Two Plans to Improve English Orthography

 Posted by on 17 April 2012 at 8:00 am  Funny, Language
Apr 172012

First, the plan commonly attributed to either Mark Twain or M. J. Shields:

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter “c” would be dropped to be replased either by “k” or “s”, and likewise “x” would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which “c” would be retained would be the “ch” formation, which will be dealt with later.

Year 2 might reform “w” spelling, so that “which” and “one” would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish “y” replasing it with “i” and Iear 4 might fiks the “g/j” anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants.

Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez “c”, “y” and “x” — bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez — tu riplais “ch”, “sh”, and “th” rispektivli.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

Second, the plan to turn English into German. (I remember seeing this forwarded via e-mail when I was in college, and I’m delighted to have found it again!)

The European Commission have just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU rather than German, which was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty’s government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a 5 year phase in plan that would be known as “EuroEnglish”:

In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”– Sertainly this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favor of the “k”. This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have 1 less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome “ph” wil be replaced with the “f”. This will make words like “fotograf” 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expected to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always been a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent “e”‘s in the language is disgraceful, and they should go away.

By the 4th yar peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”. During ze fifz yar, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters. After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech ozer.


Ha! English spelling rawks!

  • Jennifer Snow

    Those are plans to improve English Orthography, not spelling.  Improving English spelling would entail getting people to spell better, not changing the  way the words are spelled. :D

    • Diana Hsieh

      AUGH! That’s almost as bad as making a stupid grammatical error when correcting someone else’s grammar. Fixing now.

    • William H. Stoddard

      I don’t agree with that, actually.

      In the first place, in my professional vocabulary, orthography includes more than spelling; it also includes capitalization, hyphenation, and punctuation, for example. The proposal in question does not address any of those, but is limited to spelling. So calling it “orthography” is less precise.

      In the second place, “English spelling” is ambiguous. It can mean, as you take it, “spelling by the English” (though in that case it wouldn’t seem relevant to Diana or me; what we do is “American spelling”), but it can also mean “the spelling of English.” (In parallel, “Noah Webster changed the American spelling of many words” seems perfectly clear to me.)

      I might actually favor “the spelling of English,” as a phrasing that avoids the alternative meaning. But I really don’t think most people would think of the ability of the English to pass spelling tests when they saw “English spelling.”

      • Diana Hsieh

        Oh no! Conflicting opinions! What ever shall I do?!? :-)

        • c_andrew


          But which Punt shall we use? The English Punt with skinny little boats? Or the American Punt with a deformed sphere?

        • William H. Stoddard

          What Would Howard Roark Do?

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