12 July, 2007

Fuk thu Dikshunerry

Read this first.

Far be it from me to chase literately-challenged people down the street waving my arms like a crazy person and screaming "Identify yourself, science-dodging cow-human!" (which, although not entirely relevant in this context, is my new favourite phrase), but the fact that people are ACTUALLY considering this reform makes me hurt deep down inside.

I don't think I have ever read a more horrifying BBC article. And I've read all those scary ones about global warming, and everything.

Quite frankly, I am allergic to spelling errors. Grammatical errors, too. Syntax errors. Just errors in general. I am hideously allergic to them - to the extent that I don't have to even see the glaring error, I just start to itch the second I see the offending page - and see no reason why they should exist. Spell-checking is ridiculously easy. As far as I'm concerned, one tiny spelling error on a website throws its entire credibility into question. And to read a BBC page which is literally 50% composed of this 'simplified spelling' English, which I shall hereby be referring to as 'Retardese', makes a small but powerful part of my brain burst into flames of spontaneous and complete rage.

At risk of further aggravating this neurological condition, I proceeded to read the glossary which the article links to. You can find this here.

Now, listen carefully. For your own wellbeing, I strongly suggest that none of you ever, EVER use any of these spellings, even in jest. Because if you do, I promise you this: I will hunt you down. And I will kill you.

What this idea says is "As a society we are becoming too lazy to teach our children how to spell." This is not an idea for the betterment of humankind. This is not a treaty on global warming; it is not an effective policy against child abuse; it is not useful in any way, shape, or form. It merely justifies every single awfully-spelt forum post every dumbassed 13-year-old has ever spewed out in a fit of adolescent self-importance.

Of course, once you start spelling everything phonetically (or 'foneticly', as I'm sure these idiots would insist), you come up against some rather obvious issues. When you spell 'their', 'they're' and 'there' phonetically - which I would assume would be 'ther' or something equally stupid-looking - how do you differentiate between meaning? Don't start on at me about context, either. Leave context out of this. I don't care how relevant context is; bad spelling is bad spelling and that is the end of it. Words have different spellings for a perfectly good reason. Not to mention that I think changing the spelling of words hides the original etymology of the word; and while I'm sure that many children have no interest in this (and that most of them don't even know what etymology actually is), it is a huge shame for those of us who actually give a crap about the language we speak.

And now, to my favourite part, where I get to cease the incensed rambling and pick one of the articles apart piece by crapulent piece:

"Homophones, words which sound alike, are spell differently at present, but when represented phonetically would have the same configuration and would cause confusion to the reader. Dr. Gassner has shown great concern about this problem in his "Consistent Spelling," and uses double consonants in words to show difference in meaning."

Yeah. Because that is SO much simpler than just keeping the dictionary as it is.

"If Spelling Reform were implemented, the millions of volumes in public and private libraries would become 'closed books' (without special study) to the children of tomorrow.

My own observations on these points would agree that

'A language requires an adequate collection of various signs for its spoken sounds. English spelling reformers say we need 40 or more phonetic symbols instead of the 26 we have.' (Fairbanks 1970)"

What exactly the fuck does that quote have to do with the fact that if children can't read the language as it is now, they effectively won't be able to read anything that has been published up until now?
I just don't understand how they came up with this argument. It strongly reminds me of the way a vicar will respond if you ask him an awkward question about religion, such as "why should I accept the bible as right, just because it says it's right - surely the Koran can argue the same?" (Which, by the way, is a brilliant question to ask a vicar. They come out with some amazing shit. Then they start sweating and quickly leave the room.)

"After a short study of phonetic print, the reader will find he is able to read and write with perfect fluency."

Yeah. You'll be a fluent fucking idiot. Congratulations.

"It is said that reformed spelling would obscure the etymology of words. But in an approximately equal number of words wrong etymology would be clarified. A phonetic spelling would no doubt give many words a form farther removed from their Latin or other source than the old spelling, but the mass of those who learn the new spelling will also know the old, which will always be available for reference to those who are interested in etymology. The study of the derivation of words is a specialist subject for the scholar. As long as words convey meaning to the ordinary person, that is all he requires from them.

In the 8th Century Alcuin taught the scribes a development of script used by Irish monks. He introduced the small letters of the alphabet. Most of them have a different representation from their corresponding capital letters. [6] These were new characters and Alcuin could be accused of reforming the spelling of his day. He introduced new configurations to each word and we can assume that this was welcomed by the scribes who would find it much quicker and easier to write."

Ok, first off: 'the mass of those who learn the new spelling will also know the old'. Yeah. For a few measly generations. Until the first bunch of kids to be taught only the new spelling become the older generation, and nobody is left alive who has used 'old' spelling. Also, if it's that great, why would it be necessary for people to have ever known the old spelling? Yeah, that's what I thought. 'The study of the derivation of words is a specialist subject for the scholar'. So are you going to teach 'old' spelling at schools? At universities? Will people even be aware that there is an 'old' way of spelling? And how exactly would that work?
The word "ther" in the form meaning "belonging to them", was originally spelt "their" - no, I don't know why either, Timmy, silly oldworlders and their backwards spelling - which probably came from some stupid language like Latin, which as we all know is rubbish...

