Think about it, we could achieve a world where people would no longer look at "mathowie" and think "Math Owie" or "Ma Thowie"
June 12, 2005 2:11 PM   Subscribe

Some counterarguments to those who argue against spelling reform in English put forth by Justin B. Rye. Here are some interesting sites on spelling reform: John J. Reilly's page on Spelling Reform. English Spelling Reform. American Literacy Council's Spelling Matters and Spelling Chaos and finally Spelling Reform @ Many well-regarded anglophones have tried to bring about spelling reform, such as Noah Webster, Benjamin Franklin and Theodore Roosevelt.
posted by Kattullus (60 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
i saw a posting at the mailboxes today that said "Lost Cat Found. Black and Whight"
posted by Satapher at 2:34 PM on June 12, 2005

Don't forget George Bernard Shaw, another would-be spelling reformer. But all such schemes must be rejected because the cleanest, easiest, simplest way of doing something is frequently the least human way. The Bauhaus attempted the architectural equivalent of spelling reform, and instigated the chain of events that led to the Avenue of the Americas in Midtown, among other horrors. Simple is not better. Be suspicious of reform. I hereby give you Faze's first law:

Incumbency is nine tenths of utility.
posted by Faze at 2:41 PM on June 12, 2005

Exerpted from [1]:
For the Student Linguist: Don't Worry About Spelling
Current spelling is much closer to the way English used to be spoken than the way it's spoken today, and for years various folks have been proposing spelling reforms. Would learning to read be easier if you didn't have to deal with spelling nightmares like night, though, tough, cough, two, due, who, threw, shoe, through or answer? Some of these words are already being changed informally in advertising, pop music, and casual writing. For example, when my best friend sends me emails, she always writes nite, tho, tuff, cough, 2, due, who, threw, shoe, thru and anser. Are these spellings any better? For someone who's learning to read english, it could be hard to figure out that tho and who aren't supposed to rhyme, but 2, due, who, threw, shoe, and thru are supposed to rhyme, although there's now a difference in spelling for the nonrhyming tho and tuff.

[1] O'Grady William (2005). Contemporary Linguistics - An Introduction. pg 55
posted by reflection at 2:43 PM on June 12, 2005

Ai kaem up with mai oun revaizd Englix speling sistem sum yers ago. Wun uv the mein inouveixunz izr indiceiting "long" vauels yuzing tu karakterz ("ai" insted uv "i", "ei" insted uv "a", "ou" insted uv "o").

The uther big ceinj involvz yuzing kuruntli riduncant karakterz mour efixintli: "c" insted uv "ch", and "x" insted of "sh".
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:48 PM on June 12, 2005

That last of xud bi uv. Sari. Ai'm aut uv praktis.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:50 PM on June 12, 2005

And riduncant xud bi ridundant. Hmm. Speling riform iz tuf, iven four its proupounents.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:52 PM on June 12, 2005

Ak! Indiceiting --> indikeiting.

P.S. Ai traid tu du withaut nu karakterz, but "th" kud opcunuli bi ripleisd bai "T".
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:56 PM on June 12, 2005

That wuz supozd tu bi a Grik theta. Ai'l xut up nau.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 2:57 PM on June 12, 2005

John J. Reilly needs website reform much more than spelling reform. that design was fucking unreadable.
posted by yonation at 2:57 PM on June 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

Night may succumb to the motel ad neologism nite, light -as in not heavy or fatty- may be overtaken by the diet ad word lite. But would confusion remain if the absence of darkness became lite also?
Right collides with the existing word rite, might with mite, bight with bite, sight with site, etc. Strange that fite for fight is rare or nonexistent.
posted by Cranberry at 3:08 PM on June 12, 2005

Except Ken Hall in grade nine who kept saying, "Wanna fite?"
Well, he didn't write it, so I can't prove it.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:19 PM on June 12, 2005

Argggh! Someone get Artifice_Eternity out of my head before I stab him with a spork!
posted by PurplePorpoise at 4:30 PM on June 12, 2005

PurplePorpoise: I like what Artifice_Eternity is doing. It's fun to read and expands the mind. It's good to be reminded that spelling is arbitrary.
posted by Kattullus at 4:50 PM on June 12, 2005

Bill Bryson had an interesting section about this topic in his book Mother Tongue. His best point about this spelling reform is the fact that for many words, it wouldn't work. If we worked to make the spelling of all words phonetic, we'd have to figure out which is the "correct" way or pronouncing many words (such as route).
posted by piratebowling at 4:54 PM on June 12, 2005 [1 favorite]

piratebowling: Rye actually answers that in his eleventh counterargument. That being said, I love that book and its sequel, Made in America (I even asked a question in today about something that Bryson said in Made in America)
posted by Kattullus at 6:09 PM on June 12, 2005

Cripes I have enough trouble spelling as it is. For me, its mostly done by the motor part of the brain. I think of the word, and my fingers type it. I have no conscious idea what letters make up each word until I see it on the screen.

