[Allan Campbell: see Journals, Newsletters, Media.]
Cornell Kimball: see Journals, Newsletters.]
Working for planned change in English spelling for the benefit of learners and users everywhere
newsletter July 1997 part 1.
Editor: Allan Campbell, Publisher: Cornell Kimball.
This issue.This is the last issue to appear as the Simplified Spelling Society Newsletter. From November, the title will be simpl speling. Proposed by the editor, this was accepted by the committee in March. More later.
This issue is also the last that Cornell Kimball will have a part in putting together as publisher. Originally, he undertook to help with only last December's issue, and we appreciate his decision to stay on until now. We thank him for his invaluable help in getting the Newsletter going again. He intends to pursue his work for the cause in the area outlined in his December article.
Address changes.Members are asked to notify Jean Hutchins, membership secretary, of any address changes, particularly e-mail address, even if temporary.
Deadline.The deadline for copy for the November issue is 1 October. If you have something for publication, please send it as soon as it's ready.
40 years ago in Spelling Reform history.A debate ensued on the Letters pages of the American National Education Association's Journal discussing whether their Journal should use thru, tho and thoro.
[Joe Little: see Journals, Newsletters, Web links.]
How can we outsmart Murphy?
What inhibits newspapers from simplifying more spellings?
How are U/we going to simplify English spelling? Not what, nor why, but How? How
will it occur? Is it doable? What's the plan? What or who would hinder it? How can
hindrances be neutralized? How can Murphy's Law be vetoed or nullified?
Joe Little asks a New York copy chief.
These were a few of the questions in the back of my head as I requested and received an interview with Len Valenti, copy chief of the New York Daily News.
Why the Daily News? For one thing, the Daily News' texts have simple spellings like cigaret and employe. For another, its headlines are marked by spellings like sez and duz. And the Daily News' home office is nearby!
I wanted a hundred logistical questions answered, such as: Why are U doing this? When did it start? Who started it? Are U in charge of such matters? What other simple spellings do U use? Have there been other such spellings that have fallen into disuse, and why aren't they used any more? What/who would stand in the way of additional simpler spellings?
Valenti admitted that 'teacher wrath' is the big roadblock to maintaining and expanding a paper's body of simpler spellings. The way to offset such opposition might involve well-timed supporting calls, taxes or e-mails from local teachers or parents - not to speak of school board reps, PTA chairs or teacher union heads. In other words, a thoughtful support fax, letter, e-mail or call will tend to offset the typical reactionary letter or call.
He was indifferent to the Chicago Tribune's simplifications of many years ago - he also told of restoring the o to subpena as a gift to a retiring reporter trend who had long objected to the use of the shortened word - and expressed disinterest in my tiny overtures concerning additional simplifications, but did suggest that the similarly-styled Star Ledger of Trenton, New Jersey, might be a place to peddle such spellings.
Tho I thanked him for the tip, I'm more thankful that he confirmed what I know but hate to admit: It is crucial that we befrend, then later use, key (often local) special interest folks to support in-use simple spelling.
Joe Little: American Literacy Council.
This 'n' that from here 'n' there.
Spelling should be pensioned off.Spanish children may be dancing with joy but a proposal by Gabriel Garcia Márquez, the Nobel laureate, to do away with spelling has caused consternation in the hallowed halls of the Royal Academy of Spain.
"Spelling should be pensioned off," the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude recommended. "It terrorizes human beings from birth."
The illustrious members of the Royal Academy, which has acted as both protector of the Spanish language and arbiter of orthographic acceptability for the past two centuries, reacted with scorn. "It would make Spanish like English, a language with no rules," Luis Goytisolo, author and academy member, complained.
Señor Garcia Márquez said a first step towards getting rid of spelling should include the banishing of two letters. He suggested axing silent H, and merging B with V, which are pronounced more or less the same.
Were his proposals to win acceptance, Spanish greetings would never be the same. ¡Hola! would be ¡Ola! and ¡Bienvenido! (welcome) would be either ¡Bienbenido! or ¡Vienvenido !
