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.
Interesting article on Mental Floss about changes happening in English right now under our noses. These happen to all be grammatical and don’t account for canceling/cancelling and judgment/judgement.
For changes in spelling since English spelling was standardized, look to this article in Bartleby. It points out old-fashioned spellings like:
No one argues that we should return to these old spellings because they are superior, yet many will argue that we should never make any more changes. Somehow, the spellings they learned are just right.
This is the traditional conservative’s argument for all social change. “Yes, it’s right that we ended child labor, gave women the vote, and stopped dumping sewage into our lakes and rivers. But any more changes would ruin this perfect society we’ve finally achieved!” They fear change and disbelieve in progress and yet would never want to return to the bad old days. The truth is, they only want to return to the “good old days” which mysteriously happen to correspond very closely to the time they grew up in.
I’ve never seen a single reasoned argument in any comments on this blog. Even other spelling reformers merely want to present their own preferences. The vast majority of comments have been “That’s dumb. You’re dumb.”
It’s fascinating. People don’t want to engage or even consider the question that conventions can be changed. They’re desperate just to be seen following the conventions.
The only argument to be made for not changing English is “We already have a lot of documents written this way.” It’s bizarre. All I’m proposing here is a few simplifications that require very little effort and virtually no retrofitting.
Because Twitter has become popular and limits posts to 140 characters, I see a lot more spelling shortcuts there than anywhere else. It fascinates me that there’s no edit function despite how adamant readers are (myself included, where it matters) about correcting spelling and grammar mistakes.
One phenomenon that has come out of it is “weird Twitter”, an informal community of jokers, many of whom avoid the editing problem by deliberately ignoring conventions of spelling, punctuation, and capitalization. I don’t think this sort of mini-subculture will have any lasting effect on the culture unless perhaps a particular running joke catches on in the wider world. Part of the point is not to change spelling and punctuation conventions but to flout them for comic effect in the same way that clown flouts conventions of style.
If any lasting changes comes out of Twitter, it will be from regular users deciding on a particular set of spelling changes like thru, tho, and altho, which are things that in my tweeting don’t seem to ruffle feathers on Twitter.
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.