(with one el).
April 5, 2001 3:49 AM   Subscribe (with one el). Because only 17% of native English speakers can spell "height", "necessary", "accommodation", "separate", "sincerely", and "business" correctly. Good idea or bad idea?
posted by Firda (30 comments total)
only 17% can spell those words?
aye right, i don't beleive it
posted by ron nasty at 3:58 AM on April 5, 2001

Bad idea. He points out why on the guidelines page: people talk differently in different parts of the world. If everyone adheres to more-or-less the same orthographic conventions, written communication is fairly simple. If we all start spelling things the way we talk, it gets confusing fast.
It might not sound like much of a problem, but think about it. Episodes of Taggart, a Scottish cop show, which were sold to the US had to be subtitled. People couldn't understand the actors. If we all started spelling things the way they sounded, reading something written by someone with a different accent would be a hell of a challenge. Try reading Irvine Welsh's book 'Trainspotting'. It's written largely in dialectic Scots. While it's possible to read, it's certainly hard work if you're not from that dialectic group. OK, some of this is the slang - and you're never going to get away from that - but the spellings are the main problem.
English is spoken in wildly differing accents all over the world. English is written more or less the same all over the world. It's often easier to understand someone else's written English than their spoken.

Consistent orthography aids comprehension. That's all there is to it.
posted by jackelder at 4:09 AM on April 5, 2001

i think we shud teech peepel to spel right
posted by Postroad at 4:57 AM on April 5, 2001

Searching for information on the web would be tricky without the consistency of standard spelling. How many people would use '' as a query when looking for ''? It's a meme which contains the seeds of its own destruction...
posted by hmgovt at 4:57 AM on April 5, 2001

I'm surprised this guy's not instituting h4x0r-speak as part of the plan to change spelling. I don't see how they make the distinction in spelling changes between proper nouns and regular nouns. It's good enough for bog-standard terms to change, but not for people's names? Fuck that noise. There's more obfuscation in people's names than anywhere else, surely? Why should a pro-speling Phillip be saved from the new name of Filip? Gah. They suggest it's revolutionary, but suggest that you add a character at the start of your documents just to "prove you're not ignorant". If you're not that ignorant, then why not just learn how to spell properly?

Outside of the differences in dialect and the need for consistent orthography - as described above by jackelder - I think that the sheer entrenched nature of English will ensure that this kind of modification blows up on the launchpad. It's too big to change. It's too widely-spread. And largely, it's too comfortable. And I'm sorry; to be perfectly curmudgeonly, I like the way words look. While phonetics is easier, I think it devalues what's already there. Words all have histories; they're part of what makes our communication meaningful. It's the sense of history behind the words, the ephemera that's brought to every statement and conversation, that makes communication so damn interesting.

Of course, this whole thing seems very close to hoax territory to me...
posted by captainfez at 5:23 AM on April 5, 2001

i think we shud teech peepel to spel right

The problem is much more complicated than that now. We have to all sew fix the technical issues with hand righting rec0gnition and text two speech soft hair.
posted by samsara at 5:57 AM on April 5, 2001

Akk! What an AWFUL idea.
posted by darren at 6:06 AM on April 5, 2001

It'll be a while before computers can wreck a nice beach.
posted by straight at 6:26 AM on April 5, 2001

English could do well by scrapping easily a quarter of its antiquated grammar and spelling rules. Actually, this is happening in speech, but the written language is holding the line.
posted by dhartung at 6:43 AM on April 5, 2001

Hoarseshet. Definately hoarseshet.
posted by raysmj at 6:48 AM on April 5, 2001

A yeer ago I koodunt eevin spel informashun arkitekt. Naow I is wun.
posted by normy at 7:10 AM on April 5, 2001

Actually, English spelling isn't really all that bad.
posted by lagado at 7:26 AM on April 5, 2001

Fuking idee-ot. I canot b leev anee wun wood rely tink itz a gud i d uh 2 dum don r langwag 2 d lowest comon denomunatr: hip hop myuzik tituls.
posted by Tubes at 7:43 AM on April 5, 2001

Mm, it was bad enough reading the Bascule chapters in Feersum Endjinn. Much of the point of written text is that it's consistent; that people can learn to read it quickly and easily.

