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Read a funny poem about English spelling

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Read samples in reformed spelling (I no u can du it!)

Read Mark Twain's story about Egyptians who love hieroglyphics

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What's wrong with English Spelling?

Everything! The Europeans know. Their spelling works right. The same letters always make the same sounds. But when they have to learn our system...!!

After trying the verses below, a Frenchman said he'd prefer six months at hard labor to reading six lines aloud. Try them yourself. (The idea is that "creat" is said differently in creature and creation. And a few other words that should rhyme, like how and low -- don't. A few million that is...)

The Chaos

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough --
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!

Gerald Nolet Trinite'

Dutch, 1870-1946

Mr. Trinite' wrote the version above in 1906. But he added to it until his death in 1946 (possibly from disgust with our spelling!) It got to be twice as long. You can read the history and the whole poem at Steve Bett's site. Click here for The Looooong Version!

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Doug

Doug was twelve, and did not like spelling. He didn't mind English and he wrote well, but he was always losing points for spelling wrong. He couldn't see the reason in it. There were spell-checkers on computers but his school wouldn't allow their use. "Children will not learn to spell if a machine does all the work." said the teacher.

One day Doug wrote a really good composition. He read it aloud to himself and changed it until each sentence rang like a bell, and everything he said followed perfectly from the sentence before. That composition was as smooth as a snake slithering through grass. Doug could judge his own work, and he knew this was good. When he got ready to copy it in ink to turn in, he put his dictionary on his desk, to check all the spelling.

It took a long time. He came to the words "a strate line". "Better check strate," he thought.

Doug looked for strate but there was nothing there. Nearby was strait though. Pronounced "straat" -- right! First of six meanings: "narrow or constricted" -- Yeah, he thought, a strait line was probably thin, nice and thin like a string pulled tight -- that was sure strait! So he wrote strait and went on.

Doug handed in his composition, neat and clear and perfect, to Mrs. Ames. He felt good. He'd given it a lot of time, the ideas had flowed, the logic was flawless, and he'd checked it the way they insisted, looking up words he was unsure of. The composition read like a good book. It was his best, and he was proud of it.

When the papers were passed back on Thursday, Doug waited impatiently. Surely he'd get an A this time. His paper came back with a big B-minus. "A for content," said the note "but spelling is atrocious!' And there were the number grades: 94 for content, -6 for strait instead of straight, -6 for aplication instead of application, 82 or B- for the final grade.

The girl in the next row, the lazy one, had a B -- 85 for content, no spelling errors. She read her composition to the class -- nothing original at all, just a dull retelling of The Little Mermaid, Disney version. Doug felt disgusted that his good original composition didn't get as good a grade as that.

He looked at "straight". How could he have guessed it was spelled like that? "Straight!" he said, pronouncing all the letters. Mrs. Ames overheard and told him not to curse in class.

Doug opened the dictionary. He looked for "strate", the way you would from the way it was pronounced. He looked past it, for "straight" in several pages beyond. "Straight" did not appear here because with the g it comes before, a page before "strait". Unless you knew already, you'd never find it by looking in the dictionary, the way they told you to do. For words like "straight" -- not to mention psychology found under p not s, and gnaw, knight, know, knowledge, and a jillion more, you'd have to just read the whole dictionary to find it. Which they probably wanted you to, thought Doug, for every composition, every word.

He thought of the mermaid girl, who had written sentences like "The mermaid was very pretty". By never using any hard words she never made any spelling mistakes, and so had gotten a better grade. Gee, he thought, "See Spot run." will get an A, but the much better "Spot galloped through the grass like a wild pony, swerved to chase a butterfly, and tripped and tumbled tail over tincups into the birdbath." will lose so many points to spelling it will get it a D. It's just not fair!

Then he looked at "application". The first a was short. It needed a double consonant after it to show it was short. The "pl" was a double consonant. So the a was short. The "ppl" couldn't make it any shorter. You could spell it application or apppplication and the a wouldn't get any shorter. Look at "apt" or "aptly". They didn't add extra p's there, and the a was pronounced the same way. "Aplication" is perfectly correct according to the rules of spelling, but they didn't follow the rules.

However, Mrs. Ames said everyone else had learned to spell -- Buffy Burroughs the mermaid wonder for instance -- and Doug was just lazy and lacked the discipline for really important things like spelling. Doug thought there were more important things than spelling -- content for instance -- and wondered why there were spelling bees where everybody failed except one person, if "everyone" learned to spell. But he thought he'd better not say that to Mrs. Ames. Which was true.

Doug wondered why it had to be this way, why they couldn't fix spelling so it would follow its own rules. But he figured he was just a kid and the adults who invented spelling had known what they were doing and it was the same all over the world. You just couldn't have a good spelling system so the only thing to do was play their game and memorize how to spell the words.

So, for a long time, he did.

But one day Doug was surfing the Internet -- Boy, that was an organized system -- and at Yahoo he idly typed in spelling reform. Suddenly he was at the Web site of something called the Simplified Spelling Society and he discovered that there were others who felt as he did. Someone had written:

1 The letters of the alphabet were designed to represent speech sounds; that is the alphabetic principle.

2 The alphabetic principle makes literacy easy, allowing the reader to pronounce words from their spelling, and the writer to spell them from their sounds.

