Monday, 7 March 2011

bilding a cubbard

The Guardian recently had an interesting leader entitled “Unthinkable? Simpler spelling”, to which Greg Brooks subsequently offered a rejoinder “These variations on English spelling simply won’t work”.

The Guardian’s editorial has been rightly pilloried for repeating the absurd claim that
phonetic languages like Italian and, apparently, Finnish not only have no problem with dyslexia, they don't even have a word for it.
Of course the Finns do have a word for it. Dyslexia may be less of a problem in languages with regular spelling, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, still less that their speakers can’t name or discuss it.

Nevertheless, I was pleased to see the Guardian arguing that the time has come
to step back where we can from uniformity and let in variety and simplicity [in our spelling].
Greg Brooks welcomes this openness and gives some examples.
Some oddities in conventional spelling occur in only a few words, and could be changed without causing problems: bild, cubbard, dubble, gost, gard, lam, bom, crum, autum, potatos, sope, foke, buty, canoo, frute. These would be easier for native and non-native speakers, but would have to become official – not alternatives to existing spellings [emphasis added — JCW].

On the assumption that we are content to allow reform of these “oddities”, I don’t see the logic in insisting that the traditional spellings must no longer be permitted alongside the reformed spellings. Why not allow the two forms to co-exist, to compete if you will, until one or other becomes obsolescent and ultimately obsolete?

That is what has often happened in the history of our spelling.

Even within my own lifetime I can think of examples. As a boy I was taught that we could spell the word pronounced ʃəʊ either as show or as shew.
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee. Gen 12:1
No one would write shew today.

That reminds me. When I was at school it was still quite usual to write no-one and to-day with a hyphen. That hyphen is now obsolescent in the first, obsolete in the second. Nowadays (now-a-days), you will see mostly no one and only today. A hundred years ago our newspapers wrote Oxford-street; today it’s Oxford Street. All those hyphens first coexisted with the unhyphenated forms, then finally lost out.

When I was a boy the spelling gaol (for jail) was the usual spelling in Britain. Only Americans would write jail, we thought. Wrong: British newspapers too now write jail.

In Britain we tolerate both organise and organize, and similarly with many other -ise/-ize words. (Some British people wrongly imagine that only -ise is correct for us. On the contrary, the Concise Oxford Dictionary, like many others, prefers -ize.) It does no harm to allow both forms. The same applies to judg(e)ment and various other cases.

And so we come to build and cupboard. On the first, the OED comments (with its charming Victorian syntax)
The normal modern spelling of the word would be bild (as it is actually pronounced); the origin of the spelling bui- (buy- in Caxton), and its retention to modern times, are difficult of explanation.
On the second, we all know that despite its etymology a modern cupboard is not a table or board for cups. It is a cabinet or closet in which we store all sorts of things. A “broom cupboard” has nothing to do with cups or with boards.

So if people want to write about bilding a cubbard, let’s allow them to do so. As for those who prefer building a cupboard — let them continue to do so. Let a hundred or so improved spellings like these exist alongside the traditional forms. Let a hundred flowers bloom. And let’s see what survives.

47 comments:

  1. Surely, given that there's not much agreement as to what exactly the word 'dyslexia' refers to, it's hard to know if any language (incl. English) has a word for it!

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  2. Every time this comes up I try to remind people that myths about the chaos of English spelling are just that.

    Axel Wijk's "Regularized English" is the best and most reasonable approach to English spelling reform. It deals with the truly problematic spellings in -ough, of course. But it also preserves historic "irregularities" that are in fact regular, like -igh for [aɪ].

    I particularly like the way Wijk extends the useful silent -e to distinguish foot [fʊt] from spoone [spuːn]

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  3. And what would/does Wijk give for room, which can rhyme with both foot and spoon?

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  4. The problem with alternate spellings is that you have to teach children to recognize both. And then to decide what to teach them as the preferred (or "right") one, to be consequent etc.

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  5. In Italian we say "dislessia", /dizlesˈsia/, and we obviously know what that means!

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  6. I found those 'phonetic' spelling surprisingly difficult to read.

    Bild had me flummoxed for several seconds. All I could only see was the German word for picture, albeit uncapitalised. I can't think of any word like it, apart from sild, which has always felt un-English to me.

    Buty should have been easier. There's nothing unusual or rare about duty, but it didn't suggest itself.

