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Casting a last spell: After Skeat and Bradley

By Anatoly Liberman


I think some sort of closure is needed after we have heard the arguments for and against spelling reform by two outstanding scholars. Should we do something about English spelling, and, if the answer is yes, what should we do? Conversely, if no, why no? Native speakers—let us call them native spellers—of English have long since stopped worrying: school is a place where they must spend twelve rather dull years (though occasionally spiced with proms, sports, and camping out) and survive multifarious bullying (note: bullying is bad, even illegal). Learning to spell is also bullying, but no law exists against it, and a spellchecker with its autocorrect is a nice palliative. There is no opprobrium in saying: “I am a terrible speller”; it even sounds coy. The only people who worry are foreigners. With regard to English, they have neither “competence” nor the wonderful thing called gut feeling, and they honestly try to memorize (memorise?) hundreds of words like hold ~shoulder, full ~ awful, awful ~ awesome, lame ~ claim, usable ~ feasible, and acknowledge ~ accredit. Our collective heart bleeds when we ponder the fate of undocumented aliens and the many difficulties any recent outsider has to overcome during the period of adjustment.

I am all for some version of spelling reform (to boost my case, I’ll capitalize the first letters: Spelling Reform), but my firm conviction is that, if something is going to be done about it, it will be done only out of compassion for our new and prospective citizens.

What can or should be done? Perhaps it will be useful to state a few trivial facts.

(1)   Given a multitude of English dialects, no system that depends on rendering sounds by the letters of the Roman alphabet will satisfy everybody; Bradley was quite right. We cannot achieve the neatness of Finnish. Some people distinguish between horse and hoarse in pronunciation; they, and only they, naturally, applaud the spelling -or- ~ -oar-. For most American speakers writer and rider are homophones, though professional phoneticians tell us that there is a difference. I wonder. If some difference existed, students would not be filling their papers with pearls like title (= tidal) wave, deep-seeded (= seated) prejudice, and even futile (= feudal) system (but you see: they never studied medieval history and have long since realized the futility of their endeavors to spell polysyllables correctly; no feud in this department). Also, there would not have been cartoons featuring tutors, tooters, and Tudors. Any spelling of words with t between vowels will “disenfranchise” somebody. Horse ~ hoarse, Plato ~ play dough, and the rest like them are minor irritants. The pronunciation of words like time and tame is much more confusing: time, tahm, toim for time and time for tame are real killers. Do you chinge trines at foiv(e) o’clock? Perhaps you should. Conclusion: in English, strictly phonetic spelling is a utopia. For pedagogical purposes some version of phonetic transcription may be useful, but this is as far as it goes.

SIMPLIFIED SPELLING FIG_ 1(2)

(2)   With regard to spelling, etymological considerations should be of minimal importance. It is true that many centuries ago knock and gnaw had the sounds of k- and g-. Why is this relic to be honored? Many other words have also lost their initial consonants. For example, hn-, hl-, and hr- were legitimate onsets in Old English. Yet h- has been shed before n, r, and l, and we are much the better for the loss of h- in the written form of loud, nap, and rue. Or should we “hrather” have hloud, hnap, and hrue? Etymology takes us to the past, but a good deal of chaos characterized Middle and Early Modern English spelling. A look at any relatively old word in the OED will reveal a baffling multitude of spelling variants through history. People often say that they would like to keep etymological spelling for its sentimental value. What sentiment? What value? Those who love the history of English (a laudable passion) should enroll in courses on the older periods of their mother tongue: Beowulf, Chaucer, (H)occleve….

(3)   Every spelling reform partly destroys the link between the printed books of the past and the present. Yet anyone who will leaf through the literature published in the eighteenth century will notice that even our recent tradition has not been perfectly stable (also read Shakespeare’s texts brought out in the seventeenth century). Mild reforms have been implemented in several countries. In Russia, not all of them can even be called mild. Especially radical was the one associated with the events of 1917, but the project of that reform predated the Bolsheviks’ takeover of power. Several letters that no longer had any correspondence in the modern language disappeared. The rupture was serious, yet the change made sense, old books are not hard to understand, and today probably no one would plead for the return to the prerevolutionary norm. Sweden too went a long way toward bringing spelling and even grammar in line with everyday speech.

