The following is kindly provided by her family.

Elizabeth Kuizenga, October 29, 1947 to December 25, 2016

Elizabeth passed away on Christmas morning after a valiant struggle with cancer that had lasted over seventeen years. Her passing was quick. Elizabeth was a superb mother and grandmother, renown teacher of English as a second language and loving and beloved sister and friend. She was a bright light to those lucky enough to be close to her. Elizabeth was born in Wisconsin and spent many childhood years in Michigan where her parents’ families lived. She had a lifelong love for Lake Michigan and the sand dunes along the water’s edge.

In 1961, Elizabeth moved with her family to the Bay Area and spent the rest of her life here. She earned a bachelor’s degree in linguistics at UC Berkeley and eventually a Master’s Degree from San Jose State University. She taught English as a second language at San Francisco City College and San Francisco Adult School for many years, supporting her family in Berkeley. Her vision was to make the “American dream” accessible to immigrants through education in our common language. Elizabeth developed a method for teaching English called Live Action English for Foreigners with her colleague Contee Seely. The original text as well as CDs and workbooks have been published in several languages and continue to be popular among teachers of second languages.

Elizabeth had many passions in life. Her daughters and grandchildren were her lasting joy, and they adored her. Elizabeth’s pets also benefited from her love of life. She took in two rescue dogs and fostered a number of cats from time to time. Elizabeth continuously pursued spiritual growth and living a kind, loving and meaningful life, which helped her maintain an amazingly positive approach to fighting her illness. Elizabeth’s passion for linguistics led her to advocate for phonetic spelling of English to increase literacy for English speakers and learners. She was an active member of the English Spelling Society, attending demonstrations and writing articles to promote simplifying spelling rules and irregularities. Elizabeth loved music and enjoyed dancing and singing in a group of round singers. Elizabeth stretched her mind by enjoying games with friends and family or on her own.

Elizabeth is survived by her daughters, Rebecca and Tamara Romijn, their husbands Jerry O’Connell and Pete Crooks, her grandchildren Dolly and Charlie O’Connell and Alexandra and Aden Crooks as well as her sisters Hendrika Smith, Francey Liefert and Katrina Bergen.

The family will hold a private memorial service and plans to invite her friends to a celebration of Elizabeth’s life sometime in the coming months. Please contact them at for more information.

Donations in Elizabeth’s name will be welcomed at Bee Holistic Cat Rescue and Care, the English Spelling Society and the Mercy Corps.

Masha Bell writes: ​

Elizabeth and I became firm friends when she attended her first SSS committee meeting in 2000 and stayed with me for a few days. I met her again at the 2007 and 2009 spelling bee pickets in Washington D.C. which she organised.

At the 2009 bee we even shared a room. — We had almost identical views on spelling reform, probably because she had spent most of her adult life teaching English to foreign students and I had learned English as a foreigner, before becoming a teacher of English in England. She believed, as I still do, that learning to read and write English could be made much easier by merely reducing the number of words with irregular spellings, without changing any of the main, firmly established patterns. We both thought that making English spelling substantially better, without making it perfect, would be good enough to start with.

Masha Bell

Timothy Travis writes:

I got to know Elizabeth when we met in Washington D.C. for the organizing and carrying of our English Spelling Society picket signs on the sidewalk in front of the Grand Hyatt hotel while the Scripps national spelling bees were going on inside. As we walked, two of us would often walk together. Hours of this over the years was bonding.

When we were doing the sidewalk picket signs in D.C., I lived in the tidewater area of Virginia and would drive up and back home each day. When I moved to the San Francisco East Bay in 2015, Elizabeth liked to meet at Skates On The Bay for afternoon nibbles and drinks.

She once spoke of her intuition of some overarching destiny in the universe which brought to mind Arthur C. Clarke's, Childhood's End. I checked out a library copy. Elizabeth read and liked it and, coincidentally, even though the book was 62 years old, Netflix, that fall, brought out a TV version! However at the time, we had others things going on and did not see it on TV. We planned to get a video copy the first of this year and watch it together. I wish we could have. One of the little things that might have been; — Grief's emotions of loss and regrets.

Missing Elizabeth sorely, her voice, laugh, intelligence, humor. — Was stellar.

Allan Campbell writes:

Elizabeth was an inspirational colleague. Not only did she hav ideas of her own, but she also encouraged and moderated those suggested by us. From her experience with remedial teaching of reading, she was able to quietly giv us a reality check on our creativ thinking. My personal experience of her was mainly at the Scripps National Spelling Bee finals in Washington, DC. She saw them as an "extreme sport" for gifted spellers who were to be admired for their ability in mastering obscure and technical words, but having little relevance to the ordinary learner.

When Alan Mole foned her suggesting a picket at the bee, she jumped at the chance, and over the decade of protests she was a guiding light in organizing and co-ordinating our efforts there.

I first noticed Elizabeth when she proposed on the Society forum that to get our campane under way we should raise a million dollars. At the time I paid little heed. Later, knowing that she would use all her enthusiasm and expertise to see it thru, I changed my mind.

She was a proponent and co-designer of the interim house stile, proposed for use in Society publications and websites.

A down-to-earth ideas member, with the ability to see the possibilities and pitfalls of proposals she and others put forward, she is being missed.

Allan Campbell 

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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.