Senor Garcia Márquez made his call before King Juan Carlos of Spain and an audience of academics at the International Congress of the Spanish Language in Mexico. His ideas pleased some Latin Americans.
"Spelling is used to oppress people," Rasúl Avila, a Mexican linguist, enthused.
- The Times, London.
Rate own skills highly.Most Australians believe their literacy and numeracy skills are good or excellent, with younger people rating their skills higher than other age groups rate theirs. The self-rating lowers not only with age, but also with being outside the labor force or having lower educational qualifications, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics' Aspects of Literacy survey, released in May.
More women than men rate their reading and writing skills as excellent, but this is reversed when rating mathematical skills. A quarter say they can converse in another language.
- The Australian and Sydney Daily Telegraph.
Gifted Memberships.An idea worth emulating! Just after joining the Society last December, Tom Zurinskas, of Cologne, New Jersey, gave memberships in the Society to two others as Christmas gifts.
Posts on spelling, literacy.Chris Gledhill, a new committee member, receives many posts by e-mail from the Linguist List. A few concern orthography and literacy. If you would like the latter e-mailed to you, contact Chris.
At the AGM and committee.
Little joy from task force.
- Chris Jolly and Chris Upward had represented the Society at the Literary Task Force conference. It had been interesting and impressive, with useful contacts made, but the chair, Professor Michael Barber, had since said the task force did not see recommending spelling change as its role. A reply has been drafted.
- Gwenllian Thorstad, research director, reported she was still following up funding for a charitable trust to support her spelling research and locating suitable schools for the research.
- Allan Campbell spoke on 'Promote - or perish', urging the Society to get out among the people. The speech generated discussion, and suggestions of advertising in newspapers. A proposal from Cornell Kimball for advertising in selected educational publications was tabled.
- Jean Hutchins reported membership was 108, but only 47 were paid up for 1997.
- Committee meeting dates were set for Saturdays: 19 July, 18 October 1997, 17 January, 18 April 1998 (with AGM).
- Allan Campbell, who was appointed to the committee on what he saw as a trial basis for overseas members, asked they be able to participate more fully in electing officers or promoting ideas. Written nominations, circulated before the AGM, and proxy voting might be necessary.
- Personal View No. 4 was held over. Chris Jolly said he hoped there would be some publication soon.
Officers, Trustees and Committee Members.President: Professor Don Scragg
Vice Presidents: Lord Simon of Glaisdale, Professor John Wells, Dr Valerie Yule
Chairman: Chris Jolly
Vice-Chairman, Media Relations Officer: Leo Chapman
Editor-in-Chief & Literature Secretary: Chris Upward
Membership Secretary: Mrs Jean Hutchins
Meetings Secretary: Nick Atkinson
Treasurer: Alun Bye
Research Director: Dr Gwenllian Thorstad
Committee members: Tony Burns, Paul Fletcher, Revd Nick Kerr, Allan Campbell Dr Christopher Gledhill, Gerald Palmer.
Trustees: Stanley Gibbs, Revd Nicholas Kerr, Professor Don Scragg.
Next committee meeting.The next meeting of the committee is at 10.30am on Saturday 19 July. Any member is welcome to attend.
Following meeting is 18 October.
[Jean Wilkinson, see Newsletters .]
What one member has been doing.
'We try to laf, but it hurts the students'.
Jean Wilkinson, US.I'm a retired teacher who has taut remedial reading and English as a second language. I've bruised my nose many times bumping into the anomalies of English orthografy, and I've watched my students take their bumps too. We try to laf them off, lafing basicly at the archaic orthografy, but I know it's hurting the students.
I'm only a grass root, with no background in etymology or much history. I've been collecting orthografical anomalies as long as I can remember. I can recall taking though, through, and thought by the throat and extinguishing them once and for all.
I taut 4th and 5th grades in the '50s, and remedial reading by fonics in the mid-'60s. I thot no one else was updating orthografy, so I invented an alfabet using no unvoiced consonants but using a 'whisper mark' instead, such as V,
The Oregonian newspaper - largest circulation in Oregon - published me once under In my opinion, using my own fonetic spelling. The editor's typist said to him afterwards: "Don't you EVER do that to me again!"