More recently, spelling has been modernized in Iceland and Germany. The timid German reform met with violent opposition; yet now everybody seems to be accustomed or resigned to the novelties. There is no reason why English spelling should remain untouchable. At least one experiment took place in the English-speaking world not too long ago. In the United States, -or replaced -our; centre and its ilk became center; the suffix -ize replaced -ise; words like moulder and smoulder (but not boulder or shoulder!) lost their u; practice and practise, along with defence and defense have lost the letter that distinguishes the verb from the noun (one has lost it s and the other its c); and so forth. English culture survived those measures.

(4)   This brings me to my main point. For any project of Spelling Reform (still capitalized) to be successful, it should be gradual and progress in several waves. The greatest offender is superfluous letters. The reformers who were active about a hundred years ago began with hav, giv, liv, ar (= have, give, are). This, I think, was a mistake. Such heavy-duty words should be left intact, at least for now. Society will not agree to “liv and make liv.” At first, only painless measurers should be suggested. Perhaps opponents will agree to get rid of the second l in full or to follow (folow?) some (!) American variants, seeing that, for instance, the difference between the suffixes -ize and -ise has little justification.

An etymological blog is not a proper forum for offering a ful(l)-fledged program. At this stage, it is more important to engage the public than to argue over details. As long as the reformers keep preaching to the converted (choir, quire), nothing will happen. At one time, I thought that influential politicians should be approached, but I was probably wrong. Politicians will always have to take care of more important things, like raising or cutting taxes, sending or not sending troops abroad, and getting reelected. The suggestion I have recently heard (“try to win over journalists and publishers”) sounds more practicable. After all, journalists write for newspapers, they wield the metaphorical pen, while publishers sell books. Are they interested? Will anyone contributing to numerous word colum(n)s respond to this post? Will dictionary makers take part in the discussion? Ladies and gentlemen of the Fourth Estate, hasn’t the time come for you to join forces with the reformers? Writers of the world, unite!

Anatoly Liberman is the author of Word Origins And How We Know Them as well as An Analytic Dictionary of English Etymology: An Introduction. His column on word origins, The Oxford Etymologist, appears on the OUPblog each Wednesday. Send your etymology question to him care of blog@oup.com; he’ll do his best to avoid responding with “origin unknown.” Subscribe to Anatoly Liberman’s weekly etymology articles via email or RSS.

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Image credit: Image courtesy of Australian Postal History.

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Recent Comments

  1. Annie Morgan

    So many writers (riders? oh come ON) in the Fourth Estate never have learned (learnt?) to spell, so I don’t think they should be included in this experiment.

    If elementary schools would teach pronunciation I’m sure it would help with spelling – but then elementary schools don’t teach writing either.

  2. NJH

    Teaching pronunciation of words like debt, biscuit, salmon, knife, knight etc.,is going to be interesting.

  3. valerie yule

    We could try an experiment that helped peple read traditional spelling – by putting oposit a page in normal text, a paralel text in reformd spelling that was easier.
    It would leav 36 common irregularly speld words – becaus they make up 12% of everyday text and reserch with flash-cards has shown almost everyone can lern 40 words by rote.
    Other words would have cut letters surplus to showing meaning or pronunciation (6%) and changed misleading letters (4%).

    This would be reformd spelling!

    Spelling without traps as dictionary pronunciation gides!
    Up to 3 ways of spelling a sound.

    Pepl could ajust to it as slowly as they liked.
    Experiment. Find out what helpd peple to read.
    Help the English language stay alike for everyone.

  4. Allan Campbell

    Altho, as u wil see, I hav no problem with “hevvy-duty_words” such as ar and hav, I think u could be rite in suggesting they not be in the van of changes.

    But i dout journos ar the ones to leed the charge. Look at the lak of success by the Chicago Tribune. For yeers, The Times (London), Englands most prestigious and allegedly influential newspaper (once dubd The Thunderer) followed the Oxford -ize suffix in its house style. Rather than influencing others to follow suit, it succumd in 1990 and changed to -ise.

    And, anyway, arnt newspapers a dying breed?

    Why not business people? They ar mor used to short-term pane for long-term gane. They hav problems with semi-literat applicants for jobs. And they themselvs would not hav to be 100 percent competent in the new spellings, as would journos and teechers.

  5. John Cowan

    Annie: Which pronunciation should they teach? There is no standard of pronunciation throughout the English-speaking world.