While there's some logic behind universally simplifying the more horrific spellings in our language, FreeSpeling's call for random improvisation ("Don't worry if you cant be (c)konsistent") is absurd, and the earnest belief that he can change English speech throughout the world is downright insane.
posted by Kevan at 7:51 AM on April 5, 2001

Dhartung: the written language is always slower to change than the spoken language but is is not holding the line. Most books on usage give different levels of "correctness," and in general the consensus is for the use of fairly traditional use for form writing--writing for publication in scholarly journals and non-fiction books that try not to be hip.
After all the hard work I put in and lousy grades I got, by George (george?) I don't want changes.
posted by Postroad at 7:53 AM on April 5, 2001

sorry: form=formal. me spell good; kibrd and spel chekir spell bad
posted by Postroad at 7:55 AM on April 5, 2001

It's also worth pointing out the some of the changes on freespeling itself are less than helpful. For example, 'chanj' for 'change'; I look at that and see a word that should be pronounced with a short 'a' rather than an 'ay' sound. Similarly, 'paj' for 'page' looks as if it should be pronounced 'padge'. Or, possibly, like 'Raj'.

As with any spelling system, we see what we are used to. Any attempt to change orthography in such a way would lead to immense confusion and would handicap communications to a considerable degree - it took me much longer to read samsara's second sentence and Tubes' post than anyone else's. And, since language is a form of communication, why deliberately obstruct that communication?

Everyone mis-spells words to a greater or lesser degree, but a system where there is no standard is just asking for trouble.

posted by Caffa at 8:12 AM on April 5, 2001

English could do well by scrapping easily a quarter of its antiquated grammar and spelling rules. Actually, this is happening in speech, but the written language is holding the line.

dhartung, can you give a citation or something on either of those points? Both are rather sweeping opinions.

As for the site . . . well . . . [slump]. This sort of useless hand-wringing over language is just a photo negative of the opposite camp, who insist that people who misuse "who" for "whom" or whatever are corrupting language, and by extension, are engaged in shoddy thinking. Language is naturally organic, and trying to shoehorn it into some arbitrary (if fleetingly "organized") set of prescriptivist rules is to board the Futility Bus, Destination: Future. This idea dates back to at least GB Shaw and his famous "ghoti" example, and has more recent antecedents like the hopeless "e-prime" movement.
posted by Skot at 8:25 AM on April 5, 2001

i don't know, guys. maybe if this spreads enough, bad spelling will turn into a completely incomprehensible foreign language. then we won't be able to understand it and can therefore stop being annoyed by it. i, for one, welcome any language that saves me from seeing the wrong form of "their" ever again. also: apostrophe errors.
posted by pikachulolita at 8:52 AM on April 5, 2001

It's actually an old idea. Melvil Dewey [the nutty dewey decimal control freak guy] was nuts on spelling. He started the Spelling Reform Association which, thanks to folks like Andrew Carnegie and Theodore Roosevelt became the Simplified Spelling Board. Dewey became obsessed to the extent that he started spelling his own last name Dui. The Dewey Decimal system classification books actually came out in this new spelling format until he died and librarians everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief.
posted by jessamyn at 9:15 AM on April 5, 2001

George Bernard Shaw, Keith Waterhouse and many others have been down this road - this guy has all the hallmarks of the shameless self-publicist, attempting to stir up a bit of faux controversy and get a few spots on local radio programmes. Twat.
posted by johnny novak at 10:24 AM on April 5, 2001

Of course, Noah Webster went down this road, as well, and managed to change a number of spellings that he thought were confusing or arbitrary (see plow for plough, color for colour, etc. in American English). He also suggested a few that never quite took, but the fact is that orthographical representations of words change over time, and spelling won't go to hell in a handbasket if everyone starts writing "thru" instead of "through". If enough people do it, it'll probably stick eventually. Still, this guy seems to be promoting not intuitive spelling but intuitive spelling with a whole new set of rules applied (even if he does call them "guidelines" instead). That's just, well, stupid.