3 As pronunciation changes through the ages, the alphabetic principle tends to be corrupted; the spelling of words then needs to be adapted to show the new sounds.

4 Unlike other languages, English has not systematically modernized its spelling over the past 1,000 years, and today it only haphazardly observes the alphabetic principle.

5 Neglect of the alphabetic principle now makes literacy unnecessarily difficult in English throughout the world, and learning, education and communication all suffer.

-------------------------------

Yes, he thought. I always knew that was right, I just didn't know how to say it so well.

He went along to the kid's site and found there were funky looking buttons with mottoes like "Rite Ryte!", "Reform English Spelling", and "Enuf is enuf but enough is too much!". He sure agreed with that last one so he downloaded the image and printed it out. He read about the logic of reform and some stories written in reformed -- Heck, they were no trouble at all to read -- and he signed up as an E-member and downloaded the certificate.

Maybe he would have forgotten it after that, because baseball was starting, but then he got back another composition...

He'd doubled the time on spell checking and still had mistakes.

So Doug thought for a while, and then cut out the badge and taped on a safety pin and wore it to school.

Two kids on the bus thought it looked neat, another tried to steal it, and some more just laughed.

Mrs. Ames saw it in second period English. She chewed him out and asked what "enuf" spelled. She claimed she couldn't read such a word and neither could anyone else. She would tolerate no misspellings in her English class. "The gall!" she said. "Hand me that button now!"

So Doug went home without the button. "But", he thought, "she never said I couldn't wear a different one", so he went back to the site and downloaded the modest, discrete "Reform English Spelling!". She couldn't say that was spelled wrong. Also, it seemed he remembered something else, some "message for your teacher". And behold, there was one, all about intellectual freedom and developing judgment about controversies. Remembering that "they" always talked about these things, he printed that out too, and took it in with the new button.

The kids on the school bus had all heard. "Better lay off it Doug -- you're cruisin' for a bruisin'!", and "Mrs. Ames won't like this button any better than the first -- give it up!" Others read the "Dear Educator" and weren't so sure. And one tenth grader, a quiet girl who everyone said was really smart, smiled at him and asked: "The Web site with the badges -- what's the URL?"

The bus ride that day was fun, but unfortunately it arrived at school. Mr. Walker, Home Room and Civics, just glanced at the button, but Mrs. Ames glared and descended.

"I told you about buttons yesterday!"

"Yes ma'am. But this one is correctly spelled."

"Don't talk back to me young man. Now hand me that button and do not bring any more! This is nonsense, and an excuse not to study harder. Name me one respectable person who wanted these changes!"

"Mark Twain, Teddy Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie, and George Bernard Shaw." said Doug -- who could study pretty hard at things he liked.

The other kids looked at Doug as if he had flipped out, which may be true because Mrs. Ames did not like that answer.

"And", Doug continued with a stammering voice and sinking heart "the professor of linguistics who wrote this letter." And he held out Dear Educator like somebody trying to fend off a lion by giving it a hotdog.

Mrs. Ames decided the principal was the right person to read the letter, and Doug the right one to take it to him. So Doug, with letter, badge, and a note from Mrs. Ames, found himself waiting to see Mr. Stewart.

Stewart was a tall thin man who tolerated no violence on the playground nor disrespect in class. Doug's heart sank as he handed him the note and stood very still before his desk. Stewart looked sharply at him and frowned slightly. He looked at the badges and frowned some more. He read the letter aloud:

Dear Educator:

As a teacher you probably want to encourage your students to think independently and speak out about controversial issues -- provided they aren't too disruptive or emotional. For this reason we hope you will grant your student's right to express his or her opinion about spelling reform, whatever your own may be. Spelling is a legitimate issue affecting a student's life and is well within his experience. Reform has a long and honorable history with such advocates as George Bernard Shaw, Theodore Roosevelt, and Andrew Carnegie. It is an intellectual issue and cannot possibly be disruptive in the way that sexual, political and racial matters may be. (No one was ever punched over the spelling of "you/yew/u".) This makes reform a good topic for debate.

Thus we hope you will allow students to wear thought-provoking badges with mottoes such as "Rite Ryte!", and perhaps to submit essays using reformed spelling.

"Www dot this-n'-that", finished Mr. Stewart, "and signed so-and-so. Hmm..."

Now the principal was quiet for a while. "Well, Mr. Davis, the first rule of a good judge is always to hear both sides of the story. Always. Did you know that?"

"No", said Doug.

"Well remember it, in case you ever have to judge. Now Doug, tell me your side."

Stewart listened, and thought. "For the present I shall keep this material. I will discuss it with the faculty and let you know. There are issues here..."

"For now return to your class. Try not to annoy Mrs. Ames and no more badges until I reach a decision -- is that clear?"

"Yes", Doug said, and was glad to leave.

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In real life there are many kinds of people and a story like this can have different outcomes. Here are two:

Mr. Stewart called in Doug and his parents. The principal explained that all students had a right to express opinions but it did not extend to questioning the teachers and the curriculum. Spelling was an important subject. People were judged ignorant if they misspelled a word, not just by their teachers but, more important, by society-at-large -- by bosses and editors and college admissions committees. The school board was aware of the history of spelling reform, but did not accept it and was not about to include it in the curriculum. It was not the place of children to question such things and the buttons were disruptive.