And then there's spellcheck.

Honestly, what good would this do anyway? Why don't the chinese replace their idiograms with pin-yin in everything? Do they have random internet cranks agitating for said as well?
posted by delmoi at 6:38 PM on June 12, 2005

artifis_eternity: hav u seen ma ant ergates? i 1/2nt laid i's on her in daze.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:39 PM on June 12, 2005

Don't forget Mark Twain and Melvil Dui.
posted by undecided at 6:43 PM on June 12, 2005

Justin Rye sez the old style gives GH well over a dozen possible pronunciations: CallaGHan, cauGHt, doGHouse, EdinburGH, eiGHth, ginGHam, hiccouGH, houGH, KeiGHley, lonGHand, louGH, plouGH, straiGHt, touGH, yoGHurt.

But he's wrong.
posted by schoolgirl report at 6:54 PM on June 12, 2005

When I read anything written in Artifice_Eternity's reformed spelling, I hear it with an extremely powerful (female) southern accent.
posted by Ptrin at 7:16 PM on June 12, 2005

schoolgirl report: How's he wrong? That sounds about right... keep in mind that he's British.
posted by Kattullus at 7:18 PM on June 12, 2005

The Bauhaus attempted the architectural equivalent of spelling reform, and instigated the chain of events that led to the Avenue of the Americas in Midtown

That has to be one of the grossest over-simplifications I have ever come across. Kudos!
posted by signal at 8:00 PM on June 12, 2005

ubR 1337.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 8:01 PM on June 12, 2005

hav u seen ma ant ergates?

posted by Wolof at 8:13 PM on June 12, 2005

From an email I've received 3 times in the last week or so:

"I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid Aoccdrnig to rscheearch taem at Cmabrigde Uinervt! isy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Such a cdonition is arppoiately cllaed Typoglycemia :)-

Amzanig huh? Yaeh and yuo awlyas thought slpeling was ipmorantt"

Quite interesting. Can't believe I'd never heard of it before.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:52 PM on June 12, 2005

But all such schemes must be rejected because the cleanest, easiest, simplest way of doing something is frequently the least human way.

Spanish is phonetic and Spanish-speakers seem very human to me. The current system exists as an accident of history, nothing loftier than that.

I expect everyone to be against it for the very simple (and human) reason that people don't like change and will invent, construct or borrow any rationalization they can find in order to defend that reactionary emotion.
posted by vacapinta at 8:56 PM on June 12, 2005

Ihnglish ihz weerd. Ahyll tayk chaynj aneetym, vaka : >
posted by amberglow at 9:21 PM on June 12, 2005

Forget spelling reform. What we need is speaking reform.
posted by pterodactyler at 9:36 PM on June 12, 2005

vacapinta, I think the reason people would be against spelling changes in English is that it's utterly unnecessary. The vast, overwhelming majority of people with normal or near-normal intelligence are able to achieve normal adult fluency in English (which, in English, does not require perfect spelling, but good-enough spelling) without any gigantically obvious problems presenting themselves. Achieving marginally greater literacy at a marginally earlier age or with marginally cheaper teachers hardly seems cause to throw out all of the books that exist in English, or to send them to the Old English Warehouses to molder.

Orthography change is a solution for a nonexistent problem, with costs far higher than its utterly miniscule benefits.