  6. Masha Bell

    Because English spelling has not been improved for several centuries, there is now so much scope for making it more regular, that even deciding what to change poses difficulties: http://improvingenglishspelling.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/modernising-english-spelling.html

    With 80 of the 91 main English spelling patterns having exceptions – http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/english-spelling-system.html – and necessitating word by word memorisation of irregularities (e.g. speak, speech, seize siege) for at least 4,217 common words – http://englishspellingproblems.blogspot.co.uk/2013/11/irregular-spellings-in-4217-common-words_7864.html – there is much to choose from.

    I agree that to aim for phonetic perfection would be unrealistic. The main objective of reform has to be to merely make learning to read and write easier, especially learning to read, for both native speakers and foreigners.

    I also agree that in view of the mess in which English spelling has ended up, it can only be improved gradually, in several stages. But to make any noticeable difference to literacy acquisition, each wave would have to be quite substantial and address problems which are very obvious roadblocks to learning to write and read.

    Many irregular spellings pose no reading difficulties (e.g. lane, train). Quite a few others affect only a few and not very common words (quite – Choir, cherry – Cello, measure – aZure). They are not the reason why basic literacy acquisition in English takes an average of three years while with other orthographies this can be achieved in one year or less.

    The main retardants of progress in learning to read and write English are a mere seven irregularities. They cause both reading and spelling difficulties, and affect large numbers of words, including many quite common ones. In my analysis of the 7,000 most used English words (give or take a few), I found:
    IRREGULAR CONSONANT DOUBLING after short, stressed vowels – with regular usage in at least 423 common words (merry), undoubled in 513 (very) and needless doubling in 239 (serrated).

    UNPREDICTABLY SPELT LONG /ee/ (eat – eel, even, ceiling, field, police, people, me, key, ski, debris, quay) with 131ee, 152ea and 173 others.

    SURPLUS –e ENDINGS [promise - cf. tennis, surprise] – in around 200 words.

    Variant spellings for:
    E: end – head, any, said, Wednesday, friend, leisure, leopard, bury – (301 e – 67 not e)
    U: up – front, some, couple, blood – (308 u – 68 not )
    O-E / -O: mole – bowl, roll, soul; old, mould, boast, most, goes (276 o-e, or open o as in ‘solo’ – 158 not)
    Long oo : food – rude, shrewd, move, group, fruit, truth, tomb, blue, do, shoe, through, manoeuvre (95 oo – 101 not).

    I would therefore say that any worthwhile reform of English spelling needs to reduce some of the above problems. But no reform will ever take place without more substantial public engagement. I have been unable to make much difference to it, despite trying quite hard for almost 20 years.

  7. Allan Campbell

    John: U bring up a valid objection. There is no standard of pronunciation, but there is an acceptance of the idea that one, make that two, standards ar “mor equal than others”. We call them Received Pronunciation (British) and General American. Our current spelling is seen as reflecting these – not too well, it should be added.

    Why cannot an upgraded spelling system do the same – mor effectivly?

    I agree with Mashas view that there has to be mor “substantial public engagement.” That is why I believe that the reform cause is now primarily a marketing exercise. The emfasis should be on “selling spelling”. rather than on devising the best new system.

  8. Steve Bett

    AM: If elementary schools would teach pronunciation I’m sure it would help with spelling.

    SB: I’m not so sure if you are talking about traditional spelling. There is a strong link between pronunciation and dictionary representation.

    NJH: Teaching pronunciation of words like debt, biscuit, salmon, knife, knight etc.,is going to be interesting.

    SB: det biskøt samøn, níf /naif/, nít /nait/
    Dictionary representations are easy to teach. There is usually no good way to teach where to insert a surplus character such as [b, k] or the particular letter used to represent schwa [ui, o...]. These have to be memorized word by word.

  9. Hlnodovic

    Ai cudnt disəgrii mor. Ə riform in inglix speliŋ məst bi radicl not prəgresiv. Piipl dount laic riformz in orþogrəfi n ðei wl əpouz iivn t ð slaitist wφnz (ai rimembr ð xai n riiznəbl ətempt əv ði ostreiliənz əbaut dropiŋ ð letr ‘a’ in /health/). Sou ði ounli səluuxn z ð tωrcix wei: ə houli revəluuxn əv ð sainz. Wφns ð riform z dφn, ju dount hv t wφri in ə loŋ taim n pφbliceixnz ədaptid t ð niu speliŋ wl bi riidəbl fr jirz. Ai əgri wið Alən Cambl, wi xd juuz ən standrd (in mai əpiniən routic RP icsept wen GA bi mor regiulr frm ð trədixnəl speliŋ).

