[Articles in the Anthology that were not in the Spelling Progress Bulletins.]

[Spelling Reform Anthology §14.2 pp207,208]

Book Review, by Newell W. Tune

Jacobson, Sven: Unorthodox Spellings in American Trademarks, Almqvist & Wiksell, Stockholm, 1966. pp. 53, 8 x5

This book was found in the library of the Univ. of Arizona. It is one of the Stockholm Studies of English (Acta Universitatis Stockholmensis), xvi.

It is divided into two sections. 1. Discussions, and 2. A list of words affected by trademark spelling. The chapters' titles are: 1. Introduction, 2. Spellings based on standard pronunciations, 3. Spellings based on regional pronunciations, 4. Spellings based on nonce or fancy pronunciations, 5. Spelling regularization and simplification, 6. Reduced number of graphemes, 7. Increased number of graphemes, 8. Merely graphemic variation, 9. Comparison between unorthodox trademark spellings and various reform proposals.

The purpose of this book is to give a detailed demonstration of how unorthodox American trademark spellings differ from standard orthography. Deviant trademark spelling serves a commercial purpose by distinguishing two or more similar trademarks from each other and by catching the eyes of prospective purchasers. It may also serve a linguistic purpose by paving the way for a future spelling reform. It is true that in many cases trademark composers, in order to be original, use all kinds of artifices, such as spelling based on substandard or regional pronunciations, or merely fancy spelling with extra letters or hyphens added or other letters substituted for those in standard orthography, and this has naturally an injurious effect on poor spellers. But the strongest tendency is undoubtedly towards simplification (involving in many cases also regularization), and as the simplified trademark spellings frequently coincide with changes advocated by various spelling reform proposals, they can be said to give these reforms support by their very existence. On the whole it seems as if the type of reform endorsed by trademark spellings is rather one on more moderate lines, than one of a more radical nature.

The need for distinctiveness in the commercial field has resulted in the use of a great number of irregularly spelt trademarks to supplement those with regular spelling. The law protects producers and consumers but there is a third party involved who is not protected and that is the poor schoolboy, or anybody else for that matter, who is trying to learn English orthography. He cannot open a newspaper, switch on a TV-set, walk along a street, or enter a store without being confronted by trademarks whose spelling he cannot trust as being orthographically correct. In recent years there has been a steady increase sale of pre-packaged goods with the trademark appearing on the outside cover, and here is a typical example of how this directly influenced a boy's spelling. At a scout training course for junior leaders in Connecticut the boys had to keep notebooks which were collected and examined by the staff towards the end of the course. One made a list of the equipment issued to his patrol, and among the items in this list he had included "8 kots." We on the staff could hardly blame him for this mistake for he had merely copied the spelling he had seen on the cartons containing the camp cots where the words KUMFORT KOT appeared in conspicuous capital letters.

Another feature which may amuse some readers is the use of spellings based on substandard or regional pronunciation. In careless speech many phonemes which are retained in normal educated speech undergo deletion, and this tendency is often reflected in trademark spellings, e.g. lectric shave, c-lect-n-load, jus-rite, protex-a-hand, han-kleen, cop-o-joy, bit-o-honey, kilz-um, tuf-ide.

In not a few cases the use of simplifying methods gives rise to spellings which do not conform to present-day orthographic conventions of phoneme representation. This applies to the following trademarks in which the deletion silent terminal e should have given another pronunciation than that intended: Shutlbrak, Safti-flight, Fyr-fyter, Driv-gyds, Shyn-bryt, Sur-grip, Tuf-spung, Irn-eze.

Though simplification is by far the strongest tendency in trademark spellings, we also find many cases where phonemes or sequences of phonemes are represented by more graphemes than in standard orthography. In not a few trademarks we find changes which are the exact reverse discussed in the previous section. An unnecessary e is appended to some trademarks, e.g., Aire-flo, Syte-ayde, Chemiste, Faym-us, Super-Ray-Dium, Ezey-Flo, Tidey Bowl, King Zeero, Dunnglu, Hott-patch, Dura-Nett, Enna Jettick, Kon Krete, Wash E-z-y.

In a great number of trademarks, phonemes or phoneme sequences are represented in such a way that the number is neither smaller nor larger than that which is used in standard orthography, but the graphemes themselves vary a great deal. The reason for grapheme variation is, in most cases, a desire or need to make the trademark distinctive, as when 'rain' is spelled rayn, and 'day' is spelled dai; sometimes, however, it is also possible to discern a tendency to greater regularity, as when 'shoe' is spelled shoo. Other examples are: Cleervue, Tru-cleen, Eezy-stak, Heetgrid, Kantleek, Seel-screw, Quick-trey, Men-e-uses, Kristel-x, Kristyl-Kleer, Inamel, Sno Shoo.

One consonant is often replaced by another more readily identified with the desired sound, as Kab Kool, Kanvas-Kote, Klean Klay, Koffee Kake, Kold Skuttle, Kolor Kote, Bar-B-Que, Se-ment-seal, Privasee, Bestuvall, Jimshirts, Majic Suds, Recharjer, Rijid, Cheese Kist, Mar-Pruf, Digz-all, Oilzall, Hoze-Lok, Sawzall, Ruff & Tuff, Rinzoff, To-wauk-on, Reddy-go, Onliwon, Justwun, Kwik-Kupel, Fyer-Wall, Bo-Kay, Kleen Kwality Kloths, Krispy Kake Kones, Kwik-Bilt, Likwid, So E Z, Gard-N-Gro, Kook-E-Mix, Nu-C-Ment, N-Dur-All, Vin-L-Kote, Ad-a-Lite, Pres-To-Seal.

In section 5, Haschka was referred to as propounding the thesis that the fact that people have begun to accept deviant trademark spellings as a natural thing may make them less opposed to further changes and thus pave the way for a future reform of standard English orthography. The many reform proposals so far put forward vary a great deal both in their attitude to details and in overall thoroness and consistency. (The same may be said of the trademark spellings). Thus in 1920 the American Simplified Spelling Board gave some "rules for simplified Spelling," by which, according to Wijk, "the problem was only scratched on the surface." Scratching on the surface seems, however, to suit trademark composers very well, and it is interesting to note that altho most of them have probably been ignorant of the Board's rules, they have in many cases conformed to some of the changes recommended. Among these may be mentioned:

(A) deletion of (1) the last two letters when a double consonantal occurs before mute e, as in palette, etiquette, (2) one of two identical final consonants, as in add, cell, dull, egg, glass, (3) final mute e in certain cases where it is unnecessary, as in give, have, freeze, serve, stabile, (4) mute a in dead, head, heavy, etc, (5) mute b in crumb, plumb, (6) mute u before l, as in shoulder, or before a vocalic, as in build, guard, (7) ugh in, for instance, doughnut.

(B) substitution of (1) d or t for the ending -ed in the case of such verbs as couple, fashion, fix, kiss, press, but not when the change would suggest a wrong pronunciation, (2) uf for ough in words such as tough, rough, (3) f for ph, as in siphon, photo, phono.

Some of the Board's rules were not new but have since Noah Webster's time been accepted in standard American orthography, e.g. the dropping of u in colour and the transposition of final r and e in theatre, centre, etc. The Board was not willing to suggest changes which in their opinion would violate the phonetic principle, as nite for night.

Wijk says, "it is far more important to adopt such changes as offer better guidance to the pronunciation than to adopt such as may only make it somewhat easier to spell or may only save some space. Tho deviant trademark spelling and Regularized Inglish differ in this and in many other details, it is possible to discern as a certain tendency in the former the principle adopted by the latter, namely "the preservation, as far as possible and convenient, of all the various sound symbols of the present orthography in their regular, i.e. in their most frequent usage or usages. Wijk asserts that his principle only occasionally conflicts with that of simplification for on the whole there are many more occasions for dropping than for adding letters."

One conclusion that may be drawn from this pamphlet is that a reform based on phonetic principles (i.e. one phoneme-one symbol) would mean the end of using deviant trademark spelling to achieve distinctiveness or to attract commercial attention, but it would bring regularity and stability to a situation in commerce that is most confusing to learners.

Another is that the whole idea of this book is that, while the tendency of trademarks is toward simplification, in many cases those persons writing the newly coined words are unqualified to do the simplification, knowing nothing of linguistic principles. The result is no systematic kind of changes, and another mess is made, whereas the idea of such changes should be toward simplicity and regularity. This does not occur when unqualified persons and bunglers have the job. A true reform would bring phonetic regularity to a situation in commerce that is most confusing to learners.


[Spelling Reform Anthology §16.5 pp226,227]

Historical Changes in Spelling, by Newell W. Tune

Exerpted from The American Language, by H. L. Mencken

Reprinted by permission from Alfred A. Knopf, New York, N.Y.

While the book by H. L. Mencken dwells on many phases of English spelling, we will touch only on such changes as have been established and are in general use, with some accounts on how they happened.

'The real father of the simplified spelling movement was probably Noah Webster. The controversy over his new spelling aroused a great deal of public interest in the subject, and in the early 70's even the dons of the American Philological Assoc. began to give it some attention. In 1875 they appointed a committee consisting of Prof. Francis A. March of Lafayette College, W. D. Whitney and J.

Hammond Trumbell of Yale U., S. S. Haldeman of Univ. of Pennsylvania, and F. J. Child of Harvard to look into it, and in 1876 this committee reported that a revision of spelling was urgent and that something should be done about it. Specifically, they proposed that eleven new spellings be adopted at once, to wit, ar, catalog, definit, gard, giv, hav, infinit, liv, tho, thru, and wisht. These were endorsed by the newly formed Spelling Reform Assoc. The Philological Soc. of England and the American Philological Assoc. kept a friendly watch upon the progress of events. In 1880 the former issued a pamphlet advising various "partial corrections of English spellings," and in 1886 the latter followed with recommendations affecting about 3500 words, and falling under ten headings. Most of the new forms listed had been put forward years before by Webster, and some of them entered into unquestioned American usage in the meantime, e.g., the deletion of the u from the -our words, the substitution of er for re at the end of words, and the reduction traveller to traveler."

The trouble with the others was that they were either too uncouth to be adopted without a long struggle or likely to cause errors in pronunciation. To the first class belonged tung for tongue, ruf for rough, batl for battle and abuv for above, and to the second such forms as cach for catch and troble for trouble.

The result was that the whole reform movement received a setback - the public dismissed the reformers as a pack of lunatics. Twelve Years later the National Education Assoc. revived the movement with a proposal that a beginning be made with a very short list of reformed spellings and nominated the following twelve changes by way of experiment: tho, altho, thru, thruout, thoro, thoroly, thorofare, program, prolog, catalog, pedagog, and decalog. Then in 1906, came the organization of the Simplified Opening Board, with a subsidy of $15,000 a year from Andrew Carnegie (later increased to $25,000), and a formidable list of members and collaborators, including Henry Bradley, F. L. Furnival, C. H. Grandgent, W. W. Skeat, T. R. Lounsbury and F. A. March. The Board at once issued a list of 300 revised spellings, old and new, and in Aug. 1906, Pres. Theodore Roosevelt ordered their adoption by the Government Printing Office. But this effort to hasten matters aroused widespread opposition in Congress, and in a little while the spelling reform movement was the sport of the national wits. The Government Printing Office resisted, and so did most of the departments, and in the end the use of the twelve new spellings was confined to the White House. Not many American magazines or newspapers adopted them, and they were seldom used in printing books. When in 1919, Carnegie died, his subsidy ceased, and the Simplified Spelling Board became almost inactive, with only Dewey guiding it.

