Start simplifying English spelling today by declaring that you are thru with “through”.
See the arguments against simplifying spelling rebutted.
See the pronunciation rules for the way sounds are described on this site.
See the next step in simpler spelling with seven simple rules that go beyond just thru, tho, and altho.
It fascinates me that so many people are so adamant that language shouldn’t change. It requires a complete ignorance of history—not just English language history or language history in general, but all of history. You can’t stop change from happening. You can only manage it.
The Icelandic manage language change with a coordinated effort to name new technology using existing terms, so that foreign words and phrases don’t creep in. The French have the Académie Française to stop the onslaught of English (with, as it turns out, middling success).
But the English language has no such effort except—it would seem—the muddled traditionalist mindset that all change is bad and that slang and simplification of grammar and spelling must be stomped out. This stems in part, I’m sure, from the fact that English is the current king of all languages around the world, so Americans and Britons feel little pressure to emulate others.
This is different from the old days, of course. At one time, French was the language of the upper class in England, and English virtually merged with it. Later, Latin gave English such an inferiority complex, that English changed to be more like it (even adopting useless silent letters in words like debt).
It astounds me that anyone would think that English is so perfect that it should never be improved or simplified in any way. I really think can only be believed by people who no so little of other languages that they can’t conceive of one, like Spanish and Italian, where the spelling actually matches the pronunciation. Or they think that the irregularities of English are what make it beautiful. Or they think that the written language is the language, as opposed to being merely a convenient carrying case for the spoken language.
Believe me when I say that I’m as disgusted as you are when I read that politicians “have lead us into disaster.” But that sort of thing can be fixed by not having the idiotically misleading homographs of lead (leadership) and lead (metal) in addition to the past tense led (leadership). If you’re a changeophobe, that mistake is your fault as much as it is the writer’s.
On my other blogs and in various other writing, I often find that it would be convenient to abbreviate certain words and phrases. But there are few accepted methods of doing this.
The obvious one is using “&” (ampersand) to represent and. This is its intended function, since it originated as a ligature of “et”, the Latin word for and. Its name is a corruption of “and, per se and“, meaning “and, representing the word and itself”.
The most common, tho, is using an apostrophe to represent a dropped letter or two in contractions such as don’t or I’ll.
Another, largely fallen out of use, is “o’ ” to represent “of the”, now used mainly in “3 o’clock” type constructions.
And another, used fairly frequently, is “w/” to represent “with”. The slash as a means of abbreviation is traditionally used in a few other places, but they tend to be very specific and therefore not very useful (“G/L” for “general ledger” comes to mind).
Using a period to abbreviate words is the most natural way to make general abbreviations, and probably the oldest. So extending this seems the most logical idea.
Here is one proposal:
- “.” represents “the”
- “o.” represents “of” or “of the”
- “&.” represents “and the”
- “f.” represents “from” or “from the”
- “i.” represents “in” or “in the”
- “t.” represents “to” or “to the”
- “a.” represents “at” or “at the”
- “v.” represents “versus” or “versus the”
- “w.” represents “with” or “with the”
When followed by “a” or “an”, add an “a” after the period. (“f.a” = “from an”)
These would really only be used in places where space is at a premium, such as on marquees, newspaper headlines, and such.
- Harry Potter &. Order o. Phoenix
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- .Lord o. Rings: .Fellowship o. Ring
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
- Escape f. Planet o. Apes
- Escape from the Planet of the Apes
- He-Man &. Masters o. Universe
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
- .Hitchhiker’s Guide t. Galaxy
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
- Indiana Jones &. Kingdom o. Crystal Skull
- Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
- Master & Commander: .Far Side o. World
- Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
- Mega Shark v. Giant Octopus
- Mega Shark versus Giant Octopus
- Pirates o. Caribbean: .Curse o. Black Pearl
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
- Devil w.a Blue Dress On
- Devil with a Blue Dress On
- .Man w. Golden Gun
- The Man with the Golden Gun
- Memoirs o.a Invisible Man
- Memoirs of an Invisible Man
It would be great to have the mid-dot handy to use instead of the period. The mid-dot is an existing character that is a single dot positioned a little lower than the top dot on a colon (·:). If this were accessible on the keyboard, it could be used for any abbreviation that formerly used a period, thereby clarifying the fact that it is merely the end of the word, and not the end of the sentence.
- ·Lord o· Rings: ·Fellowship o· Ring
- Pirates o· Caribbean: ·Curse o· Black Pearl
- Indiana Jones &· Kingdom o· Crystal Skull
- Mega Shark v· Giant Octopus
- Memoirs o·a Invisible Man
- Mosquito Man (a·k·a· Mansquito)
- 3 o·clock
- will o· wisp
You might ask, why bother with the period or mid-dot at all? The answer is that we want to make it clear that something is being left out. The mid-dot would be so useful for this, it should be used in place of the apostrophe for contractions. This would clean up quotations, which often are made awkward with an apostrophe in the middle (which is why I suggested the period instead of the apostrophe in the first place).