Doug was sentenced to ten periods of after school detention. "But since he seems to have a problem with spelling, we'll lift that if he enrolls in our remedial spelling class. I'm sure that once he's better at it he won't want to change!" Doug's parents were relieved.

The kids on the bus said "We told you so". And when she heard, Doug saw the tenth grade girl, with a very discrete motion, remove something from her coat and pocket it deftly. Later she explained to him that "They talk a lot about intellectual freedom and making your own decisions and about free speech. But they mean you're free to talk about the weather and say anything you want about that. Or you may say things they like, like kids shouldn't bring guns to school. But I guess you can't say anything they don't like."

Then she gave him a copy of 1984 and told him always to carry one end of the banner.

.

---------------------------------------------------------

(You too should be in around the tenth grade before you read 1984. It's a story about a hideous dictatorship, and too depressing for children. You should know the heroine pretends to love the government and "always carries one end of the banner" in their parades, but secretly hates them and undercuts them every time she has a chance. She cannot be honest, and never is.)

----------------------------------------------------------

OR -- Perhaps it happened like this...

Mr. Stewart spoke by phone with Doug's parents. He called in Mrs. Ames and spoke with her privately, and he called in Doug. As Doug came in Mrs. Ames went out, looking angry and indignant.

Mr. Stewart looked at Doug. "I don't want you to take this wrong, or get silly or obnoxious or swell headed over it, but we have decided that your badges are legitimate. They would not be allowed in many countries, but America sets great store on free speech and free thought. And as the letter says, the spelling of "you" is not likely to start a fight. So don't sass your teacher or get silly about it, but you may wear the badge."

He handed both badges and Dear Educator back to Doug, and let him live -- I mean, let him leave. Doug only thought of it as "let him live".

Mrs. Ames glowered but said nothing. On the bus the girl from the tenth was wearing a big garish "Rite Ryte!" on her coat; she smiled and gave him a thumbs-up. Everyone wanted to hear, and lots wanted the Web site or copies of the button. By the next week half the school seemed to have them, and copies of Th War uv th Wurlds in reformed were going around.

A number of students asked for permission to write compositions in reformed, and after some debate were allowed to write just one. Doug wasn't quite sure of all the spellings, but Mrs. Ames refused to read about it at all and so had no idea what was right. Thus Doug lost no points to spelling on that one.

Reformed spelling did not sweep the country that year, nor did all teachers embrace free speech. Changes take more time than that. But change does happen sometimes -- and in America there is always a chance.

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In the real world, in different schools and classes, either ending is possible, or anything in between. You (and your parents) must decide if it's safe to wear a Rite Ryte! badge, and you should not get expelled from school over something like this. Maybe you should ask your teacher first. Most important, you should realize the dangers and discuss them with your parents. This goes for this and any other cause you want to support.

Still, some schools in some countries may allow the badges, and if enough kids get interested they may allow discussions, and even essays written in reformed. Plus, you can always write letters to your local paper about it, and maybe for your school paper (if "Mrs. Ames" allows!). Then, if enough people write about spelling reform and want it, maybe it will be accepted and people will be allowed to write in the old spelling or in a new one, just as each one wishes.

There are no guarantees, but for any cause you want to support -- saving the whales, going to Mars, or fixing spelling -- this is the way to try.


Speaking of the real world, after I wrote Doug's story I got this true one, relayed by Ed Rondthaler, American Literacy Council.


Alan: You might be interested in this true story told by Harvie Barnard, on our advisory board. Here it is.

Ed R

Harvie Barnard's Experience

It was a warm afternoon in May 1911 when our second grade class became aware that there could be something wrong either with ourselves or with the system. Could the problem be just with me, or with nearly all of us who were having doubts about our ability to understand the confusing stuff called spelling?

We were just finishing the year-end testing, which was mostly spelling, when our sympathetic teacher, Miss Read (yes, that was her real name), seemed very unhappy. She never criticized our progress as individuals, but this time she was deeply disturbed. Obviously disappointed with the results of the testing, and looking dejectedly at our test papers, Miss Read finally revealed her innermost feelings.

"I can't understand what is wrong with this class. You aren't learning to pronounce words correctly and everyone is having trouble with spelling, especially the boys. Can someone tell me what I am doing wrong? Does anyone know?"

The whole class sensed her seriousness, and no one spoke until the unexpected happened. The boy sitting next to me, my best friend, seemed bursting with an idea! He held up his hand for permission to speak, and springing energetically from his seat responded clearly and enthusiastically to our teacher's challenge. "Miss Read, I think I know how we could be good spellers!" Everyone wondered what Bob was going to say. Our teacher was just as surprised as the class, and after a moment of wonderment responded directly to Bob's unexpected reply.

"Well, Robert, if you have a good idea about spelling I'm sure we'd all like to know about it. What is your great idea?" Bob radiated complete self-confidence when he spoke with great enthusiasm: "If you would just let us spell words the way they sound, we would all be able to spell without having to memorize everything and we'd be good spellers too!" The whole class burst out with a cheer! Somehow we recognized that Bob had discovered a gem of linguistic truth, something that academia had had failed to recognize since the time of Ben Franklin!