  10. Allan Campbell

    Hinodovic: How ar u going to sell the idea of change to the likes of me who cannot reed all that u rite? If u plan to sell a product successfully – and isn’t spelling change a product? – u’v got to remember that the customer is always rite! U’v got to make contact with them, not friten the horses!

    And it also pays to remember that a proper name belongs to its owner – person, organization, or place. Changing it without the owners permission is a sure way to antagonize them.

  11. John Cowan

    I think the important issue is not spelling but reading. Nativ speakers, as well as second-language speakers who have lerned the language from use rather than from books, need to be able to map the written form onto the spoken form much more than they need to go in the reverse direction. Whot matters is not whether the rules ar complex, but whether they ar predictable. Lerning that “ph” is pronounced the same as “f” is no harder than lerning the usual pronunciation of “ch”, plus dealing with aul the exceptions like “architect” vs. “archbishop”. This can be achieved by chainging the spellings ov the wurds that ar entirely irregular (to “arkitect” in this case).

    Therefore, I believ that it’s appropriate to use a written form that can be mapped reliably onto aul living accents, not merely the wuns used by the favored social classes and nations. (Why shood Australians hav to lern about pronunciations not spoken within thousands of miles ov their shores?) It’s the rest uv us who need lerning to read to be easy. Not only should “horse” and “hoarse” maintain their existing distinctions, but it would be better to write “poark” than “pork”; right now “pork” is an irritating exception for those hoo don’t rhyme it with “fork”.

    The orthography I’m using here is called Regularized Inglish, a slight variant of Axel Wijk’s original version. As yoo can see, it’s pritty close to the traditional orthography. A símple enháncement for chíldren’s books wood be to àdd áccènts índicàting prímary and sécondary stress, or mòre prècísely put, strèssed vowels and diphthongs and únstrèssed-but-unrèdúced single vówels.

  12. Hlnodovic

    Alən Cambəl, ə propr neim biloŋz tu iz ounr ðats tru, hawevr it s ð saund wot s biloŋd not its incoudiŋ. Ai cn rait jr neim in IPA, sirilic or wotevr caind əv raitiŋ n ð neim stil wl bi jorz. Cn ju siriəsli səport ə speliŋ riform n ət ð seim taim icscluud propr neimz? Ol raitiŋ xd help ju t diicoud iizili ə neim n hau it s prənaunst. Φnforkunətli, inɡlix neimz ə cwait siməlr t kainiiz carəctrz, ju hv t lωrn ðm bai hart (fr instns, ‘Crichton’ z ackuəli Craitn, ‘Leicester’ z Lestə, ‘Pepys’ z Piips n sou on.

    | Ælən Kæmbəl | ə prɒpə neɪm bɪlɒŋz tu ɪz əʊnə | ðæts truː | haʊevər ɪt s ðə saʊnd wɒt s bɪlɒŋd | nɒt ɪts ɪnkəʊdɪŋ | aɪ kən raɪt jə neɪm ɪn IPA | sɪˈrɪlɪk ɔː wɒtevə kaɪnd əv raɪtɪŋ ənd ðə neɪm stɪl wl̩ bi jɔːz || kən ju sɪərɪəsli səpɔːt ə spelɪŋ rɪfɔːm ənd ət ðə seɪm taɪm ɪkskluːd prɒpə neɪmz? | ɔːl raɪtɪŋ ʃəd help ju tə diːkəʊd iːzəli ə neɪm ənd haʊ ɪt s prənaʊnst || ʌnfɔːtʃʊnətli | ɪŋɡlɪʃ neɪmz ə kwaɪt sɪmələ tə tʃaɪniːz kærəktəz | ju həv tə lɜːn ðəm baɪ hɑːt fər ɪnstəns | ‘Crichton’ z æktʃuəli Kraitn | ‘Leicester’ z Lestə z | Pepys z Piːps | ənd səʊ ɒn |

  13. Gregory H. Bontrager

    What I think we need is a well-balanced reform scheme, one that is radical enough to massively simplify the task of learning it (both for native children and non-natives of all ages) but also shows at least some consideration for those who are already fluent in the traditional system. My own proposed orthography, for instance, uses positional rules to minimize the frequency of diacritics, but once those rules are applied, the reader knows exactly how to pronounce a word with no doubt whatsoever.

