Let's Make English Spelling Simpler!

Attempts at reforming English spelling: before and today

Posted by Massimo on January 25, 2010

There is a long and noble history of trying to change the English language’s notoriously illogical system of spelling. The fact that through, rough, dough, plough, hiccough and trough all end with -ough, yet none of them sound the same as any of the others, is the sort of thing that has been vexing poets and learners of English for quite some time. Proponents of “fixing” this wayward orthography have included some of the most prominent names in American history. Benjamin Franklin suggested changing the alphabet, and Andrew Carnegie provided money for people to study the problem. President Theodore Roosevelt issued an edict in 1906 that gave the Government Printing Office a list of 300 words with new spellings: problem cases like artisan, kissed and woe were to be changed to artizan, kist and wo. Roosevelt was largely ignored by the G.P.O., and the matter was soon dropped. Although this issue has been extensively studied and argued over by these and other eminent thinkers, there has been an almost complete lack of success in effecting any substantial progress
Perhaps the most successful attempt at spelling reform (at least in America) was wrought by Noah Webster, who managed to forever make Americans view the British honour and theatre as off-kilter. Some portion of Webster’s determination to change -our to -or and -re to -er was due to nationalist fervor; he wanted his countrymen to break free of the orthographic bonds of their oppressors. He was noticeably less successful in convincing Americans of the utility of many of his other ideas, like spelling oblique as obleek, machine as masheen and prove as proov
Read the whole article “The Keypad Solution”

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Attempts at reforming English spelling: before and today”

  1. LoboSolo said

    Proov(e), proovd (Spenser, The Faerie Queen with modernize’d with v for u … moovd, proovd), and prooven were often found thru the 1800s. Masheen is also found tho not as often.

    In 1876, the American Philological Association adopted sundry new spellings, and began promoting their note: catalog, definit, gard, giv, hav, infinit, liv, tho, thru, and wisht. By 1886, the list had grown to 3500 words. Two years later the Philological Society of England joined in the work.

    In 1898, the (American) National Education Association began promoting a list of 12 of those spellings: tho, altho, thru, thruout, thoro, thoroly, thorofare, program, prolog, catalog, decalog, and pedagog … all of which I’v noted since my teen years and noted thruout the university years (undergrad and graduate), military years (where they were preferrd), and corporate years.

    Plow and hiccup are standard in US spelling. Ruff, tuff, and enuff, tho still thought of by many as “non-standard” are being seen more often. In the US one buys a ‘donut’ rather than ‘doughnut’.

  2. Please visit my website (updated 1/1/2015) bio data research glimpses (engineering)
    Globish glimpses, other text, in note (e) on index page, see various articles E01 E02 etc
    Please disclose your email-id for future discussions. Thanks

    • Note my website (www.mngogate.com) on languages, science, philosophy etc.
      Please visit my website (updated 1/1/2015) bio data research glimpses (engineering)
      Globish glimpses, other text, in note (e) on index page, see various articles E01 E02 etc
      Please disclose your email-id for future discussions. Thanks

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s