Also, 'He introduced the small letters of the alphabet... most of them have a different representation from their corresponding capital letters... Alcuin could be accused of reforming the spelling of his day.' Well, no, he couldn't. Upper and lower case are not different spellings. Get a grip. Changing 'anyone' to 'ennywun' is NOT the same as changing 'anyone' to 'ANYONE'.

It should be noted that the fact that somebody, presumably someone quite well-educated, has actually said the following, depresses me more than I can describe with words:
"Learning to read the English language is one of the worst mind-stunting processes that has ever formed a part of the education of any people."
What. The. Fuck. No, it isn't. Nobody says "Oh, if only I hadn't learned to read the English language, which I speak, and read, and write in, every single day of my fucking life, my mind would be so much less stunted!" Conveniently forgetting to mention they would also be what is commonly referred to as 'illiterate'.

"All books in the old spelling would be useless it is said. Those who use the new spelling would also be able to read the old without too much difficulty. Everyone would find it is relatively easy to read phonetic print. One verbalises as one reads. The future generations could apply this ability to reading the old print - they would not have to learn it and spell it - just read it."

Right, so, what you're saying is that, yes, it is easy enough to read words as they are spelt now - but who can really be bothered to learn to spell that way themselves? Not you, that's for sure.

Let's get right to the point, here. This is just plain lazy, on a disgusting level. Schools have now taken over teaching children about sex, money, and manners - all things that children should be taught in the context of real life by people they have an actual connection with, not just in a classroom by someone who is being paid to spew basic facts at them until the bell rings. But in amongst this, there are people who think that teaching the simple spelling of the English language is a waste of time?! I find this hard to believe.
I could read by the time I started infant school. I could outspell my teachers by the start of junior school. I am not the children of geniuses; as far as I know, I was not fed steriods in my baby food, or experimented on by neurologists, or played Mozart while I was still in the womb. I was your statistically perfectly average kid. And yet, I am not too stupid to grasp the spelling of the language I have heard every day since I was born. Perhaps this is because I was talked to (not talked DOWN to, there is a difference) when I was a child. Perhaps because my parents engaged me in intelligent conversation, and talked to me about things that mattered. Perhaps because I was read to, and encouraged to read by myself. Perhaps because I did not watch endless childrens' programmes full of nonhuman things bouncing around babbling unintelligibly. Perhaps because I was taught the necessary manners to sit still and listen at school instead of beating up other kids or dribbling on the table. Who knows. But perhaps these things are what facilitate a child being able to learn, and not the supposed complicated nature of spelling itself. A child can learn anything if you help them to. I notice that it is in England that this is being suggested, where children are falling ever further behind - oddly enough, at almost the same rate that parents become uninterested and university becomes more expensive and reading becomes more unfashionable and children's entertainment becomes more focused on giggling, farting, fluffy aliens who don't even have a language of their own, let alone English (Boobahs, I am looking at you).

I think it is hugely insulting to children for an adult to decide that English spelling is too difficult for them. Perhaps the adults in question would do well to take a closer look at the environment children are being taught in, instead of just dumbing down the subject matter to suit their expectations of today's children.

Also, on a much less 'children-are-our-future, teach-them-well-and-let-them-lead-the-way" mushy kind of level, I just think that a paragraph written in 'New Spelling' looks completely, and utterly retarded, and I could never take seriously ANYTHING that was written in it. I mean, look at the following paragraph from Charles Dickens' 'David Copperfield', in 'New Spelling' ('Retardese'):

Wether I shal tern owt to bee the heerow ov my own liyf, or wether that stayshun wil bee held by ennybudy els, theez payges must sho. To beegin my liyf wiv the begining ov my liyf, I record that I wuz born (az I hav been informd and buleev) on a Fryday, at twelv o clok at niyt. It wuz remarkd that the clok beegan to striyk, and I beegan to cry, simultayneeusly.

If this is what the world is coming to... I want out. Right now.



Cat said...


That's all a load of shit (what they're saying, not you).

If everything was spelt phonetically then it would be spelt differently all over the country because of accent variation!

(I would also like to be annoying an picky and point out the use of the generic 'he' throughout their (sorry, ther) article... in a non-feminist way).

It's sort of ironic that they want spelling to go back to how Chucer wrote it, which I found fricking hard to read to begin with. Most of English is phonetic anyway, if you pronounce it properly (or should that be proply?).

What a load of bollocks.

Good day to you.


Cat said...

By properly I mean of course RP. Which isn't properly, so I've been taught...