Support? I don't get any. I just do it because it has to be done. Of course, SSS publications are a delight and most helpful.
I send 50 to 80 Christmas cards a year. I send my observations in them - including a series beginning 'Daddy, how do you spell...' Four of my respondents have replied affirmatively, two negatively, and the rest have never referred to my spelling or filosofy at all.
I also write to public figures. I recently wrote to George Will on the decision that newscasters say goverment. He is an influential molder of US thot, as a writer for Newsweek magazine, syndicated news analyst, and regular ABC network This Week program interviewer.
[For a follow-up newspaper letter, see below - Ed.]Just before President Clinton met with President Yeltsin in Finland in March I wrote to him suggesting he might take the opportunity to listen to some 8-year-old Finns read. I pointed out young Finnish readers are among the best in the world. I've heard they can correctly read words not in their vocabulary.
I also said a group of American researchers went there in the 1980s to compare their remedial readers with ours. To get enuf Finnish remedials to constitute a comparable group they had to go to an institution for the developmentally disabled!
Encouragement from Cornell Kimball has led me to reward myself with a rare visit to the library where I was introduced to the Oxford English Dictionary. An hour or so reading small print brot forth more papers.
I'm now collecting minimal pairs that pull the rug from under young readers. Like recite/ recipe and slaughter/laughter. If readers know any more, I'd like to hear them.
Febuary 28 1997. Dear Op. Ed. [Opinion and Editorials]:Did you, too, hear on TV in January that the word "government" will henceforth be pronounced "goverment" by newscasters? Because "government" is now considered stilted. I wondered how long it would be before "February" became "Febuary." The month changed, and "Febuary" was already there!
My response was: "Will the spellings be changed to match?" I have heard nothing.
I weep. Already a good half of our words don't match their spellings to their pronunciations. English writing is well strewn with silent letters. (14th century English contained NO silent letters!)
We know the average American kid isn't keeping afloat in the international competition for achievement. Then why don't we lower our water level to that of the other nations? Their spellings are more regular. Their kids can touch bottom. Instead (I can't comprehend this) we've just made our own water deeper! If we add contemporary pronunciations without removing letters we've just made silent, we're helping drown our kids!
I myself prefer the "n" in "government." We have not yet lost the word "govern." So I'm going to continue to say "government." But I wouldn't cry over losing the first "r" in "February." It comes from "Februa," an ancient Roman festival of purification. "Februa" is long gone. Who will mourn it? "Febuary's" etymology would remain unchanged, for anyone who wants to trace it.
Dare we choose not to follow the dictionary? No problem! One of the best-kept secrets around is that the dictionary is following us!
President Clinton's inaugural address urges us to be "shapers of events, not observers." He said our enemy is inaction. He said, "Give people the tools they need to shape their lives." The English language is a very basic tool.
I've already begun to write "Febuary." Want to join me?
Most sincerely, Jean Wilkinson.
Strength in unity.My recent visit to England and Scotland, primarily to attend the Society's AGM, was a major event for me.
I have visited there before, but I have never before in a lifetime of wanting some modernization of English spelling been in the company of a roomful of people holding a similar goal.
As I expected, there was a variety of views held on the campaign. But we all agreed on the need for change.
I, for one, am encouraged by being with like-minded people. After a mere year in the Society I have already raised my energy and activity levels for the cause in ways I would have balked at two years ago. Back then I did not know of the Society or that others were aiming for the same goal as I was.
We can all draw strength from each other. Let us offer support where we can; let us put forward our own ideas when we think they are valid and deserve discussion and backing, but be willing to drop or amend them if they prove to be unworkable; and let us be strong in our resolve to retain unity in spite of differences.
On my way home I was fortunate to visit Soweto in South Africa and see changes being made slowly as a result of one successful campaign. A leader of that struggle, Nelson Mandela, wrote in his book Long Walk to Freedom there are times when one's individual views must be subordinated to the cause. He's well qualified to preach that message. We should heed it.
- AIlan Campbell.
Back to the top.
On another page: part 2.