Language changes; this is a fact. We need some standards of orthography and grammar so that we can understand each other - since ostensibly language's purpose is to allow us to communicate clearly with other people, and not get laughed at too much in the process. What your standards are depend on what community you're trying to identify with, who you want to be able to talk or write to, and how much you care what other people think.
posted by binkin at 11:05 AM on April 5, 2001

I think it's best to keep, teach, and enforce (in publications, not in general) standards of spelling and grammar with the realization that things will change and the willingness to change as alternative uses become more predominant. As has been pointed out, one great virtue of consistent spelling rules is ease of reading. Your brain doesn't read letter-by-letter, it reads word-by-word and phrase-by-phrase, but if spelling goes all to hell, you would have to read letter-by-letter just to figure out what was being said.

"Thru" is a particularly good example of an alternative spelling that may eventually catch on, especially with the predominance of email and IM encouraging such shortenings of oddly-spelled words.

I'm surprised that this classic Twain bit on spelling reforms hasn't been linked to yet. I thought that was required for this type of thread.
posted by daveadams at 11:51 AM on April 5, 2001

OMG! That guy is serious isn't he? How pathetic! He wants to spread his stupidity around the world so everyone won't be able to spell and he won't feel so stupid. ;-)

I was the spelling bee champ of my school - I got a plaque from it so I of course am against this. *smug* No matter what it is or who commenced it - I'M AGAINST IT!
posted by FAB4GIRL at 12:25 PM on April 5, 2001

Keeping in mind, of course, that plenty of intelligent people have problems with orthography....
posted by binkin at 12:52 PM on April 5, 2001

This link reminds me of a guy I knew in high school. He claimed that a host of problems would vanish if we switched from base 10 to base 8.

Ok, he's a nut, but he's a dedicated, harmless nut. I retain a modicum of respect for the spirit of Don Quixote.
posted by anapestic at 2:12 PM on April 5, 2001

This site is clearly taking the piss. If it was real (or a prefect hoax), he would have set up a Gonzo website. Instead he is making fun at the expense of people like myslef who suffer from netdyslexia.
posted by arf at 3:08 PM on April 5, 2001

Switching from Base 10 to Base 12 always made more sense to me, anapestic. Suddenly you have 2, 3, and 4 as multiples as opposed to just 2 and 5.

But then again, math was never my strong suit. I just like to make things pretty.
posted by annathea at 3:24 PM on April 5, 2001

Actually, annathea, the 4 reduces to 2, so you still only have 2 prime factors with 12 as the number base. All that would do is trade 5 for 3 as the second prime in our number base. I still think that would be useful though, because that would avoid having to write 1/3 as 0.33333..., and I see fractions that reduce to thirds or sixths a lot more often than fifths or tenths. Being able to exactly represent the most common fractions would be nice.

On the other hand, the idea of switching to base 8 would be a step in the other direction, since we would end up with only one prime (2) in the number base, and then the only fractions we could represent exactly would be halves, quarters, eighths, etc. No more fifths or tenths.

Of course, that's all academic anyway, since it would be nearly impossible to get people to switch, because we're all so used to thinking in base 10. Working with computers, you get used to reading hex and octal, but it just never comes as naturally as the number system you learn when very young. Besides, I think a lot of people would have trouble understanding the very concept of switching number bases anyway!

Slightly more on-topic: Spelling is indeed only half the problem. Here is a .sig I saw on slashdot which illustrates that point:

Me spill chucker work grate. Need grandma chicken.
posted by Potsy at 3:16 AM on April 6, 2001

« Older Remember the old Sierra Games?   |   Ventura's Latest Meltdown. Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments