|Meihem In Ce Klasrum|
Issue 01 (September 2003)
a reprint of a classic treatise about the English language in the manner of George Bernard ShawBecause we are still bearing some of the scars of our brief skirmish with II-B English, it is natural that we should be enchanted by Mr. George Bernard Shaw's current campaign for a simplified alphabet.
Obviously, as Mr. Shaw points out, English spelling is in need of a general overhauling
and streamlining. However, our own resistance to any changes requiring a large expenditure of mental effort in the near future would cause us to view with some apprehension the possibility of some day receiving a morning paper printed in - to us - Greek.
...it might be posible in 1950 to delve further into the posibilities of fonetik speling.
Our own plan would achieve the same end as the legislation proposed by Mr. Shaw, but in a much less shocking manner, as it consists of merely an acceleration of the normal processes by which the language is continually modernized.
As a catalytic agent, we would suggest that a "National Easy Language Week" be proclaimed, which the President would inaugurate, outlining some short cut to concentrate on during the week, and to be adopted during the ensuing year. All school children would be given a holiday, the lost time being the equivalent of that gained by the spelling short cut.
In 1946, for example, we would urge the elimination of the soft "c," for which we would substitute "s." Sertainly, such an improvement would be selebrated in all sivic-minded sircles as being suffisiently worth the trouble, and students in all sities in the land would be reseptive toward any change eliminating the nesessity of learning the differense between the two letters.
In 1947, sinse only the hard "c" would be left, it would be possible to substitute "k" for it, both letters being pronounsed identikally. Imagine how greatly only two years of this prosess would klarify the konfusion in the minds of students. Already we would have eliminated an entire letter from the alphabet. Typewriters and linotypes kould all be built with one less letter, and all the manpower and materials previously devoted to making "c's" kould be turned toward raising the national standard of living.
In the fase of so many notable improvements, it is easy to foresee that by 1948, "National Easy Language Week" would be a pronounsed sukses. All skhool tshildren would be looking forward with konsiderable exsitement to the holiday, and in a blaze of national publisity it would be announsed that the double konsonant "ph" no longer existed, and that the sound would henseforth be written "f" in all words. This would make sutsh words as "fonograf" twenty persent shorter in print.
By 1949, publik interest in a fonetik alfabet kan be expekted to have inkreased to the point where a more radikal step forward kan be taken without fear of undue kritisism. We would therefore urge the elimination at that time of al unesesary double leters, whitsh, although quite harmles, have always ben a nuisanse in the language and a desided deterent to akurate speling. Try it yourself in the next leter you write, and se if both writing and reading are not fasilitated.
With so mutsh progres already made, it might be posible in 1950 to delve further into the posibilities of fonetik speling. After due konsideration of the reseption aforded the previous steps, it should be expedient by this time to spel al difthongs fonetikaly. Most students do not realize that the long "i" and "y," as in "time" and "by," are aktualy the difthong "ai," as it is writen in "aisle," and that the long "a" in "fate" is in reality the difthong "ei" as in "rein." Although perhaps not imediately aparent, the seiving in taime and efort wil be tremendous when we leiter elimineite the sailent "e," as meide posible bai this last tsheinge.
For, as is wel known, the horible mes of "e's" apearing in our writen language is kaused prinsipaly bai the present nesesity of indekeiting whether a vowel is long or short. Therefore, in 1951 we kould simply elimineite al sailent "e's" and kontinu to read and wrait merily along as though we wer in an atomik eig of edukation.
In 1952 we would urg a greit step forward. Sins bai this taim it would hav ben four years sins anywun had usd the leter "c," we would sugest that the "National Easy Languag Wek" for 1952 be devoted to substitution of "c" for "th." To be sur, it would be som taim befor peopl would bekom akustomd to reading ceir newspapers and buks wic sutsh sentenses in cem as "Ceodor caught he had cre cousand cistls crust crough ce cik of his cumb."
In ce seim maner, bai meiking eatsh leter hav its own sound and cat sound only, we kould shorten ce languag stil mor. In 1953 we would eliminait ce "y"; cen in 1954 we kould us ce leter to indekeit ce "sh" sound, cerbai klarifaiing words laik yugar and yur, as wel as redusing bai wun mor leter al words laik "yut," "yor," and so forc. Cink, cen, of al ce benefits to be geind bai ce distinktion whitsh wil cen be meid between words laik:
machine now writen mayin
racial now writen reyial
Al sutsh divers weis of wraiting wun sound would no longer exist, and whenever wun keim akros a "y" sound he would know exaktli what to wrait.
Kontinuing cis proses, eeir after eeir we would eventuali hav a reali sensibl writen langug. Bai 1969, wi ventyur tu sei, cer wud bi no mor uv ces teribli trublsum difikultis, wic no tu leters usd to indikeit ce seim nois, and laikwais no tu noises riten wic ce seim leter. Even Mr. Yaw, wi beliv, wud be hapi in ce noleg cat his drims fainali keim tru.
This was originally published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1946, after the terms of George Bernard Shaw's will had come to light. I am very grateful for the helpful corrections sent by several readers. Edwin Herdman kindly pointed out several errors that he found by comparing this article with his original. Reader Josh Rehman pointed out an error toward the end where the new word "bai" was incorrectly spelled "by." This is probably a typo introduced by yours truly. Reader Steve Bush sent along a very helpful list of minor errors he found as he compared my reprint with a different reprint. Interested in Spelling reform? Then take a look at Ecphorizer contributor David Koblick's article here.