We are saddened to announce the passing of Edward J. Lias, 85. Dr. Lias co-authored American Literacy Council's Dictionary of simplified American spelling (1986) with Edward Rondthaler. More accurately Lias was ALC's software secret weapon, able to digitize 40,000 English words — alphabetically or phonetically. He developed, without fanfare, ALC's literacy software program Soundspel. Lias was surrounded by family and died peacefully from complications following a stroke.

Born on Jan 9,1934 in Pittsburg, PA to Wilfred Lias & Laverne (McIntyre) Lias he married Zelma (Airgood) Lias, Jan 3, 1954 in Punxsutawney, PA. In addition to spouse Zelma, he is survived by his brother Thomas Lias, Morgan, GA; his daughter Susan (Lias) Manges, Bloom, PA; son Stephen Lias, Naco, TX and six grandchildren.

Edward received his undergraduate degree from Nyack Coll, master’s degrees from Gordon Conwell and Columbia U, and a PhD from NYU where his 1979 dissertation (exploring the future of PC's) was the first there created via word processor.

An entrepreneur & inventor Lias patented a pendulum-driven drawing device in the 60's that produced graphic art used for everything from Hollywood film posters to a UN postal stamp! His skills as programmer, writer, business-manager, and public speaker were put to great use via his VIP positions at 'Sperry Unisys' where he pioneered the rise of mainframe & personal computers. Among Lias' other publications & articles was his book Future Mind, released in 1982 by Little, Brown and Company.

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Did You Know:

• Ask your friend what Y-E-S spells. They won't have any difficulty saying yes. Then ask what E-Y-E-S spells. It's easy when it's written down, but surprisingly difficult when it's spoken. See a YouTube video of this.

• Who has not heard i before e, except after c. A University of Warwick statistician put it to the test. He plugged a list of 350,000 English words into a statistical program to see if the math checked out. It didn't.

• When Adam met Eve for the first time, he said Madam, I'm Adam. This is a palindrome — a phrase or sentence in which the letters, words or even lines read the same in either direction. Adam hoped to impress the most beautiful woman in the world, but she more than matched him by replying simply, Eve. Not bad given that writing, and therefore palindromes, and English ones in particular, had not yet been invented! More palindromes, and a wonderful palindromic poem.

• How would you pronounce ghoti? Pronounce it like this:

and you get ... fish! Thanks to Charles Ollier for writing this in 1855 — and for showing that English spelling has been ludicrous for quite some time.

• One of the arguments in favour of keeping English spelling unchanged is to show the etymology of words. For example, the silent s in island shows the link to the Latin insula. But island actually derives from the Old English íglund, not from the Latin at all. More examples at Mental Floss.


Page editor: N Paterson. Contact by email or form.

​Spelling reform is not a new idea!

Benjamin Franklin "The same is to be observed in all the letters, vowels, and consonants, that wherever they are met with, or in whatever company, their sound is always the same. It is also intended that there be no superfluous letters used in spelling, i.e. no letter that is not sounded [...]"  Franklin proposed a spelling scheme with 6 new letters. (Franklin 1806 p359)

Theodore Roosevelt "It is merely an attempt [...] to make our spelling a little less foolish and fantastic." Theodore Roosevelt promoted the Simplified Spelling Board's gradual reform (see Twain below). (Roosevelt 1906, p3)

Mark Twain "It is my belief that an effort at a slow and gradual change is not worth while. [...] It is the sudden changes [...] that have the best chance of winning in our day. Can we expect a sudden change in our spelling? I think not. But I wish I could see it tried. [...] By a sudden and comprehensive rush the present spelling could be entirely changed and the substitute spelling be accepted, all in the space of a couple of years; and preferred in another couple. But it won't happen, and I am as sorry as a dog." (Twain 1997, pp208-212)

Page editor: N Paterson. Contact by email or form.