Anyhow, it's not like Spanish is completely devoid of spelling issues. You have to flatly memorize where silent h's appear and where they don't, have to remember which of the various letters that can make a sss sound (in seseo) are in which words (you have to remember that it's ciudad, not siudad, and that it's sicologia, not cicologia), have to remember whether a given word is written with b or v, and so on. There remain the possibility of homophones (encima and enzima, which would even be homophones in Spain).
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:36 PM on June 12, 2005

have to remember whether a given word is written with b or v,

Man, that still trips me up, as a native speaker. Good points. You win. :)
posted by vacapinta at 11:03 PM on June 12, 2005

Ditto Rou_Xenophobe. Plus, there's the issue of different pronunciations in different regions. Record a Mexican, an Argentinian, and a Madrileño reading the same text in their normal accents, and then transcribe the result into IPA. I guarantee there will be significant differences in the transcriptions, enough so that transcribing them back into a purely "rational" quasi-Spanish script (where each character or diphthong maps onto one phoneme, and vice versa) would probably yield texts that would be mutually incompatible (e.g /ll/ and /y/: one sound or two?). In the real world, it's possible for Hispanophones from different countries or dialect regions to communicate with each other via writing, because none of the writers have to take anyone else's peculiar pronunciation into account in their spelling; each reader will translate the text (spelled according to a pre-existing and near-universal standard) into their own speech and accent.

It's the same way in English: a New Yorker, a Londoner, and a Bangalorean can all communicate in writing, sometimes more clearly than through speech, because English orthography is bound to words at least as much as to phonemes. The downside of a universal orthography for all accents is that spelling gets divorced from pronunciation for some, if not most people.

On preview: I see you get that.
posted by skoosh at 11:40 PM on June 12, 2005

I think I'll oppose reform on purely selfish reasons - I've already gone to the effort of learning how to spell, and then I went to the effort of learning how to spell American, and continually work to prevent aspects of these two similar-but-different systems from merging in my mind, as I sometimes write documents that have to be correct for one or the other. The last thing I want is yet another system to deal with.

American spelling is AFAIK reformed spelling, and it's just a pain in the ass to have to know two system, there doesn't appear to be any benefit to me. So why try it again?

The presumed extra simplicity doesn't seem to be resulting in Americans being more literate than people from countries using the UK spelling, so what's the point?

Still, I love those moments when you hit the spellchecker after belting out a page of text with no proof-reading, and it can't find a single error :) Let's see if this message is one of those times...
posted by -harlequin- at 11:52 PM on June 12, 2005

(Spellchecker raised "spellchecker" as an error, so even though it found nothing else, clearly it's not a spellchecker to rely on. :-)
On proofreading, I see I wrote "system" instead of "systems". A word processor would have caught that one.)

/end irrelevant tangent
posted by -harlequin- at 12:07 AM on June 13, 2005

Man, that still trips me up, as a native speaker. Good points. You win. :)

Dude, that totally makes me uncomfortable. This is the internet. Can you at least call me a cockshit or something? Maybe threaten to have me banned from my isp?

Real point: I didn't mean to be Captain Combative; I'm just cranky. I just wanted to offer the idea that spelling reform is (in English) one of those pointless radicalisms that would cause many more problems than the problem it purports to fix.

I also offer unto you an example of simplified spelling: the fine film Zardoz, in which people eat applz. Before they get stoned and lick the magic sweat from Sean Connery.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:15 AM on June 13, 2005

Now that everyone has a spelling checker, continuing to argue for spelling reform is a bit silly. Spelling has been reformed by making the writing paper smart enough to spell for you. If you still can't spell well, the problem is more with you than with the language.

System reform is always favored by people who have not invested much in the system and therefore have nothing to lose and everything to gain by shuffling the deck. I, for instance, wish the Chinese would make their languages much easier to read and write. Like, they should start speaking English. And, by the way, they should eat with knives and forks. But I haven't invested much time in learning Chinese or eating with chopsticks. If I did, I might find that there is no need for such reform.
posted by pracowity at 1:08 AM on June 13, 2005

I have to say, his counterarguments come off pretty weak - it feels more like an acknowledgement of all the arguments against spelling reform, with a kinda "but so what?" attitude. Especially all the arguments related to the history / etymology / language structure, which are basically, "well if that stuff actually mattered, we'd all be linguists, but we're not, so forget it."

