Thursday, August 07, 2008

Variant spellings promoted

A current BBC article reports on the following proposal from Ken Smith of Bucks New University, a "criminology lecturer":
[...] "Instead of complaining about the state of the education system as we correct the same mistakes year after year, I've got a better idea.

"University teachers should simply accept as variant spellings those words our students most commonly misspell.

"The spelling of the word 'judgement', for example, is now widely accepted as a variant of 'judgment', so why can't 'truely' be accepted as a variant spelling of 'truly'?" [...]
English simplified spelling schemes never catch on, but every so often English undergoes some spelling changes anyway. Look at an edition of Swift's Modest Proposal with the original spelling and orthography if you want to see something fairly different from what you are used to. In current usage, variant spellings are actually unfortunate. If certain current spellings are more trouble than they are worth, then shouldn't the solution involve actual streamlining?

If people want to adopt Smith's modest proposal, let it be understood that the goal is to retain a system in which each word has one spelling. The "acceptance" of variants should be a temporary measure. The more intuitive spellings should be pushed down the path to becoming the new standard spellings while the now-current spellings become archaic variants. As the article explains, Smith is "not asking people to learn to spell words differently." But let's choose one spelling to teach to the next generation.

Crossposted on Soccer Dad

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