"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: Battle for the Simplification of English Spelling

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Battle for the Simplification of English Spelling

On June 4, 2010, a group of protesters from America and the UK gathered at the Washington, DC venue of the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee competition to demand that English spellings be simplified. The protesters were from the American Literacy Council and the London-based Spelling Society.

Fox News reported an 83-year-old American primary school principal by the name of Roberta Mahoney (who was among the protesters) as arguing that the way the English language is currently structured “obstructs 40 percent of the population from learning how to read, write and spell.”
"Our alphabet has 425-plus ways of putting words together in illogical ways,” Fox News quoted Mahoney to have said. 

One of the most memorable slogans of the protest was:  "Enuf is enuf. Enough is too much." That is, it would be sufficient to simply spell the word “enough” as “enuf”; the word’s current spelling is illogical overkill. 

“Enuf”, of course, functions here only as a representative sample of the orthographic chaos of English spelling. “According to literature distributed by the group,” Fox News reported, “it makes more sense for  ‘fruit’ to be spelled as ‘froot,’ 'slow’ should be ‘slo,’ and ‘heifer’— a word spelled correctly during the first oral round of the bee Thursday by Texas competitor Ramesh Ghanta — should be ‘hefer’.” 

I have written about English spellings in previous articles here, but I found the article below about the 2010 spelling protest really interesting, and thought I should share it with my readers. It is written by a language activist identified simply as “WoesOfACollegeKid” and originally titled “’Enuf is Enuf!’: Should we Simplify the English Language? ... Becuz perhaps we shood chanj the way we spell.” Enjoy.

I’m a self-proclaimed linguistic snob, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I probably judge you if you repetitively use “your” instead of “you’re”. I cringe a little when you use an adjective where an adverb should clearly be.

(Please realize that I’m addressing a hypothetical “you”… not necessarily you personally. Most of the Hubs I have read have excellent grammar… most likely because most of our fellow Hubbers write well and often. However, I find that I am drifting further and further away from the purpose of this Hub.)
Despite my vanity when it comes to all things grammatical, I am a horrid speller. I’m not ashamed to admit this either. As a matter of fact, I am so humble about my dysfunctional spelling that I think that it cancels out my previously mentioned arrogance regarding grammar. Once again, I digress. But thank God for spell-check. Seriously.

However, despite the fact that my spelling abilities leave something to be desired, I have never thought to myself, “Wow. I really suck at spelling. I think I’ll stage a protest to express my grievances.”

Today, demonstrators gathered in front of the Grand Hyatt in Washington, D.C., the host site of the upcoming Scripps National Spelling Bee. The army was small but undoubtedly dedicated and unified as they sought to persuade teachers, congressmen, parents, and pretty much whoever would listen that the English language desperately needs to be simplified.

Pointing out the fact that words like “fruit” should logically be spelled “froot” and numerous other examples, the picketers (who were representatives from the American Literary Council and the Simplified Spelling Society) believe that the reason that many ESL students have such difficulty learning English is because of irrational spellings that are frequent in the English language. They say that simplifying such spellings would increase literacy.

I have also read in one article that the protestors claim that in addition to contributing to illiteracy among Americans and increased obstacles for immigrants, these “illogical” spellings contribute to dyslexia. I’m trying to figure out how that works; nothing I’ve read has cared to elaborate on that point. (If you can shed some light on this, please do!)

To read the rest of the article, click here.

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