Also, I don't think he really does directly addresses the issue of the necessary prescriptivism that would come with "reform" - the fact that someone would have to decide what's the 'right' way, and we'd have to try to curtail the inevitable evolution (what piratebowling was getting at). #11 talks about the difference of accents, which is surely its own issue, but doesn't really get at the meta-issue of reformed spelling being just as prone to randomness and evolution over time. It's not like people decided to make spelling complicated. Things just got altered over time. If you understand the history behind it, a lot of it totally does make sense. Spelling reform seems to imagine things will just stop changing once they implement the new system, which is silly.

uncanny hengemen, that's pretty cool.
And artifice_eternity's spelling sounds american south-ish to me, too.
posted by mdn at 4:45 AM on June 13, 2005

pracowity: I actually don't have much of an opinion on spelling reform. That being said, while spellcheckers help people write they don't help with reading comprehension. I found this to be rather disturbing:

It’s difficult for us to imagine what it’s like to have a transparent (or nearly transparent) alphabet code, like those in Italy, Spain, Germany, Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Teaching a transparent alphabet is incredibly easy, because it’s transparent how the writing system works. The sound /b/ is always spelled b, and the letter b is always decoded /b/, and so on through all the phonemes in the language. With only one spelling (or nearly) for each sound in the language, if a child can ‘sound out’ a word, he will always be able to spell it correctly. Learning this is so easy, that children start to read late (age 6 or older) and finish early, by the end of the school year. So easy, that no country with a transparent alphabet tests reading skill by decoding accuracy. Everybody can decode. In English-speaking countries, tests of decoding accuracy (word recognition, word attack) are the major tests (often the only tests) that educators and researchers rely on to measure reading skill and to define ‘dyslexia.’

Some children in countries with transparent alphabets do have reading problems, but these have to do with fluency and comprehension. Yet even this is relative. Normal readers from Salzburg were compared to normal readers from London on tests of reading accuracy and speed. Seven year-olds from Salzburg read as fast as the 9 year olds from London, making half the number of errors. The Austrian 7 year-olds had one year of reading instruction, the English 9 year-olds, four or five. Further, when the worst readers in the entire city of Salzburg (incredibly slow) were compared to ‘dyslexics’ in London (incredibly inaccurate), the Salzburg children read comparable texts (translations of the same words) at twice the rate of the English-speaking children, with 7% errors. The English children not only read much slower, but also misread 40% of the words. When reading skill is so entirely tied to a particular writing system, there can be no validity to the notion that poor reading or ‘dyslexia’ is a property of the child, or to the mistaken belief that “there will always be poor readers.” A ‘poor reader’ is a statistical concept, not a reality.

From this page. I have no idea about the veracity of this. But, on the other hand, I also found a quote that seems to dispute this:

Dr. Richard Venezky: We were second in the world in both studies, beaten only by Sweden. The studies had multiple scales and other countries scored equal to the United States when statistically significant differences were considered; however, the simplest summary is that on average for reading for literary purposes, we were second to Sweden at both grades and in both studies.

From an interview with Dr. Venezky who wrote a book called The American Way of Spelling: The Structure and Origins of American English Orthography so he seems like someone who'd know what he's talking about.

mdn: Actually, the more I find out about English spelling the less it makes sense. A lot of standard spellings come from misguided etymologies. The most famous being iland/island. Also, I think that reforming spelling takes into account randomness and changes over time. If I understand him accurately he's advocating incremental reform, not having everyone start spelling like Artifice_Eternity in one fell swoop.

That being said. I'm foreign and I've spent a lot of my adult life getting the hang of English spelling (and its American variant) so I'd hate to see it all go to nought.
posted by Kattullus at 5:02 AM on June 13, 2005

hmm - do they have spelling bees in those countries with 'transparent alphabets'? Or would that just seem silly?

Incremental change probably happens anyway, especially with email / internet / self-publishing. ROU_Xenophobe's points about imposed reform having greater negative side effects than positive makes sense to me. But I too admit to selfish motives.
posted by mdn at 5:30 AM on June 13, 2005

mdn: I'm Icelandic. The Icelandic alphabet is fairly transparent. We have no spelling bees. Nor have I heard of it happening in any other language.
posted by Kattullus at 5:39 AM on June 13, 2005

while spellcheckers help people write they don't help with reading comprehension.

Quite true, but the big complaint is that words are so hard to reproduce, not to read, isn't it?

People who read regularly (that is, who put the work into it that learning any language requires) can read English well despite the language's unsystematic spelling variants.

Consider how people can read the silly example quoted earlier: "I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg..."

