Skip to comments.National Spelling Bee protests: Should we simplify English spelling?
Posted on 06/04/2010 8:50:41 PM PDT by James C. Bennett
The Scripps National Spelling Bee highlights what a mess the English spelling is a hodgepodge of orthographies borrowed from German, French, Greek, and Latin. Is it time for a makeover?
The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw is said to have joked that the word "fish" could legitimately be spelled "ghoti," by using the "gh" sound from "enough," the "o" sound from "women," and the "ti" sound from "action."
Shaw was probably not the originator of this joke, but he was one of a long line of people who thought that the English language's anarchic spelling, a hodgepodge of Germanic, French, Greek, and Latin, was desperately in need of reform.
To this end, he willed a portion of his estate toward the development of a new phonetic script. The result was the Shavian alphabet, whose 47 letters have a one-to-one phonetic correspondence with sounds in the English language. Like just about every other attempt to rein in English spelling, Shaw's alphabet continues to be widely ignored to this day.
But spelling-reform advocates press on. The Associated Press reported that this year's Scripps National Spelling Bee was picketed by four protesters, some dressed in bee costumes, who distributed buttons reading "Enuf is enuf. Enough is too much."
The demonstrators were from the the American Literacy Council and the London-based Spelling Society, organizations that aim to do to English orthography what the metric system did for weights and measures. The American Literacy Council endorses SoundSpel, which seeks to "rationalize" the English language by spelling each of the English language's 42 (or so) phonemes one way and one way only. In SoundSpel, "business" becomes "bizness," "equation" becomes "ecwaezhun," "learned" becomes "lernd," "negotiate" becomes "negoesheaet," and so on.
(Excerpt) Read more at csmonitor.com ...
Ohio teenager wins US spelling bee crown
A 14-year-old girl from the US state of Ohio has won the country's coveted annual National Spelling Bee.
Anamika Veeramani, from North Royalton, claimed victory by correctly spelling the word stromuhr - a medical term.
She takes home $40,000 (£27,450) in cash and prizes, as well as the coveted championship title. Anamika's winning word, stromuhr, is the term for an instrument used to measure the velocity of blood flow.
It is the third year in a row that an Indian-American has won the championship.
The popularity of the spelling bee - a peculiarly American tradition - has grown greatly over the past decade, partly as a result of the Academy Award-nominated documentary Spellbound.
Anamika's winning word, stromuhr, is the term for an instrument used to measure the velocity of blood flow.
Shaw was also in favor of gassing people who didn’t, in his judgement, contribute to society.
no we should not simplify it
It’s largely a memory contest, and would be far less challenging, and therefore far less interesting, if spelling was made more consistent.
Those who don’t excel at spelling/memorization, find a contest where you can excel! Don’t pick at those who are good at this. Language has a flavor; leave it alone.
Nuts to the protestors. Spelling, like punctuation, is a dying art, and one that I think should be preserved.
But then, I’m biased ‘cause I’m good at it.
He sure was
“Simplifying” English spelling would cause more problems than it solves. Even among American speakers, there are a plethora of ways to pronounce various words; include English, Australian, etc., and any phonetic system will be even more unintelligible than the spoken systems.
English is a highly dynamic language and as such, should not be meddled with.
Right. If you want to find out the correct way to pronounce words in English, just come here to northern New England. Every other way is wrong. But don’t listen to those Vermont natives. They talk funny. They say things like “caows”.
The people I attended school with somehow learned to speak and spell, limited as we were! Maybe it is because we didn't have a bunch of liberal crap around to distract us, and teachers who wouldn't accept excuses.
No we should not simplify it (ie, dumb it down for the dummies).
Simplify? Every time I’m around someone playing with their damned cell phone they ask “how do you spell ....” for the simplest of words.
I will quite literally off myself if one day our language is “simplified” to “tlkng w/o actly splng stuf out, no wut i mene? ok gr8”
And what was Latin?
a hodgepodge of orthographies borrowed from languages that had proceeded it.
If spelling bees had been held in ancient Rome they could have complained about the same thing.
Gallagher did a bit about the english using the words “one” and “two”....goes something like this..
The word “one” has a wa-wa sound but no “W”
The word “two” has a “W but no wa-wa sound.
Yes, lets all spell like those ignorant spray paint taggers who have never made it beyond the fifth grade.
Announcer: And now, Mr. Joseph Franklin of the U.S. Council of Standards and Measures.
Joseph Franklin: Thank you. Tonight I'd like to talk to you about how the new metric system of conversion will affect you. This is one in a series of public reeducation programs designed to make Americans aware of the metric conversion to take place in the next ten years. Most Americans already know that the measurement of miles will be discarded in favor of kilometers - a systme of measurement based on the unit of tens and already in use in most of the world. Few people, however, know about the new metric alphabet: the "Decibet"; "deci" from the Greek "ten", and "bet" from our own "alphabet". Let's take a look, shall we? [ holds up large poster of the Decibet ] Now, isn't that simple? Only ten letters. Twn fingers.. ten letters.
Now, let's take a look at some specifics.
[ shows Card 1 ] A, B, C, and D: our first and most popular letters will remain the same.
[ shows Card 2 ] E and F, however, will be combined and graphically simplified to make one character.
[ shows Card 3 ] The groupings GHI, and..
[ shows Card 4 ] LMNO will be condensed to single letters. Incidentally, a boon to those who always had trouble pronouncing LMNO correctly.
[ shows Card 5 ] And finally, the so-called "trash letters", or P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z, will be condensed to this easily recognizable dark character.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, and ten! Now, let's take a look at how this change will affect our daily speech habits.
[ shows card ] In the EF grouping addition, the word "eagle" would remain basically the same in character, but would be pronounced "efaglef". However, certain words previously beginning with the letter F, like..
[ shows xard ] .."fish", would be pronounced with an additional E sound: this, "efish". "I caught a big efish."
[ shows card ] "Goat" would remain "goat".
[ shows card ] "Hotel" will carry the G letter addition, but as in many words beginning with the GH sound, such as "Ghana", the G would remain silent; thus, "hotel". However, words beginning wih I..
[ shows card ] .. as in "industry", will be pronounced "gindustry". The meaning will remain the same. LMNO's grouping is similar.
[ shows card ] "Mucus" will be LMNOucus".
[ shows card ] "Light" would remain "light".
[ shows card ] And "open" would then ne "LMNOpen", as in, "Honey, would you LMNOpen the door?" Finally, the "trash letters", or the letters from P to Z, would then make a stop sign appear like this: [ holds up stop sign with unintelligble blotch on it ] So there you have it. We hope to eventually establish the Universal Metric Alphabet in America by 1979. Join me next time, when we explore the changes you'll be seeing in alphabet soup and spelling bee contest rules. But now, let's sing the old favorite, the childhood "Alphabet Song", as we will hear it in the future..
[ singing ] "A, B, C, D, EF.. GHI.. J, K, LMNO.. [ blotch ]"
“The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw is said to have joked that the word “fish” could legitimately be spelled “ghoti,” by using the “gh” sound from “enough,” the “o” sound from “women,” and the “ti” sound from “action.””
You don’t have to fabricate absurd example, there are plenty of them in the actual language.
For example how the hell do you get “one” to sound like “won”.
Having learned english as an italian (which is very phonetic) speaker, very often I felt like I might as well be reading chinese, since there was so little correspondence between the letters that made up a word and its pronunciation.
Italian is so phonetic that spelling does not exist in Italy - I wasn’t aware of the concept/term until I got here.
Now when it comes to grammar, that’s a different story. English grammar is a piece of cake.
Hell, in twenty years nobody here but a few lingering minorities will speak English anyway.
Should we simplify spelling? No.
However, what is irksome to me is that fact that our most glorified scholastic competition is not a math, or science, or even a music competition, but a spelling bee.
How many jobs are created by good spellers? How many hungry get fed? How many lives are saved? Do we thwart our enemies by outspelling them? Catch any criminals? Create any energy?
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