chart includes newsgroups that discuss topics such as quantum mechanics. He is saying that these people who can understand quantum mechanics are too stupid to spell. This site is a spelling test of 50 commonly misspelled words. I scored 76%, and I am a better speller than most. If 76% is above average, what is average? Does this mean that everyone is stupid?

Refuting the arguments against it

If it ain't broke, don't fix it

It's broke. Read the section above. Some words have are spelled "wrong" more than they are spelled "right." That's broke.

It will cost too much

In the short term, it will cost money to switch spelling systems. There will be the costs of teaching people to use it. For many books, there will need to be two different editions, one in each spelling system. Most likely there will be dictionaries published that tell which new spellings go with which old ones. The long term is a different story. Neato English uses about 5% fewer characters than the old way. This means less money for paper and computer memory. In addition, since it is closely connected to pronunciations, it could easily be learned in less than a year. This will save time and money in schools. These cost-benefits would last forever, while the teaching expenses will last 20 years at the most.

It takes too long to learn

Long is a relative term. Longer or shorter than what? It certainly is a lot faster to learn than the old way. Mastering spelling means being able to spell anything. I know of no one who has mastered the old way of spelling. But in a couple of months, I have mastered the new way.

I don't want to spend my valuable time learning this

The best news here is that you don't have to. The new system would work best introduced into the schools for Kindergarteners. They don't know the old ways either, so they aren't learning two different spelling systems - only the new ones.

Even if we decided to teach the schoolchildren both, I don't think there is any doubt about which one they would prefer.

But the spellings reflect the history of the words

One can't deny that hors d'oeuvre obviously comes from French or that psychology comes from Greek. But not that many words are so obvious. Quiche looks like an English word, but it is actually French, and that's why no one ever reads it right the first time. It should be said "Keesh." So even tho the word is French, you can't tell from the spelling, but you still read it wrong.

Then there are words that lie about their history. The word "history" itself has nothing to do with "his." The ch's in "ache" and "anchor" suggest a Greek origin, but this is not the case. The word "through" did not have the gh in Medieval times - "thru" was more common then.

But shouldn't we continue to respect the words of other languages?

We never have. The Greek psychology is an example. In English, the p is never pronounced, in Greek it always is. In Greek, the y sounds like "ee," all of the o's sound like "oh," not "ah," and the g sounds like a g, not like a j. The result is a Greek spelling for a word that sounds nothing like Greek. Hoi polloi are two Greek words. But Hoi means "the," so technically, "The hoi polloi" is wrong. But we say it in English. Kudos is another Greek word. In Greek, it refers to only one thing, but English speakers treat it as the plural of kudo - Kudos were given, not kudos was given.

How about French? Why is it that so many people put the stress of entrée on the first syllable? In French, the stress is always on the last. People also don't bother to write accent marks. In French and many other languages, this makes a big difference in how the word is pronounced - entree ( no accent mark ) is an impossible spelling in French. What about hors d'oeuvre? The re in oeuvre is an r sound at the end of a syllable. This is impossible in English, so naturally the re disappears in English. While the spelling makes sense in French, it is misunderstood by English speakers, who keep letters that don't have meaning in English anymore. One of the worst butcherings of French is maitre d'. In French, d' is always followed with a vowel or an h, as in maitre d'hôtel. Anywhere else, you should write de. Oh yes, de means "of", so there needs to be something after it for it to make any sense.

These constant butcherings of foreign languages is why we should not keep foreign spellings. We need to accept that these words take on new usage, meanings and forms in English.

At the same time, we must recognize that new words from other languages will enter English. These will have foreign spellings at first, until they become common words. But we need some kind of warning that the word is foreign. Capitalizing would be the best way, since we already capitalize to warn that the word is a name. In both cases, it would indicate that you can't sound it out.

The spellings show how the word is derived

Again, this is sometimes true. The a's in nation and national do not sound the same, but they have the same spelling, which shows that national and nation are related.

However, the connection between nation and national never causes confusion in speech, and even those who can't read understand the words are connected.

English spelling is worse on this than it is with showing word history. There is no doubt that the word height comes from high. But height has an ei and high has an i. Why? Since the current spellings don't show derivations, we need a better reason than that to keep the spellings.

What about literature?

Literature as old as Shakespeare can easily be written in Neato English. Words like thou, thy and thine can easily be written in Neato English ( xow, xiy, xiyn ). There's no reason why old books can't be published in new spellings.

Won't the literature be distorted?

Keep in mind that the new spelling system does not change the meaning of a single word. A rose is still a rose, whether spelled rose or roez. There would be no change to the meaning of the literature. It would just be written differently.

Besides, spellings have been changed in many texts already. In Shakespeare's time, it wasn't yet decided where to use j and where to use i, and the same with u and v, resulting in Romeo and Ivljet.

Also, the old spelling system has actually caused distortions. How would you say "gyre?" I'm sure some read it as "jire", but Lewis Carroll wanted the g to sound like a g, not a j. The spelling doesn't really tell you. As a result of our horrible spelling system, Lewis Carroll had to write a pronunciation guide to his poem Jabberwocky ( where "gyre" comes from ) because so many people mispronounced his made up words.

In reality, the only texts that will be hurt by new spellings are those that make fun of the old spellings.

I'm not changing the way I talk to fit phonetic spellings

Who says that there must be one and only one correct spelling per word? Just spell things as you say them; I know that not everyone says the same word the same way. I say putáytoe, and you might say putótoe. I say tumáytoe and you say tumótoe. Fine with me. Let's call the whole thing off.

People are stupid. It will never happen

Do you oppose it because you don't think it will happen? In order to make it happen, people need to have guts. They need to have the courage to say, nope, I'm not putting up with it anymore, and they are best off not caring what others think about it. If you agree with everything else on this page but state "It'll never happen," YOU are the problem, and you are the "stupid" in "people are stupid." Not just with spelling reform, but every other problem that the world has ever faced, including racism and war. If everyone shared your philosophy, slavery would still exist in most of the world.

Do you have any other reasons for wanting to keep old spellings? E-mail me at