Bob stood there grinning broadly, basking in the recognition of his great discovery. We expected Miss Read to join in the celebration, now that we had the answer to our spelling problem. But our cheers soon faded when Miss Read appeared to be in a state of complete shock. After what seemed like minutes she pulled a little hanky out of her sleeve and began to cry. After she wiped away the tears she finally spoke in a low voice, "But Robert, if I did that, MOST OF YOUR WORDS WOULD BE WRONG!" We were stunned! The whole class collapsed like a burst soap bubble. Instead of being welcomed as a great triumph, Bob's genuine discovery had been rejected. Our high hopes for an easier and simpler spelling had given way to deep disappointment. We sat waiting for further comment. When Miss Read had gained her composure we were told that today we wouldn't have to "stay after", and could leave without writing our missed words the usual ten times. And that was the last time we heard from or ever saw Miss Read.

The next day we had a different teacher, and no one told us what had become of Miss Read. Some thought she'd just resigned -- gave up and quit -- while others heard that the principal said she'd simply failed as a teacher. We felt as though we'd lost a friend. And that was the end of our high hopes for a better way, a more logical way, to spell the English language.

Return to top of page

Become an E-Member of the SSS

Click here to download this Certificate. (You can get it in Reformed spelling from the Sound Spell or Cut Spelling version of this site.) Fill in your name and date carefully. IMPORTANT: You will see a copy of the form. From "File" at the upper left of screen, choose "Print". When printing is done, use the Back-arrow on your browser to get back here!

Certificate of Membership

I, ______________________________________ declare that I want to fix English Spelling, and to belong to The Simplified Spelling Society. Date: _________________ .

Accordingly,

The Simplified Spelling Society, London, England,

Does hereby declare that

Is an E-Member of the Simplified Spelling Society, with all rights and privileges thereunto pertaining.

By Alan Mole, Representative for America

For Christopher Jolly, Society Chairman

If you are over thirteen, please write us to say you've joined. Tell us your name or screen name, your age and perhaps your education level, and anything else you want about why you want reform.

If you are under thirteen, please get your parent's permission, or just tell us a made-up screen name and your age and city. (Never tell strangers more than this, unless your parents agree. There may be bad people on the Internet who could come and hurt you if they knew your address. But you're pretty safe if your parents send the mail instead of you, or they check what you're writing.)

Really Becomming a Member

If you wear a badge, people are going to ask you questions! Adults, even teachers, as well as other students, will want to know about spelling reform. They'll probably think standard spelling is very good and very important, the best thing since the invention of the square wheel. So you'll have to know the answers. Fortunately, it's fun to learn. Here's how:

1. Read the article.
2. Read Mark Twain (grades 4 and up)
3. Read samples.
4. Read the rules and write something in Sound Spell at least, and maybe in Cut Spelling too.
5. Write something for your school paper, about reform or in reformed spelling or both-at-once!
6. Maybe read a whole book.

7. Now you know more than the average adult who's been a member for twenty years. So talk to people about reform. Try to change their minds. Try to get them to become members. Write and tell us your adventures!

Badges

Click here to download COLOR badges.

Or here for Black & white

IMPORTANT: You will go to a page with the badges. When printing is done, use your browser's back-arrow key to return to this page. To print badges, under "File" in the upper left corner of your screen, select "Print" from the pull-down-menu. There are more badges on the print page than just these two.

Cut out the badges. If you have some wide clear package-strapping tape, putting it over the front of the badge will protect it and make it look better. You can tape a safety pin to the back so you can wear it easily, or a loop of scotch tape will let you wear it for a day or so.

Now, do you have the nerve to wear it???

If you want to wear a badge to school, check with your parents and your teacher first. It may help to show them this letter, which comes on the same page with the badges.

Dear Educator:

As a teacher you probably want to encourage your students to think independently and speak out about controversial issues -- provided they aren't too disruptive or emotional. For this reason we hope you will grant your student's right to express his or her opinion about spelling reform, whatever your own may be. Spelling is a legitimate issue affecting a student's life and is well within his experience. Reform has a long and honorable history with such advocates as George Bernard Shaw, Theodore Roosevelt, and Andrew Carnegie. It is an intellectual issue and cannot possibly be disruptive in the way that sexual, political and racial matters may be. (No one was ever punched over the spelling of "you/yew/u".) This makes reform a good topic for debate.

Thus we hope you will allow students to wear thought-provoking badges with mottoes such as "Rite Ryte!", and perhaps to submit essays using reformed spelling.

You can learn more about the subject at: http://www.les.aston.ac.uk/sss/

Signed,

Alan Mole, Simplified Spelling Society, Representative for America.

Spelling Reform

Spelling should be easy. We should listen to words and write what we hear. Reading should be easy too-we should look at the letters and make the sounds that they stand for. In many languages, like Korean and Portuguese, reading and writing are easy, just as they should be. But in English the people forgot that the letters and the sounds of a word should be the same. When they stopped pronouncing the K in know, knife and knight they left the letter in the written word. It's the same with the W in write, the "ugh" in though and through and cough, the G in gnaw, and lots more letters in lots more words.

The truth is that English spelling hasn't been corrected for five hundred years! A lot of it is crazy now, so crazy that it takes us years and years to learn to read and spell-while other people learn in a few months.

Some people want to fix spelling now. They say other countries have fixed their spelling and it works a lot better. Here, many children have trouble learning to read, but there they have very few problems. Here we waste years on something that should be as easy as learning to count.