    The words I'm most uncomfortable about are not necessarily the trickiest to read. They're the ones with cognates in which a 'silent letter' finds it voice.

    I find it comforting that beat- words (beatific, beatitude etc ) share connotations with beautiful.

    It may be no loss to sever that link, but surely we need to preserve the associations with autumnal and fruition.

    Yes, we could get used to more rational spelling — but only in the way that we've got used to metric measurements. In my generation that process has not been a total success.

    The problem is that once you've learned to recognise words, it's very hard to unlearn. The bizarre Schenker method that I've described a couple of times was on to this. Schenker was aware that teachers weren't reading phonetic transcription properly, but rather recognising the words as they did with orthography. So he introduced into his teacher training course the practice of reading backwards (quasi)-syllable by (quasi)-syllable like this. That way he could be sure that teachers weren't distracted by meaning.

    People always point to the number of ways Shakespeare wrote his name. But in doing so, they always write Shakespeare. Not did the printers and publishers of Shakespeare's day favour a free-for-all. Standardised spelling in published reading matter is a great service to a mass public.

    I'm all for greater toleration of unconventional spelling by individual writers. But the interests of readers are well served by standardisation. Besides, there is still intense prejudice against 'bad' spelling which can put writers at a great disadvantage when readers make snap judgements of character on no real evidence — in business correspondence, for example.

    Perhaps we're in the dawn of a golden age when writers can type in as they like and the spellchecker provides the standardisation.

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  7. Sorry, my link didn't work. I'll try again

    So he introduced into his teacher training course the practice of reading backwards (quasi)-syllable by (quasi)-syllable like this.

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  8. The sight of bild makes me think it's pronounced to rhyme with mild or wild, rather than being a homophone of billed. Or should they be respelled as myld and wyld as a consequence?

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  9. How's the bild vs. wild issue any different from the problem in post vs. lost, or dove (the bird) vs. dove (past tense of dive)?
    My suggestion would be wilde, poste (cf. paste!), duv, but I'd be happy to let usage sort out the prefer'd variants.

    Also what's bad about soap (that would not also apply to oak, boat, load, coal etc.)?

    For /bjuːti/, a compromise of regularity and recognizability to the current standard may be beuty.

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  10. Like David, I had surprising difficutly reading the "simplified" spellings above; I (perhaps surprisingly) didn't figure out what "buty" was supposed to be until reading the comments, possibly because as an American I don't have regular palatalization before /u/.

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  11. Ryan

    But don't you rhyme beauty with duty?

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  12. English spelling has always seemed inherently logical to me. It's as though I can see the succession of history (and our conquerors) in every word I write. Are you saying that "build" isn't logical? Are you saying that gaol is *pronounced* like jail? Well, that's interesting. Never knew that one. The only truly illogical spelling I've run across is the U.S.ian insistence that judgment be spelled without an "e"--drives me crazy, but there it is.

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  13. @Jude
    Perhaps it'd help if you ignored the fact the 'judgement' and 'judgment' are *pronounced* the same.

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  14. Tropylium

    How's the bild vs. wild issue any different from the problem in post vs. lost, or dove (the bird) vs. dove (past tense of dive)?

    For me, bild does present a reading problem — slight but real. For optimum speed, I do depend on spotting analogies — the same sound-spelling correspondences in familiar words.

    Wild, as teardrop observed, is supported by the familiar words mild and child. But bild would be supported, it seems, only by the relatively obscure sild.

    There's no such contrast between post and lost. Both are supported by reasonably familiar analogies:

    ghost, host, most vs frost, cost

    The bird dove is supported by love, glove, oven, cover. I don't have Past Simple dove in my active vocabulary, but I recognise it in writing from context and with the support of rove, hove, Shrove, Jove.

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  15. David, I had the same difficulty as Ryan did. I read out buty as /ˈbuːti/, perhaps I had other "bu"-words like bulimia or Budapest or Buddha in mind, all without a glide.

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  16. David: "But don't you rhyme beauty with duty?"

    I don't. I thought it was booty.

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  17. I didn't have any problems reading the regularized spellings. Perhaps that's down to Jack Windsor Lewis' Phonetiblog.

    I don't think more variety in spelling would be such a problem. It's nothing compared to the process of deciphering handwriting.