"In its heyday the Board claimed that 556 American newspapers and other periodicals, with a combined circulation of 18,000,000, were using the twelve simplified spellings of the National Education Assoc.'s list" and most of the 300 simpler spellings" recommended by its own first list, and that 460 universities, colleges and normal schools were either using most of these spellings "in their official publications and correspondence," or permitting "students to use them in written work." But not many of these publications or educational institutions were of much importance. The Literary Digest led the very short list of national magazines, and the Philadelphia North American led the newspapers." Only three, little known colleges gave their official approval (of those in Massachusetts).

"The Board issued lists of reformed spellings from time to time, and in 1919 it brought out a Handbook of Simplified Spelling summarizing its recommendations." They consisted of 32 complicated rules, many of which had exceptions. "Obviously this list was too long and complicated to have much chance of being accepted. Some of the spellings in it, to be sure, were already in good American usage, braut in by Webster, but others were uncouth and perhaps even ridiculous. The Board, as if despairing of making any headway with so many changes, braut out a much shorter list, and leaflets arguing for it were distributed in large numbers." It contained only the following 30 words:
bil(d)instedthoro(ly)-fare, etc.)
But they also suggested spelling other similar sounding words by analogy with these. This would bring up the list to over 100 words. But this list also failed to win any considerable public support. On the contrary, its clumsy novelties gave the whole spelling reform movement a black eye. In the summer of 1921 the National Education Assoc., which had launched a campaign for reform in 1898, withdrew its endorsement, and during the years following most of magazines and newspapers that had adopted its 12 new spellings went back to the orthodox forms. So long ago as 1909, when R. H. Taft succeeded Roosevelt as President, the New York Sun announced the doom of the movement in an editorial of one word thru. This was premature, for Carnegie's money was still paying for a vigorous propaganda, but his death ten years later, put an end to large-scale crusading, and since then reform has been propoted mainly by individuals, no two of whom agree."

"On Jan. 28, 1935, the Chicago Tribune announced that had adopted 24 simplified spellings and was preparing add others from time to time. Its innovations met with a mixed reception. Some readers applauded, some protested and soon it dropped iland. Its list did not include such SSB spellings as: thoro, thru and filosofy."

"But despite the fact that the activities of the Board, as secretary, Dr. Godfrey Dewey, admits sadly, have "slowed down almost to the stopping point," it has probably had some influence on the course of American spelling, it failed to bring in tho and thoro, but it undoubtedly aided in the general acceptance of catalog, program and their congeners. The late George Philip Krapp of Columbia, who was certainly no Anglophobe, believed that fonetic, fonograf, fosfate, fotograf and the like were "bound to be the spelling of the future" in this country. Such forms as burlesk, nabor, naborhood, nite, foto, sox, hi, hiway, lite, holsum, biskit, ho-made, thanx, and kreem, tho they still lack the imprimateur of any academic authority, are used freely by the advertizing writers, and by such advance-agents of change as the contributors to Variety. They also introduce many other novelties as: uneeda, trufit (shoes), wilcut (knives), veribest, dalite, (alarm clocks), staylit (matches), az-nu (second-hand), sur-on (eye-glasses), slipova (covers), nota-seme (hosiery), kant-leek (water-bottle), and the like. Most of these, of course, rise and fall with the commodities they designate, and thus have only the dignity of nonce-words, but in their very number there is some sign of a tendency."

"Today, Webster's Dictionary, with its progressive spellings, is accepted as authority by all American courts, and is in almost universal use in the schools and colleges, is the official spelling guide of the Government Printing Office, and has the same standing in the overwhelming majority of American newspapers, magazines, and book publishing offices. Thus Webster lives in American literary history as the author of the two champion best-sellers of all time."

"The English, in late years, have adopted a great many American spellings, e.g. jail for goal, cider for cyder, and asphalt for asphalte. They have even begun to succumb to alright, tho it is often denounced by purists."

"This English tendency to follow American examples in spelling is not extended to two classes of words - those ending with -or, and those of the defense class. Here orthographical logic has little to do with the matter; it is, rather one of national pride. "The American abolition of -our in such words," says H. W. Fowler in "A Dictionary of Modern English Usage," "has probably retarded rather than quickened English progress in the same direction. Our first notification that the book we are reading is not American is often the sight of the ending -or. But in late years the British have moved from -our to -or save in the single case of Saviour, but rule in other classes of words is so complicated and full of exceptions that no lexicographer has been able to explain it."

"The case of the Chicago Tribune was reported above up to 1935. Since then it has done some dizzy wobbling. Early in 1936 it reiterated its devotion to the new spellings it had introduced in 1934, e.g. fantom, harken, aile, balif, burocracy, herse, hefer, lether, yern, but warned its readers that it would have to proceed slowly. Then, on Mar. 26, 1939, it announced surprizingly that it was abandoning its program and promised to sin no more."

"Dr. Louise Pound long ago suggested that the spelling reform movement in the U.S.A., if it had little effect on standard spelling, may have at least fanned the craze for whimsical spellings which still rages, especially among advertisement writers. An early stage of the craze was visible in the name of the Ku Klux Klan. In two previous papers she had listed a large number of unorthodox spellings in American trade-marks, e.g. nuklene (shoe whitening), porosknit (underwear), fits-u, keen kutter (cutlery), kiddie klothes, kum-a-part, (cuff links), klenzo (tooth paste), az-nu (auto enamel), kutzit (soap), kroflite (golf balls), da-nite (bed), evertite (purses), sunbrite (cleanser), veribest (canned goods), and thousands more.

"Meanwhile, Variety and its imitators continue to generate and disseminate a large number of simplified spellings of their own, e.g. laff, ayem (A.M.), naborhood, whodunit, burlesk, vodvil, donut, sox and slax, chix, trunx, inx, and Hollywood seems to have been responsible for the reduction of and to 'n, as in sit 'n eat, Park 'n dine, cash 'n carry, hiway, traler, sho biz, sho card, and many others.

Mencken believes that all spelling reformers, beginning with Noah Webster, have made the capital mistake of trying to cover too much ground in one operation. An impressive number of Webster's innovations were accepted and are still the preferred American spellings, but many more were rejected. The Simplified Spelling Board suffered the same failure, and on a larger scale. When the Nat. Educ. Assoc brought out its first list of 12 spellings in 1898, with tho, thru, catalog, etc. they were met with considerable politeness, and some of them are in wide use today, but when the Simplified Spelling Board, intoxicated by Carnegie's money, began making the list longer and wilder, until by 1919 it included such items as, e.g. hed, bild, tipe, laf and leag, the national opposition began to resort to sarcasm and innuendo and soon the movement was compared to a lunatic asylum and was then 'ded.'

"Sir William Craigie, one of the editors of the NED and chief editor of the DAE, made the same point in a wise paper printed in 1944: There would be better prospect of success if the aim were less ambitious. Gradual changes in certain types of words, such as have been made in the past, might well be introduced by writers and printers. These in time would become so familiar that the older forms would be used less and be considered obsolete. Such forms, however, could only be of a limited character, and would still leave the essentials of confusing English spelling intact. He goes on to say, "when all is said against it that can be said, it is well to bear in mind that English spelling has now stood the test of time for three centuries, and in spite of its alleged defects, it has not prevented English from attaining the world-wide position it now holds."

Craigie hints that English is one of the languages which has resisted the phoneticizing process for two reasons. The first is that it is made up of words coming from widely different sources -"the native, Romanic, classical and exotic," and each element has brought its own traditions of spelling, which often conflict with each other. The second obstacle lies in the fact that many of the commonest words have spellings that could not be changed without offending the eye and causing trouble.

Back to the top.