- “You said, ‘I won·t’, didn·t you?”
- She had a list of “do”s and “don·t”s
If this were adopted, then the whole scheme becomes simple: replace the apostrophe with the mid-dot on the keyboard. Typing remains simple for contractions, and single quotes can be dealt with the way they always should have been: by having open and close single- and double-quote keys available in place of, for example, the square and curly brackets.
Even better, with the mid-dot we could signify the removal of whole words and phrases more clearly. Instead of using ellipses of three periods (…), we would make them three mid-dots (···). (These are, in fact, used in mathematics.) Then periods could remain clearly the representation of pauses and words just trailing off, rather than words being left out.
- “Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation···.”
- “The fall of the Roman Empire was precipitated by ··· a breakdown in social cohesiveness… and Huns.”
- “And you·re going…?” “I·m going to the ··· club,” he snarled, “where I can get some ··· peace and quiet.”
I would say that “ellipsis” (·) and “ellipses” (···) would be the name for the mid-dot used this way. (Ellipsis means “ommision”.) And “trail” or perhaps “anatases” (Greek for “stretching”) would be the term for three periods (…) symbolizing speech that trails off.
I haven’t posted for a while, and in the meantime, I’ve come to the decision to stop using my proposal for the seven rules for improving English. I found that it was too many rules to remember when I only use them on this blog (I think if I used them in all my writing, it would be no big deal) and they didn’t actually change enough words to make the changes worthwhile. I kept finding myself wanting to change the terrible spellings of other words that seemed simple to improve but which aren’t covered by my rules.
So I’ll keep this blog all about English spelling and punctuation but I’ll use only the Thru with “Through” rules.
As language continues to change, I think it’s interesting and valuable to look ahed to where current trends will lead us, so that we can try to reinforce those trends or redirect them to a more practical and logical direction.
A hundred years from now, English is likely to be even more dominant across the globe, with nearly everyone—especially white collar workers—being schooled in it as a first or second language. With English more and more of a world language, and with no central authority like the Academie Francaise, these lerners are likely to make changes to the language–perhaps without even realizing it–to make it more consistent and logical.
Even with the spelling changes, spellcheck software will still be ubiquitous. A worldwide culture of texting will reduce the illiteracy rate to virtually zero. As a related side effect, cursive writing will surely become a lost art, as children go directly from printing to typing. Signatures, made mostly obsolete by electronic fingerprints and other technology for confirming identity, will become artful combinations of initials and fanciful wavy lines without inherent meaning.
These trends suggest that modest spelling reform is inevitable, particularly of the type that brings US and British English closer together. As Americans and Britons read more material written by non-US writers, the more they will come to accept the slite changes in spelling and punctuation. As always, this will be more true of young people than older people, and the usual generational rift of slang with include more unusual spellings. Young people play with language very casually, for example rite now using U for you, r for are, and so on. And just as slang becomes legitimized as its users get older*, so will these spellings.
* At one time say (as in “O say, can you see…?”) was considered hily informal slang, as were okay, contact as a verb, copacetic, gay, and cool.
“Terminator and us are DONE professionally.”
So says the front page blerb for this episode of the Down in Front movie podcast. I just wanted to note as a werd nerd that the traditionally correct form is “Terminator and we are DONE professionally”, but the reason this sounds wierd is peculiar.
We almost never use we in an “and” construction because English can’t distinguish between times when “we” includes the other thing we’re talking about and when it doesn’t. And in any “and” construction, it’s natural to assume that it should be inclusive, because why else would you include them in the same construction? I don’t remember if the original construction they are parodying* was “We are done professionally” or “You and I are done professionally” but you can see how that we is inclusive and the way the “you and I” is synonymous with “we” in that sense.
But DIF’s parody uses us/we in the exclusive sense. That is, it excludes “Terminator” from the “us/we” group (the DIF crew). But and naturally forms groups that get referred to as we. It’s grammatically confusing because English literally doesn’t have werds to express that thaut.
Insted, we would normally frase that sentiment as “Terminator and DIF are DONE professionally” or “We are DONE professionally with Terminator”.
By the way, it’s a nice parody and a pun at the same time. DIF is done doing commentaries for all the Terminator movies and satirically “DONE” werking with the Terminator franchise out of frustration with its behavior.
* A leaked recording of Christian Bale’s on-set rant directed at a crew member during filming of Terminator Salvation.
* Based on errors like these, some spelling reformers suggest that we shouldnt bother with the apostrophe ennymore at all, since it clearly isnt doing its job very well. If people cant remember where and when to use it, they obviously arent going to miss it. The primary problem is that its normally used to form possessives—except in pronouns—but its also used to indicate contractions—especially in pronouns—so the its/it’s is very confusing. Im agenst getting rid of the apostrophe, but modifying the rules for its use would be helpful. Perhaps reducing it to only indicating contractions would be the best option. That would eliminate the problem that even seasoned writers have with frases like girls softball and ladies room.
* (Demonstrating the elimination of apostrophes.)
Of course, then possessives would look just like plurals, which could cause confusion of its own.