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  18. I don't have Wijk at hand, but I'm pretty sure he leaves build alone: KIT is the usual vowel for ui, as in guilt, acquit. What would need changing is beguile (probably to begile). He writes cubberd for cupboard.

    The really admirable part of Wijk's 1958 book is the several substantial chapters in which he carefully analyzes all the spellings used in English, a much more difficult and laborious job than merely taking a phonemic analysis (often confined to one dialect) and assigning a unique symbol to each phoneme.

    His scheme is not perfect, of course: he only takes into account the RP and GenAm of his day, so for example he does nothing with the CLOTH set, because it was merged with THOUGHT in both reference accents. He also merges away distinctions that are still living in other accents, which I think is a bad idea. He writes dh for /ð/ (except initially) and aa for PALM; I believe the functional load is too small to justify either. A few preserved irregular spellings in exceedingly short and common words like is, as, are, of wouldn't be that hard for children to learn and would justify themselves in decreased conversion costs for adults.

    I've posted about Regularized Inglish several times: theory, wordlists, sample text. Here's a smaller sample:

    Foarscore and seven years ago our fathers braught forth on this continent a new nation,
    conceevd in liberty, and dedicated to the propozition that aul men ar created equol.
    Now we ar engaged in a greit civil wor, testing whether that nation, or eny nation so
    conceevd and so dedicated, can long endure. We ar met on a greit battle-field ov that wor.
    We hav cum to dedicate a portion ov that field az a final resting-place for thoze hoo here gave their lives so that that nation might liv. It iz aultogether fitting and proper that we shood doo this.

    (Wijk actually writes faadher for father, as explained above.)

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  19. Would I be correct in thinking that "frute" would not represent the pronunciation used by some speakers, especially in Wales? That is, I would expect "fruit" to be pronounced [fru:t], not [frju:t]. A better spelling may be "froot." I am not sure though - I don't know the history of the phoneme or sequence of phonemes represented by the "ui" spelling.

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  20. John

    What would need changing is beguile (probably to begile).

    I don't see it. For me, 'silent E' changes ɪ into . Dropping the U would make it bɪ'dʒaɪl or 'bi:dʒɪl.

    Compare guide, guise.

    Without a closing consonant, stressed UI is similarly — except that Y has to be substituted. Hence buy, guy.

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  21. Paul

    It's nothing compared to the process of deciphering handwriting.

    Yes, and that's we avoid reading handwriting unless there's a good reason for it. Certainly, we wouldn't normally choose to read a hand-written text if there was a printed alternative.

    The difficulty of reading each individual instance of unusual spelling, may be slight, but the instances accumulate and — for me at least — slow things down noticeably.

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  22. @Paul Carley
    "I didn't have any problems reading the regularized spellings. Perhaps that's down to Jack Windsor Lewis' Phonetiblog."

    There are some of us who've given up trying to read JWL's blog, because of his spellings! :)

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  23. I think English spelling has a rule that between a G and an I, E or Y, U is silent and is written only to prevent the close vowel from palatalising the G. French and Spanish have the same rule.

    So while build and buy are irregular and should really be spelt without the U, guild, guilt, guile, guess, guest and guy are quite regular.

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  24. Pete

    build and buy are irregular and should really be spelt without the U

    English spelling is full of regularities for the reader and very short of regularities for the writer.

    Proceeding from spelling to sound, the sound values of build and buy are just as predictable as those of guild and guy.

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  25. So, basically, this whole idea bombed in a matter of 5 comments? LOL.So, basically, this whole idea bombed in a matter of 5 comments? LOL.

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  26. @John Cowan: your "theory" link just goes back to this blog entry. What happens about NORTH/FORCE? (The fates of "four" and "door" in the samples seem inconsistent.)

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  27. Re gaol vs. jail: (from Wikipedia):

    Both spellings go back to Middle English: gaol was a loanword from Norman French, while jail was a loanword from central (Parisian) French. In Middle English the two spellings were associated with different pronunciations: in current English the word, however spelled, is always given the pronunciation originally associated only with the jail spelling ( /ˈdʒeɪl/). The survival of the gaol spelling in British English is "due to statutory and official tradition". [citing the OED]

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  28. @David Crosbie:

    I am very sympathetic to your point. The priority should be to make the spelling -> pronunciation step more transpararent: the opposite direction can come later (if at all). This also largely (though not completely) avoids the issue of deciding whose phonological system we should use as the basis of our spelling.