But these same people with their fantastic ability to unscramble words nonetheless frequently have trouble reproducing fairly simple spellings: they read the word "separate" hundreds and hundreds of times in their lives and still manage to come up with "seperate" every damned time they have to write it.
posted by pracowity at 6:07 AM on June 13, 2005

Spelling is bonk.
posted by ciderwoman at 7:16 AM on June 13, 2005

mdn: some Hungarian friends found the whole idea of a spelling bee completely hilarious. Apparently, in Hungarian, if you can pronounce it you can spell it.
posted by bonehead at 7:29 AM on June 13, 2005

When I saw the words "spelling reform" the rage came over me and I reached for my vorpal blade. But then I read the link (the first one -- I didn't bother with the others after the hideous experience of John J. Reilly's page), and found it's the best thing I've ever seen on the subject, comprehensive, knowledgeable, and funny. Thanks, Kattullus!

This in particular brought a wry smile to my lips:

If etymology is a sufficiently important subject that primary school children are forced to master a Mediaeval Reenactment writing system on this basis, why are those children never actually taught even the basics of linguistic history?

I might actually accept a new spelling system if it was accompanied by mass linguistic education -- I'm fed up with people's complacent ignorance of the subject combined with their insistence on blathering about it. But in general, sensible as Rye's ideas are (obviously reformed spelling couldn't be phonetic -- consistency and morphophonemic realism are what we're after), I'm with those who are satisfied with the current system: not only have I invested a lot of time and effort in learning it, but I like counterintuitive systems full of irregularity.

Oh, and let me reproduce this for the benefit of those who think spelling is etymological:
Red Herrings - spellings which are neither phonologically nor etymologically justifiable, as in aCHe, agHast, aiSle, aLmond, ancHor, bUry, (musical) cHords, coLonel, couLd, crumB, deliGHt, dingHy, foreiGn, gHastly, gHerkin, gHost, hauGHty, iSland, lacHrymose, postHumous, Ptarmigan, QUeue, redouBt, rHyme, rHumb, roWlocks, Scissor, sCythe, sovereiGn, spriGHtly, thumB, tongUE, Whole, Whore. All the capitalised letters are spurious, and often they were deliberately added as "improvements" by incompetent etymologists.
I'll add autHor to the list.
posted by languagehat at 7:35 AM on June 13, 2005

on john reilly's page, he lists spelling reform suggestions. Things like "frend" and "sed" are more or less okay with me, although the current spellings there are etymologically justified. But things like "desprit" or "exesiv" just seem more confusing, even without being concerned for the history and interconnections of the language. And "februari" is just silly!

How is the L in almond out of place? Are you not meant to pronounce it? Because I do... likewise, I don't get the problem with "author" unless you're pushing to change the pronounciation or introduce a theta into the language.
and the H in dinghy is useful because otherwise it would be dinjee. And most of the H's after consonants imply to me a soft breath instead of a tight pronounciation. It's pretty subtle I guess, but it makes sense to me onomatopoetically.
posted by mdn at 8:29 AM on June 13, 2005

That being said. I'm foreign and I've spent a lot of my adult life getting the hang of English spelling (and its American variant) so I'd hate to see it all go to nought.

Same here. Especially the American/British differences. Took me a while to figure those out. (We were actually penalised for using American spelling! it was considered a mistake...)
While I was first learning though, what I had problems with was pronunciation (and different accents), not spelling, because when you learn English as a foreign language you do that mainly by reading, at least at first, so you first learn the way words are spelt, then they way they're pronounced. Basically the other way round from how you learn as a native speaker. So the idea of spelling reform really confuses me.
posted by funambulist at 8:43 AM on June 13, 2005

vacapinta writes Spanish is phonetic and Spanish-speakers seem very human to me.

But Spanish orthography was reformed. The big difference was that it occurred back when the "installed base" of literate spanish speakers was much smaller.
posted by Araucaria at 9:56 AM on June 13, 2005

I had to jump back in regarding the spelling bee comment. Spelling bees are such a uniquely English phenomenon because of all this. Speakers of many other languages find it hilarious when they first have to be explained the concept as in, wow, your spelling is so whacked you have a national competition on the matter!?

This is usually the same conversation where we talk about the fact that Americans, as advanced as they are, are not yet on the metric system either. These little things that allow foreign cultures a moment of smugness.
posted by vacapinta at 11:21 AM on June 13, 2005

Dude, don't even get me started on the metric system . . .
posted by dame at 11:34 AM on June 13, 2005

You'd have to have a committee to decide on spellings for the
words that we are adopting from other languages.
You'd have to have a committee to decide on the uniform
spellings of all the other words that we have already adopted.
This committee would require a bureaucracy. This bureaucracy
would have idealogues, and soon this bureaucracy would
seek to mold the language in other ways, depending on who
was in power at the time. Imagine a christian reform of
English. A Right reform of English.
This bureaucracy would have to have police powers of some
sort. Have you seen Quebec?
I do not want to see the Committee for Reform of English, a
Division of Homeland SecuriCo.
posted by the Real Dan at 11:35 AM on June 13, 2005

Spelling bees are such a uniquely English phenomenon because of all this. Speakers of many other languages find it hilarious...

well, I have to admit that's a pretty good argument in itself - that it's clearly workable to have a system that doesn't become significantly complicated over time.