Other people say "We had to learn it this way so everyone else should too. We have done it this way since the days of kings and horses and knights, so we should never change."

Here are some questions to think about:

1. Does it make you mad when a word is not written the way it sounds?

2. Do words like psychology (sicology), island (iland), doubt (dout), ghost (gost), and patient (pashent) look like a crazy person made up the spelling? How would those words sound if you pronounced all the letters?

3. What words bother you because they aren't spelled right?

4. If children are learning spelling, should they be allowed to think about whether it should be fixed?

5. Can big things like spelling be changed?

6. Should big things be changed? If we've always ridden horses can we change to cars and airplanes? If we've always spoken English should we change to speaking Eskimo?

7. How should we decide what to change and what not to change?

8. Here is an example of "reformed spelling". Do you think you'd have much trouble learning to read like this?

Cut Spelling reform:

Befor 1500 Europ used Roman numerals. It was a bad systm. It was so hard to do arithmetic that they had to go to colej just to lern to ad and subtract. Then they chanjed to Arabic numerals, and evryone cud lern arithmetic by ten years old.

Sound Spell reform:

Befor 1446 Koreans uezd Chinese pictografs to riet. That was so hard oenly wun person in a hundred cuud do it. Then King Sejong gaev his peepl an alfabet. "This is guud" he sed. "Uez it!" So the peepl uezd it, and soon evrybody cuud reed and riet. It was the best alfabet in the werld! Eeven today peepl remember him, and call him "King Sejong -- The Graet!"

9. Do you think your parents could read it?

10. What would your parents and teachers say if you just started writing like this?

11. Would people accept it if you explained first that you wanted to fix spelling so it worked right?

12. How could the spelling reformers convince people to change?

13 What are some reasons not to change? What should anti-reformers do to convince people that their side is right?

14. Would you like to see spelling changed or not?

15. Why?

PS: Why are there different reform systems? Well, some are more complete, so you always know what letter to write when you hear a sound. But those are harder to read. Others try to just fix some of the worst things, and keep most words looking like regular spelling. Maybe people who already read TO will like them better, because the words look familiar. But those systems are harder to learn to spell.

Sound Spell is a more complete reform, easy to spell but less familiar. Cut Spelling is more familiar but harder to learn. Spelling reformers argue and argue over which way to go. This page gives you both methods and lets you choose.

Why Kids?

Why should a kid think about spelling? Because kids are the ones who suffer from it. In countries with good spelling you learn the letters and their sounds in weeks, and can read or spell anything forever more. German schools don't even have spelling as a subject of study. But in English countries we take years to learn. It's miserable! We have memorization and boring drills and we never do learn perfectly so we always make mistakes and get marked down.

But all this happens when we're kids. By the time we are old enough to do anything about it we've forgotten how bad it was. Nobody wants to remember spelling drills! So adults say "Thank goodness for spell-checkers on computers! Now I forget about that!" And they do. Then they never care about fixing it.

So if we're ever to fix spelling, kids must get involved. You have to think about it while it's happening to you. You have to ask questions, and realize what a silly bad system it is. And remember. You can't change much today, but one day you'll be pretty important (maybe you'll be President!) When that happens remember the truth. Then, maybe, we can fix it.

In the meantime you can talk about it, write about it, perhaps even write essays using it, or letters to friends or newspapers.

Rules

Cut Spelling

Cut Spelling is recommended by the Simplified Spelling Society. It fixes most problems of regular spelling but it still looks like normal English.

It leaves out unpronounced letters like the k in knife, and unneeded double consonants. When a vowel is not pronounced, like the e in walked and talked, CS leaves it out. A vowel that is barely pronounced and is such a little noise it could be any vowel, is called a schwa. CS leaves those vowels out completely -- walkd, talkd, talkng, actr, helpr. (for walked, talked, talking, actor, helper.)

Note how you can't tell from their sounds how the schwa, the "ur" sound in nature, actor, helper, is supposed to be spelled -- it's one of those stupid things that just has to be memorized in thousands of TO words!)

 

You can't write perfectly in CS unless you get the handbook and learn a lot of rules. And you have to know TO first -- it starts from there and fixes it. That's the only way to have a system that looks so much like TO.

But you don't have to write perfectly -- you can practice some with just the rules above. Reformed spellers agree, TO is too hung up on perfection.

 

Sound Spell

 

You can also read the rules of Sound Spell, which the American Literacy Council prefers. It is easier and more regular than CS, and you can write almost all words correctly just from their sounds. It looks less familiar than CS -- though anyone can still read it on the first try. Both are good systems, and there are others too. Which is best? That's for you to decide.

Even with Sound Spell, you may still have to guess some letters in a few words -- is it queen, kween, or cween? But remember that you don't have to write perfectly. Reformed spellers are very tolerant. The words will read right phonetically all three ways, so people probably won't even notice. If they do notice, they won't be sure if your way is "wrong" without looking it up in the dictionary, and they won't be inclined to do that. They realize it doesn't matter!

Rules for Sound Spell


ALC's 'Soundspel' alphabet is shown below. Children, adults, and foreign pupils who learn this one-page system will be able to write-- "as it sounds"-anything they can say in English. The inherent phonetic principle is the well-established one normally followed by languages that use an alphabet.