    As a first step, let's try to make English orthography no more screwed up than French orthography :)

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  29. @Martin J Ball:
    There are some of us who've given up trying to read JWL's blog, because of his spellings! :)

    I haven't given up, but I do find some of his phonetic spellings rather strange. He uses "praps" for "perhaps", for example, which is a realization I rarely if ever hear or use in conversation.

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  30. @Ryan:
    I (perhaps surprisingly) didn't figure out what "buty" was supposed to be until reading the comments, possibly because as an American I don't have regular palatalization before /u/

    Yes, you do, surely. How do you pronounce "use", "computer", "tribune", "funeral", "view", "cube", and "huge"?

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  31. But I thought the point of today's blog was that we have a deep-seated belief (dare I call it an ideology?) that words can have only one correct spelling. I don't think any regular readers of this blog would subscribe to the belief that there is one correct pronunciation for each word, yet what irony that a lot of our discussion has concerned the 'right' respelling of English!

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  32. @Paul Carley:

    English has some words where the regular reading rules lead to a "wrong" pronunciation (one that is not used by any major group of English speakers).

    It could be uncontroversially suggested that the spellings of words such as "have" and "do", could be changed, improving the spelling/pronunciation correspondence for pretty much all speakers, whatever their accents.

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  33. vp

    It could be uncontroversially suggested that the spellings of words such as "have" and "do", could be changed

    I'm not so sure. OK, I could live with hav. But I'm very attached to the spelling rule that all English words are spelled with at at least three letters — except for a very small reference group of extremely common words.

    I would feel uneasy messing with this vital group. I suppose doo might do relatively little damage. But changing to would be disastrous.

    Even do has a certain advantage — it maintains a visual link with does and don't.

    The problem when you mess with words as common as have and do is that you create the maximum of bother for the minimum of benefit. The commonest words are the ones we all remember, so anomalous spellings of them disturb us far far less than oddities in less familiar words.

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  34. @Jude:
    How about a word such as "busy"? I think one wouldn't be able to correctly guess its pronunciation even if they knew the pronunciation of each and every other English word (excluding derivatives of it, of course). Ditto with "bury" or "women".

    A nice try is at the end of http://www.zompist.com/spell.html, though it's based on AmE alone so it doesn't work for people without j-dropping (“hu, tue, huse” should be “hoo, too, hoose”) or with PALM in half (for which the closest thing to a sane spelling would be “hahf”, but then for people with LOT ≠ PALM ≠ START like me the lexical load of the PALM phoneme is nearly negligible -- in fact I'm quite surprised of the fact that “haff” bothers me that much.)

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  35. The most important thing for spelling regularization is to remember that English is morphophonemically spelt, rather than phonemically spelt, so there should not be any changes that affect this efficient but superficially problematic system.

    To see the horrors of upsetting a consistent morphophonemic orthography, try and learn Irish, which had the misfortune of having a spelling reform in 1947. This was perhaps the low point in the history of deep orthographies: the same year saw the publication of Pike's 'Phonemics', This book had the frightening subtitle of: 'A technique for reducing languages to writing'.

    Morphophonemic spelling implicitly retains etymology, giving English spelling a beautiful history, and also retaining strong connections with neighbouring, related and 'dead'languages.

    I believe there are two things which merit change in English spelling. The first are unnecessary graphotactic constraints, such as never ending a word in 'v' or 'z'. There is no benefit in the spelling 'have', and it undermines the 'e' of 'gave'. However, words such as 'love' and 'dove' would have to be respelt as 'luv' and 'duv' (although this might raise the question of whether the once beneficial replacement of 'u' with 'o'should also be changed).

    The other beneficial change might be the removal of unetymological letters such as the 'b' of 'numb, comb, debt' and 'doubt'. This would not extend to bomb-bombard, or even lamb-Lambay Island.

    On the issue of 'gu', see this:
    http://a2dez.com/2010/11/u-is-good-for-guinness/

    Finally, one of my favourite things about English spelling is that, to me at least, it seems to reflect a lot about English culture. While at first the system seems haphazard and awkward, there is an underlying beauty and control to it that can only be appreciated with time and through experience. Eccentricity is tolerated, and history is preserved.