One argument made about the metric system vs. traditional system thing is that when a country is in power, they can have their own wacky 'charm' and measure in shillings & bobs etc, but as they lose power, they become increasingly likely to adopt the more usable, sensible options so as not to be left in the dust.

English doesn't really have to compete because the richest, most powerful country/ies speak english, so if you want to play the game you learn english. But if this were to change in the next few decades, and people were learning russian, chinese, or hindi ahead of english, then maybe people would consider adapting things to make it easier / more appealing to outsiders.
posted by mdn at 1:15 PM on June 13, 2005

How is the L in almond out of place?

It's historically out of place -- the word goes back to Latin amygdala via French and Spanish, and the OED says the l probably arose in the latter, by confusing the initial a- with the Arabic article al-. I don't pronounce the l myself, but it's pretty common and perfectly OK to do so. When I added author I was forgetting his list was of words where the highlighted letter was "neither phonologically nor etymologically justifiable"; in author, of course, it's now phonologically justifiable, but the word was originally autor (from Latin auctor) and the -h- was added by somebody with more aspirations to scholarship than actual knowledge.
posted by languagehat at 1:32 PM on June 13, 2005

The best aid to proper pronunciation is possibly educated parents. The best aids to proper spelling might be mnemonics such as i before e except after c, and see that "part" is sePARaTed in separate.
posted by Cranberry at 3:12 PM on June 13, 2005

Simple is not better.

Ah, but simple is easier, and thus seductive.
posted by davejay at 5:10 PM on June 13, 2005

"i before e except after c" must be the short version. It's probably more like "i before e except after c, and except all the other weird exceptions" :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:11 PM on June 13, 2005

cranberry: in other languages, where spelling is more intuitive, none of those mnemonics, are necessary. As bonehead said about Hungarian, if you can pronounce it, you can spell it. Same goes (mostly) for Icelandic (my native language).

pracowity: Yeah, we can unscramble words but it still takes longer to read. Now I have no research to back me up, and I trust common sense about as far as I can toss it, but it seems to me that the less scrambled a written form of language is, the less mental effort it takes to decode it.

languagehat: when I saw the word author with the h capitalized, autHor, my mind immediately concocted the word authwhore.

I like the ring of that :)

(it's been used once, according to google, but that was a misspelling of autwhore, which some person called Fysche uses. I like mine better, but then, one always does like one's own the best. Besides, when I see autwhore I want to pronounce it aut whore, which seems like a disparaging remark towards autistics)
posted by Kattullus at 7:09 PM on June 13, 2005

I, for instance, wish the Chinese would make their languages much easier to read and write.
Well, they did a lot under Mao, namely introducing the concept of PinYin (a universal Romanization system) and the "simplified" Chinese system of writing.

Here's a striking commentary on this. You don't even need to read Chinese to appreciate this. The animation consists of two-character phrases: scary/intimidating, abnormal/perverted and questions which is truly more abnormal and scary.
posted by DrAwkward at 8:14 PM on June 13, 2005

I should say, rather, that the 2-character phrases are written first in Traditional Chinese, then in Simplified, letting the viewer make his own judgment about the aesthetics.

(Sorry; first post)
posted by DrAwkward at 8:26 PM on June 13, 2005

. . . and the -h- was added by somebody with more aspirations to scholarship . . .

Pun intended?
posted by pterodactyler at 6:55 AM on June 14, 2005

Heh. No, but I'll take credit for it anyway.
posted by languagehat at 10:39 AM on June 14, 2005

Don't forget George Bernard Shaw, another would-be spelling reformer.

I always liked the Shavian alphabet , which arose from a competition funded by Shaw's will. There was a version of Androcles and the Lion published in the 1960's with the normal English spelling and the Shavian spelling on facing pages. Another link here.
posted by bluffy at 6:05 PM on June 16, 2005

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