Spelling reform? No.

Any advocate of drastic spelling reform must have an insufficient understanding of just how differently English is spoken in the various groups that contribute to our various American English dialects. Which is why stories like this are such howlers: those paragraphs written in “simpler” spelling simply do not work in whole swaths of America. First, because they’re nightmares of craptastic phonetic transcription; second, because not everyone pronounces every word the same.

Slippery-slope logic suggests that after we have spelling reform, we’d have vocabulary reform, with one word for every thing, idea, or action, and only one thing, idea, or action per word. Imagine the naming committees getting together trying to figure out which bird species, exactly, is the robin, to the exclusion of all others.

But the first test of the self-appointed spelling reformers should be to decide whether cater-corner, catty cornered, or kitty corner is the preferred spelling. That’d keep them busy and out of further mischief for a few decades.

Posted July 6, 2006

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