It is for English, an equivalent of the phonetic spelling used daily by all who write in Spanish, German, Hungarian, Swedish, Finnish, Italian, Turkish, Portuguese, Hebrew, Serbo-Croatian, Swahili, Dutch, Korean, Hindu and scores of other languages. Today we have the expertise, the system, and the great social and economic need for an orthography that frees us from the ordeal of memorizing thousands of spelling irregularities.

Consonants and single sound consonant pairs

b as heard in beg, habit, rib

c/k as in cat, cup, became, kit, back

ch as in chin, teacher, much

d as in dog, ladder, bad

f as in fan, effort, chief

g as in get, wagon, big

h as in hop, hip, head

j as in jam, judge, edge

l as in leg, alley, table

m as in me, common, him

n as in no, manner, tan

ng as in song, ringing

nk as in ink, think

p as in pet, pepper, cap

q as in queen, quake, liquid

r as in red, arise, arrow

s as in sit, lesson, sets

sh as in she, issue, motion

t as in top, butter, hit

th as in thin, this

v as in van, river, give

w as in will, awoke, weather

wh as in wheat, why, worthwhile

x as in extra, exam

y as in yet, victory

z as in zebra, zones

zh as in vision, pleasure

Short vowels... the most frequently heard vowel sound

a as heard in act, at, am, bag, can, tap, carry .... weak-a as in organ.

e as in ebb, end, set, bed, mend, merry...weak-e as in novel.

i as in it, in if, tip, pin, gives, banish .. weak-i as in pencil.

o as in ox, odd, hot, sobs, boxes, sorry ... weak-o as in lemon.

u as in up, us, but, fun, mud, gum, love.

Long vowels ... Silent-e gives a preceding vowel its long name-sound.

Ae as in A, ate, aim, same, cape, day, they ways. (Ae, aet, aem, saem...)

Ee as in E, eel, eat, feet, field, team, scene, ski, key. (eel, feet, feeld, teem...)

IE as in I, ice, tie, eye, guide, fight, ride, buy. (ies, tie, ie, gied...)

OE as in O, old, toe, only, home, boat, sew, know (oeld, toe, oenly, hoem, boet,...)

UE as in U, unit, hue, cute, used, utilize, few. (uenit, hue, cuet...)

Vowel Pairs... each pair of letters represents a unit of sound.

aa as in father, calm, ma

air as in hair, fair, care, swear, where, their

all as in all, tall, fall

ar as in are, card, far, dollar

au/aw as in auto, fraud, cause/ saw , sawing, lawyer

er as in her, early, mercy, baker

oi as in oil, join, toy

oo as in ooze, eventual, moon, zoo

or as in for, original, doctor, order

ou/ow as in out, mouth, sound/ how, cows, power

uu as in should, bush, put, foot, book, good

ur as in jury, rural, allure, tour, azure

 

No change, by and large, in names that begin with a Capital letter. No change in was,as,of,he,she, me, we, be, do, to, thru , off, -ful, and their compounds.

No change in plural-s (man's, his) and in the 3rd person present singular (he runs), even tho the s is pronounced z. Where confusion might arise (sees) use ss (seess).

r r continues, as now, to indicate that the preceding vowel is short -- carry, merry, sorry.

Unstressed "1/2-ee" sound continues to be spelled with e or i or y as heard in unstressed syllables of between, detect, reform, champion, editorial, fifty.

Short vowels (a,e,i,o) in unstressed syllables are often given a neutral pronunciation close to the sound of `uh' (about, system, easily, atom). Phoneticians and linguists call this diluted sound `schwa'. There are no changes in spelling of short (schwa) vowels in unstrest syllables - organ, novel, pensil, lemon -- unless the vowel clearly misleads, or does not help in pronouncing the word distinctly.

NOTE: When you hear a word with a schwa, you cannot tell what vowel is used to spell it. For example, the same sound is heard in nectar, theater (British theatre), actor,nature, whatever! Although Soundspel does not solve this problem, do not despair! Most people who like reformed spelling are not perfectionists about things that make no difference, so if you write acter instead of actor they won't be upset. Besides, most people do not know how everything is spelled in reformed, so they won't even recognize it as wrong. So give it your best guess and go on. If in doubt use the most common form, er.

A long-O or long-I sound at the end of a word may be written as a single letter -- banjo, go, so, alibi, hi, mi fli (but -e is retained before a suffix: banjoes, alibieing, flies etc.)

In vowel strings the syllable ends after the first fonetic vowel-pair -- flooid, freeing, hieer, power, continueing, evalueate; creativ, react, re-enter.

We accept the flattery of a capital I for 'me'. Why not extent the courtesy -- a capital U for 'you'?

Links

There are two major societies for spelling reform:

The Simplified Spelling Society (London)

The American Literacy Council, New York

The ALC does a lot of reform work but you have to dig deep on their web page to find it.

There are dozens of other great sites as well, and here are two pages that list them beautifully!

Steve Bett's Page

The Spelling Ring (John Reilly)

Simplified Spelling

Mark Twain (Edited version)

The first time I was in Egypt a Simplified Spelling epidemic had broken out and the atmosphere was electrical with feeling engendered by the subject. This was four or five thousand years ago -- I do not remember just how many thousand it was, for my memory for minor details has suffered some decay in the lapse of years. I am speaking of a former state of existence of mine, perhaps my earliest reincarnation; indeed I think it was the earliest. I had been an angel previously, and I am expecting to be one again -- but at the time I speak of I was different.