    I also agree with Hondovic that a compromise between the standard British and standard American accents (essentially what he calls “rhotic RP”) would be ideal as the reference point for a new orthography.

    Wot ai þink wi níd iz ø wel-bælønst riform skím, wan ðæt iz rædikøl inaf tu mæsivli simplifai ðø tæsk ov lérniñ it (bouþ for neitiv cildrøn ænd non-neitivz ov ól eijiz)bat ólsou çouz sam kønsidørreiçøn for ðouz hu ar ólredi flüønt in ðø trødiçønøl sistøm. Mai oun prøpouzd orþogrøfi, for instøns, yúziz pøziçønøl rúlz tu minimaiz ðø fríkwønsi ov dayøkritiks, bat wans ðouz rúlz ar øplaid, ðø rídør nouz igzæktli hau tu prønauns ø wérd wið nou daut wotsowevør.

    Ai ólsou øgri wið Hondovic ðæt ø komprømaiz bitwín ðø stændørd Britiç ænd stændørd Ømerikøn æksents (isençøli wot hi kólz “routik RP”) wud bi aidiøl æz ðø refrøns point for ø nu orþogrøfi.

  14. Allan Campbell

    Hinodovic: As u choose not to respect my wishes as owner of my name, I wil do what any normal person in this position would do: ignor u and your arguments. U ar not going to persuade many or help the cause with that sort of attitude.

  15. Gavin Wraith

    I think there is an elephant in the room, when it comes to spelling reform of English. We all know that the spoken and the written language are not the same and that the relation between the two varies from language to language. When it comes to tone, English has no way of representing it in writing. Stress may be denoted in dictionaries, but unlike Chinese, tone in English modifies the whole sentence, not just the word, and so lexicographers do not see it as part of their remit.

    At school, when I learned ancient Greek, teachers would often say “This particle cannot be adequately translated into English, except by a clumsy and distracting periphrasis; it denotes a tone or a grimace, or a gesture.”. They would go on to say that probably ancient Greek used tones that were anchored into a word, and so were not available for semantic purposes, whereas English could afford to do without those particles. In consequence their meanings seem to have become invisible to the linguistics of English, even though tones in a sentence may be more homogeneous from dialect to dialect than vowels. So it seems to me that a certain fraction of our spoken language has become invisible in writing, because we no longer use things like sentential clitics in the way that some ancient languages did. This has widened the gap between speech and writing. No amount of spelling reform is going to cure that unless we include a musical score as part of writing.

    The subject of linguistics obviously has to ignore some things, and has to draw a line between what it regards as part of its subject and what it does not. But I would suggest that this line is drawn differently for each language.

  16. Hlnodovic

    Jr riacxn riflects ðt əv ð жenrl cnsiumr: sm feivrit wωrdz canət bi keinжd. Ai m xur ju wud hv autreiжd iivn wið ə xai prəpouzl əz raitiŋ jr sωrneim əz Campbel. Bai ð wei, mai neim z HLNO-do-vic not HI-no-do-vic (sanserif fonts r cnfiuziŋ) bt ai wount wφri if ju misspel or rait it əz Hlnodovic or Khlnawdawvick əcordiŋ jr sistm.

    Ju canət riid mai mesiжiz bicoz ju dount nou its incoudiŋ. Diu t ð niid əv sm efrt frm ð cnsiumr, nou refrmeixn wl bi popiulr. Ai ripiit ði igzaampl əv ð tωrcix: it keinжd frm arəbic t latin script. Meibi mai prəpouzl z not gud inφf, it s beist on IPA wið ən orþəgrafic simplificeixn n juuziŋ moust əv ‘Qwerti’ n fmilir letr fr jurəpiən langwiжiz (ðat s wai ai prifωrd ‘c’ insted əv ‘k’ n ‘x’ fr ‘ʃ’. IPA z ə bit mor compliceitid bt hz ə loŋ prestiiȝ əraund ð wωrld n it wl bi ð best candidət in ordr t ripleis ol jurəpiən orþogrəfiz.