    The same can be said of both rugby and cricket, but not of soccer which has allowed narcissism to dominate it, turning the game into a very dull spectacle. What English spelling could learn from rugby and cricket, however, is that there are ways of incorporating new developments and parallel forms, while still retaining the integrity and beauty of the system.

    This is already happening in the vernacular spelling seen on the internet, in advertising, and in text messaging. How this will pan out is very exciting, and it is a joy to be living through it and charting it.

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  36. One final thing...

    There will be a full revolution in English spelling over the next two generations. This doesn't mean that we will end up with some boring phonemic system like Finnish and Italian, one that insults the intelligence of mankind.

    The future of spelling will not be a pandering to those who cannot do it very well, but instead it will become a system that rewards people who CAN spell intelligently.

    At present, such spelling skills are mostly confined to advertisers and tabloid headline writers who cleverly manipulate spelling for semantic reasons.

    In time everyone will be doing this.

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  37. Some irregularities reflect not English culture but another culture. "Ghost" got its h because Caxton imported printers from the Low Countries and they replaced spellings which misled /them/. Gost has the problem that it suggests that the o is short (after all, it's followed by 2 consonants and there is no magic e), so perhaps goste is better.

    potatos is worse than potatoes: potatoes clearly shows that the last o is long; potatos doesn't show this so clearly.

    I had no trouble reading bild as build. The more specific rule that in -ild the i is pronounced as in PRICE never occurred to me because I had alrady succeeded with the more general rule that a single vowel followed by at least 2 consonants at the end of a word is short. (If the vowel and the first of those consonants had indicated a vowel sound, as in arm or own, then that would have blocked that rule, but they don't, so it didn't.)

    I favour such small-scale reform of spelling. Too often when the subject of spelling reform arises, people argue from the unspoken assumption that the only possible spelling reforms are ones that make orthography completely phonetic: an ideal which for various reasons is unachievable.

    Considering how far from this ideal our orthography actually is, I think that a rule which correctly associates spelling and pronunciation nearly all the time is valuable. Such a rule is that g is soft only before e, i, y or soft g. Thus I favour "judgement" as the first e performs the useful task of showing that the g is soft.

    "spoone" with a final e is needless, because every word with oo before final n (or f, m or p for that matter) is GOOSE. Some may pronounce some of these words differently according to their accents but readers can recognise these words from their spellings even without an added final e. "foole" might've been a more compelling example (cf. wool).

    To what extent is etymology an excuse to not reform certain anomalous spellings? The b in debt and doubt and the p in receipt accord with these words' etymology (they echo letters in their Latin ancestors), yet it could be argued that, if spellings may be reformed, these silent consonants may be dropped, not only because this makes the spellings accord with pronunciations better, but also because these consonants were already lost in French before English borrowed the words.

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  38. Showing synchronic morphology in the spelling is a great idea (not that English always does that: why is the past of pay not spelt payed?), but showing etymology -- especially fictional etymology such as the L in island -- isn't.

    (And if I could get it my way I'd spell ghost as ‹goast› -- like toast, coast etc.)

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  39. A2dez

    The most important thing for spelling regularization is to remember that English is morphophonemically spelt, rather than phonemically spelt

    Agreed. Moreover, this can be seen as a strength rather than a weakness. The problem is that our morphemes come from a range of languages with a range of spelling systems.

    Of course we don't even know what a word is, let alone where it comes for, until after we've succeeded in reading it. Nevertheless there are superficial visual clues which may suggest that the morpheme is somehow 'foreign'. if you've had a certain type of education, you also develop a feel for morphemes that are sort-of French or sort-of Latin/Greek.

    I suspect that experienced readers generally recognise 'latinate' words from their length (consciously or unconsciously) and bring different expectations (conscious or unconscious) to the task of assigning sound values to written morphemes.

    The same sort of expectations may be triggered if a reader recognises a sequences of letters — not necessarily representing a morpheme — that is typical of latinate words

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  40. Richard

    Gost has the problem that it suggests that the o is short

    Yes, but it's a 'problem' that it would share with the relatively common host and the extremely common most, almost.

    For me, the spelling gost suggests the pronunciation gɔst because of the contrast. It isn't ghost, so it can't be gəʊst.

    I had no trouble reading bild as build ... because I had already succeeded with the more general rule that a single vowel followed by at least 2 consonants at the end of a word is short.