The Simplifiers had risen in revolt against the hieroglyphics. An uncle of Cadmus who was out of a job had come to Egypt and was trying to introduce the Phoenician alphabet and get it adopted in place of the hieroglyphics. He was challenged to show cause, and he did it to the best of his ability. The exhibition and discussion took place in the temple of Astarte, and I was present. So also was the Simplified Committee, with Croseus as foreman of the Revolt -- not a large man physically but a Simplified Speller of acknowledged ability. The Simplifiers were few; the Opposition were multitudinous. The Khedive was the main backer of the Revolt, and this magnified its strength and saved it from being insignificant. Among the Simplifiers were many men of learning and distinction, mainly literary men and members of college faculties; but all ranks and conditions of men and all grades of intellect, erudition, and ignorance were represented in the Opposition.

As a rule the speeches on both sides were temperate and courteous, but now and then the speaker weakened his argument with personalities, the Revolters referring to the opposition as fossils, and the Opposition referring to the Revolters as "those Cads", a smart epithet coined out of the name of uncle Cadmus.

Uncle Cadmus began with an object lesson, with chalk, on a couple of blackboards. On one of them he drew in outlined a slender Egyptian in a short skirt, with slim legs and an eagle's head in place of a proper head, and he was carrying a couple of dinner pails, one in each hand. In front of this figure he drew a toothed line like an excerpt from a saw; in front of this he drew three skeleton birds of doubtful ornithological origin; in front of these he drew a partly constructed house, with lean Egyptians fetching materials in wheelbarrows to finish it with; next he put in some more unclassified birds; then a large king, with carpenter's shavings for whiskers and hair; next he put in another king jabbing a mongrel lion and with a javelin; he followed this with a picture of a tower, with armed Egyptians projecting out of the top of it and as crowded for room as the cork in a bottle; he drew the opposing army below, fierce of aspect but much out of drawing as regards perspective. They were shooting arrows at the men in the tower, which was poor military judgment because they could have reached up and pulled them out by the scruff of the neck. He followed these pictures with line after line of birds and beasts and scraps of saw-teeth and bunches of men in the customary short frock, some of them doing things, others waiting for the umpire to call game; and finely his great blackboard was full from top to bottom. Everybody recognized the invocation set forth by the symbols: it was the Lord's Prayer.

It had taken him 45 minutes to set it down. Then he stepped back to the other blackboard and dashed off "Our Father which art in Heaven," and the rest of it, in graceful Italian script, spelling the words the best he knew how in those days, and finished it up into four minutes and half.

It was rather impressive.

He made no comment at the time, but when to a fresh blackboard and wrote upon it in hieroglyphics:

"And at this time the King possessed of cavalry 214,580 in men and 222,631 horses for their use; of infantry 16,341 squadrons together with an emergency reserve of all arms, consisting of 84,946 men, 321 elephants, 37,264 transportation carts, and 28,954 camels and dromedaries."

It filled the board and cost him 26 minutes of time and labor and then he repeated it on another blackboard in Italian script and Arabic numerals and did it in two minutes and a quarter. Then he said:

"My argument is before you. One of the objections to the hieroglyphics is that it takes the brightest pupil nine years to get the forms and their meanings by heart; it takes the average pupil sixteen years; it takes the rest of the nation all their days to accomplish it -- it is a life sentence. This cost of time is much too expensive. It could be employed more usefully in other industries, and with better results.

"If you will renounce the hieroglyphics and adopt written words instead an advantage will be gained. By you? No, not by you. You have spent your lives in mastering the hieroglyphics and to you they are simple, and the effect pleasant to the eye, and even beautiful. You are well along in life; it would not be worth your while to acquire the new learning; the aspect of it would be unpleasant to you; you will naturally cling with affection to the pictured records which have become beautiful to you through habit and use, and which are associated in your mind with the moving legends and tales of our venerable past and the great deeds of our fathers, which they have placed before you indestructibly engraved upon stone. But I appeal to you in behalf of the generations which are to follow you, century after century, age after age, cycle after cycle. I pray you consider them and be generous. Lift this heavy burden from their backs. Do not send them toiling and moiling down to the 20th-century still bearing it, still oppressed by it. Let your sons and daughters adopt the word and the alphabet and go free. To the youngest of them the hieroglyphics have no hallowed associations; words and the alphabet will not offend their eyes; custom will quickly reconcile them to it, and then they will prefer it -- if for no other reason, for the simple reason that they will have had no experience of any method of communication considered by others comelier or better. I pray you let the hieroglyphics go, and thus save millions of years of useless time and labor to fifty generations of posterity that are to follow you.

Uncle Cadmus sat down, and the Opposition rose and combated his reasonings in the usual way. Those people said that they had always been used to the hieroglyphics; that the hieroglyphics had dear and sacred associations for them; that they loved to sit on a barrel under an umbrella in the brilliant sun of Egypt and spell out the owls and the eagles and alligators and saw-teeth, and take an hour and a half to the Lord's Prayer, and weep with romantic emotion at the thought that they had, at most, but eight or ten years between themselves and the grave for the enjoyment of this ecstasy.

The End

Who was Cadmus? He was the Phonecian king who taught the Greeks to write using the alphabet. As you may have guessed though, Cadmus never really went to Egypt. Neither did his uncle.