    | jə rɪækʃn̩ rɪflekts ðət əv ðə dʒenr̩əl kənsjuːmə | səm feɪvrɪt wɜːdz kænət bi tʃeɪndʒd | aɪ əm ʃʊə ju wʊd həv aʊtreɪdʒd iːvn̩ wɪð ə ʃaɪ prəpəʊzl̩ əz raɪtɪŋ jə sɜːneɪm əz | baɪ ðə weɪ | maɪ neɪm z | nɒt sænserɪf fɒnts ə kənfjuːzɪŋ | bət aɪ wəʊnt wʌri ɪf ju mɪsspel ɔː raɪt ɪt əz ɔː əkɔːdɪŋ jə sɪstəm |

    | ju kænət riːd maɪ mesɪdʒɪz | bɪkɒz ju dəʊnt nəʊ ɪts ɪnkəʊdɪŋ | djuː tə ðə niːd əv səm efət frəm ðə kənsjuːmə | nəʊ refəmeɪʃn̩ wl̩ bi pɒpjʊlə | aɪ rɪpiːt ði ɪɡzɑːmpl̩ əv ðə tɜːkɪʃ | ɪt tʃeɪndʒ frəm ærəbɪk tə lætɪn skrɪpt || meɪbiː maɪ prəpəʊzl̩ z nɒt ɡʊd ɪnʌf | ɪt s beɪst ɒn wɪð ən ɔːθəɡræfɪk sɪmplɪfɪkeɪʃn̩ ənd juːzɪŋ məʊst əv ənd fəmɪlɪə letə fə jʊərəpɪən læŋɡwɪdʒɪz ðæts waɪ aɪ prɪfɜːd ɪnsted əv ənd fə || IPA z ə bɪt mɔː kɒmplɪkeɪtɪd bət həz ə lɒŋ prestiːʒ əraʊnd ðə wɜːld ənd ɪt wl̩ bi ðə best kændɪdət ɪn ɔːdə tə rɪpleɪs ɔːl jʊərəpɪən ɔːθɒɡrəfɪz |

  17. John Larsson

    I have practically no knowledge of classic languages, but I appreciate the points made by Mr. Gavin Wraith. Let’s compare with music. The note sheet approaches what the composer had in mind, but unlike orthography, the notes never have had a “life” of their own! The written language has always been different from the spoken language, primarily because the two have been used in different situations. As Mr. Wraith says, there is much more to a language than how the singular words are spelled. If the orthography were to be continuously updated, it would in my opinion lead to “pre-historic” times, with no written language!

  18. Allan Campbell

    Gavin: I think your last sentence says it all. “I would suggest that this line (between what [linguistics] regards as part of its subject and what it does not) is drawn differently for each language.”

    Let us not be diverted by how other languages use tone, but be aware of how English uses tone. Let us not be diverted by the importance of tone in other languages, but be aware of its place in English riting. Let us not be diverted by the use of stress in other languages, but be aware of its place in English, and how it is indicated.

    Let us also not becum entangled in the niceties of linguistics, and be mor aware of the everyday use of English by the person in the street.

  19. AnWulf

    One of the main things is to put sum kind of steddiness into the tung. I don’t mind -tion owing to it is almost always sed as ‘shun’. The same goes for -igh … it’s almost always a long ī … sigh, sight, bight (a bend in a rope), light … so leav it. The less that we must chaenj or shift, the better and more likely it would be accepted.

    The shift must also fit with the standard keeboard. Folks aren’t going to go for a bunch of new letters that they don’t hav or must note an odd combination of kees to work. I’d like to æ (ash) come back for the a in ash sound … thus, æsh, æt, thæt, pæth … but most folks don’t kno how to get that on their keeboard.

    Plus, we are all at other levels of acceptance. I regularly write giv, liv (both found in the old Century Dict.), thru, tho, altho, enuff, and so forth. We must each find our level of comfort with the better spellings and stick with them hwen we write blogs, make comments on blogs or Facebook or hwatever. I put ‘freespeller’ at the bottom of all my emails to alert folks that I note more fonetic spellings.

    Hwat we can’t do is keep bitching but keep noting the ‘stupid spellings’ for fear that others will think us illiterate.

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