    Well, you were fortunate in this case. But general rules are a very mixed blessing. Supposing that a word pronounced baɪld had been intended? Your general rule would have led you to the wrong conclusion. Similarly if you were a foreigner to whom wild, child, mild were not familiar words.

    To what extent is etymology an excuse to not reform certain anomalous spellings?

    Well, it's a reason. Even the spelling debt provides a visual link with debit. And doubt provides a similar link with dubious etc. You may judge that the benefit is too slight to outweigh the spelling difficulty, but still there is some benefit.

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  41. I think that for any respelling to have a reasonable chance of taking hold as a parallel alternative, it needs at least to be quickly understood on sight. I found that "gost" fails this, because of the suggestion of a short "o" (as others have pointed out), even though once learnt it is no harder than "host" and easier than "ghost". I think "goast" would be much more obvious. however.

    I think another thing that can hinder a respelling being readily understood is if it collides with the existing (or respelt) form of another word, whether a homophone or not. So whilst a hundred flowers may bloom, they might not flour.

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  42. I'd be interested in seeing more on the subject of change in spelling, which, as our host points out, has been going on almost unnoticed all the time. Another example is the gradual intrusion of 'e' into words like 'nosy' and 'smoky'; I saw 'nosey' in a newspaper headline the other day, and 'smokey' now seems to be standard when referring to snack food.

    My own modest proposal for spelling tolerance is that we should allow American and British (and Commonwealth) spellings to coexist in free variation. Where can I get a spell checker dictionary which allows both 'color' and 'colour'? On the subject of colour, I note that American English tolerates both 'gray' and 'grey'.

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  43. @Graham Asher:

    Another example is the gradual intrusion of 'e' into words like 'nosy' and 'smoky'; I saw 'nosey' in a newspaper headline the other day, and 'smokey' now seems to be standard when referring to snack food.

    According to Google N-grams, the opposite has happened for "nosy" vs. "nosey", while "smoky" remains many many times more popular than "smokey".

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  44. @Graham Asher: I think "smokey" is generally construed as a name, whether for a cat or a bear. I have not noticed the adjective spelled with an e.

    I think we're way too late to worry about the 'oo' differentiation. We don't seem to agree well enough on which words belong in which class.

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  45. vp,
    «"praps" for "perhaps", for example, which is a realization I rarely if ever hear or use in conversation. »

    I say "praps" unless I'm speaking quite deliberately. But in LPD3 we see only informally also pər ˈæps, præps. My 6-year-younger brother seems to be catered for by only the first LPD3 variant pə ˈhæps, but mostly seems to finish up saying phæps, which absurdity is not recognized by LPD or indeed by the English language in my view. That's what comes of not saying "praps".

    A2dez,
    In your treatment of u as a spelling marker (in the blog entry "u is good for Guinness" which you link to), you say "This is how we distinguish between rare pairs such as ague and age".

    Are you suggesting that eɪg is a possible pronunciation of ˈeɪɡjuː? I can't find any evidence of it.

    army,
    (A minor typo: fictional etymology such as the L in island > the S in island.)

    «And if I could get it my way I'd spell ghost as ‹goast› -- like toast, coast etc.) »

    "Goast", "gost" etc have no ghostliness about them. People are more aware of the ideographic element in English spelling than you may suppose. The ‹gh› in "ghost", "ghastly", ghoul" (although of course that has a perfectly good etymological, or at least transcriptional, justification) has some claim to be thought of as "graphic symbolism" akin to the "phonetic symbolism" of sl- etc.

    So Graham,
    I think both BrE is pretty much as tolerant as AmE of both 'gray' and 'grey'. I always think 'grey' is more grey than 'gray', with the brighter vowel in it!

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  46. Mallamb, A2dez

    Your ague does let you down, A2dez, but one of the three words spelled plage provides pleɪdʒ to contrast with the pleɪg of plague.

    You could have used your Pogues example to make a minimal pair with Stoke Poges. Better still, you could contrast this with podges.

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  47. I started school in 1939 and have only written jail. Gaol turned up in texts and teachers explained it as old-fashioned.

    We were allowed to write -ise or -ize at will. I find I write ise- by hand and type -ize. I found once there were a few compulsory -isation in both British and US spelling.

    Nowadays I find I can get away with any spelling, people just say "How quaint, is that what thwey used to teach?".

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