Books

From here you can download whole books in Cut Spelling or Soundspell. Just click on the book you want. The download will take a couple of minutes. Then use a word processor to open and read the book, or print it out. If you get a book in HTML, your Browser can read it and print it out. HTML looks nicer than plain "Text".

Because there are no trick words in RS, you can read books far beyond your grade level. Maybe The Time Machine seems too hard, and you think you will have to wait years to read well enough to read it. But with RS you can read it now! Just pronounce all the words the way are spelled. Reading is easy when the writing plays fair! So try something interesting.

Short Stories

1. (In Sound Spell) The Velveteen Rabbit, HTML (Well-loved childrens' story)
2. (In Cut Spelling) The Open Window, Saki (H.H. Munro) HTML (A great short story -- odd, but read to the end!)
3. (In Sound Spell) The Pit and The Pendulum, Edgar Allan Poe, HTML (A great short story of terror.)

Books in Sound Spell

1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Frank Baum, HTML
2. The Red Badge of Courage, Steven Crane,HTML (Civil War action)
3. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, HTML (Whimsical adventures of Mole and Toad by an English river in 1908.)
4. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells, HTML (The original time travel novel)
5. The Secret Garden, Francis Hodgson Burnett, Text. (A young girl looks for the secrets of a bleak mansion.)
6. Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad, HTML (Adventure in the South Seas)
8. The Red Headed League, Connan Doyle, HTML (Sherlock Holmes mystery)
9. The Circular Staircase, Mary Roberts Rineheart, HTML (Famous mystery novel)
10. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens, HTML (The classic novel of the French Revolution)
11. Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery, text. (A strong minded young girl in rural Canada)
12. The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells, Text (How would you catch a criminal who had made himself invisible?)

Books in Cut Spelling

1. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Frank Baum, HTML
2. The Red Badge of Courage, Steven Crane,HTML (Civil War action)
3. The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame, HTML (Whimsical adventures of Mole and Toad by an English river in 1908.)
4. The Time Machine, H.G. Wells, HTML (The original time travel novel)
5. The Secret Garden, Francis Hodgson Burnett, Text. (A young girl looks for the secrets of a bleak mansion.)
6. Lord Jim, Joseph Conrad, HTML (Adventure in the South Seas)
8. The Red Headed League, Connan Doyle, HTML (Sherlock Holmes mystery)
9. The Circular Staircase, Mary Roberts Rineheart, HTML (Famous mystery novel)
10. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens, HTML (The classic novel of the French Revolution)
11. Anne of Green Gables, Lucy Maud Montgomery, text. (A strong minded young girl in rural Canada)
12. The Invisible Man, H.G. Wells, Text (How would you catch a criminal who had made himself invisible?)

Examples of Reformed Spelling

An example of Cut Spelling

Silent letters are dropped -- nife not knife. Unaccented vowels are cut - talkd not talk-ed. Redundant double consonants are cut -- bal not ball. Thus:

Wher to Find Books on th Internet

One good place is th Carrie electronic libry of th University of Kansas: www.ukans.edu/carrie/carrie_main.html (clik on "staks" and look for favorit authrs.) Carrie lists thre thousnd selections.

Or u can go to YAHOO (www.yahoo.com). Belo th big serch windo ar listd th tre-structur serch options. Find "Humanitis: architectur fotografy litratur" at th upr left of this list, and clik carefuly on "litratur". A menu of choices apears. Choose "Electronic Litratur". On th next screen, "Publishrs" ar peple ho sel (ofn cheaply) or giv away curent litratur, much of it self publishd. "On Line Libraris" ar like Carrie. Ther ar 16 listd as I rite this, and mor al th time. In a few years, if copyryt isus can be resolvd, evry book availbl anywher wil be quikly availbl evrywher, and no one wil hav to travl to a distnt libry again.

U can lern mor and download BTRSPL fre by just clicking here.. BTRSPL coms with CS and Americn dictionris, and with som less nown reforms as wel.

An example of SoundSpel

Much like Cut, but also consistent phonetic spelling. Double letters - aa for example - are pronounced like the letter itself in the alphabet, AAP=ape. American is a little harder to read at first, though easy after a few minutes. It is very easy for children or adults to learn to spell. Thus:

Nuespaeper Economics

A nuespaeper lievs or dies acording to a small diferens between larj numbers. It costs a lot to produes, meny tiems whut we pay for it, and it reseevs a lot of muny frum advertiezing.

Rufly thees sums balans, but if incum exseeds cost bi just a litl then the paeper lievs, whiel if expens prevaels it dies. In the past decaed, the number of American dailies has decliend 10%, a net loss of 155 paepers. Consider the Denver Poest, the oenly big liberal paeper in the airia and sloely loozing readership and strugling. Hoem delivery of the Sunday edishun is just 30 sents, but fizical producshun - paeper ink and presmen - costs $3.60. A 10% cut wuud saev $.36, not a forchun, but perhaps enuf to keep it in biznes, saeving the jobs of reporters and columists and leeving Denver with at leest too vuepoints on evry ishoo. Liekwiez reformd speling can provied the marjin to help meny small voises be herd thru the allternativ pres.

For werds as distribueted in a tipical docuement, Cut Speling redueses averej length bi 9%, and SoundSpel bi 7.5%.

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