[Spelling Progress Bulletin, Summer 1983, pp17-20]
[Albert Mazurkiewicz: see Anthology, Bulletins.]

Spellings in Commerce: Logical? Anathema?,

by Albert J. Mazurkiewicz, Ph.D.*

*Berkeley Heights, N.J.

Influence on the spelling behaviors of adults (Mazurkiewicz and Rath, 1976) suggest that media usages are at least as potent a factor as prior instruction to determine the spellings of words adults recognize as correct spellings. In the case of certain words (yogurt, gelatin, brunette), constant repetitive usage in product advertizing has apparently been of first importance in establishing the primacy of the given spellings. The authors concluded that repetitious use in the media is one viable procedure to establish spelling reforms. It could also be inferred that the spellings of certain words have already been changed to a more regular (one sound-one symbol) form by such usage.

Since such an influence for spelling changes exists, and in the absence of either a concerted action to utilize such sources for a change as a national academy or other such organization to oversee and rule on the direction of spelling reforms, it can be inferred, further, that commercial usages in time could lead to widespread change which might be as contradictory as present spellings or lead to changes which would be inimical to the child's interests in learning to read and spell the language. This contradiction is suggested by the simplification of yogurt and gelatin and the complexity of brunette as opposed to brunet.

A question on the prevalence of phonetic spellings in trade names, addressed in a companionate study by Mazurkiewicz and Alloway (1975), on items in a supermarket was answered by the findings that 42 (42.08) % of the 6,127 items; exclusive of produce and meats, carried trade names in which the spellings of one or more of such words were identified as more regular or phonetic. The immense number of phonetic spellings without a determination of their logicity, seems to suggest, with their repetitive use in advertizing, that further spelling changes might be expected as usage in print produces an acceptive recognition of them as alternate spellings, a listing in dictionaries as alternate spellings, their wide usage in books and periodicals; and finally, in spelling materials.

The question of the logicity of these spelling changes, addressed in this study, is of importance in determining whether such spellings need to be resisted or accepted within the context of simplifying the child's task in learning to read and spell.

Hypotheses.

To define the limits of this study, the following hypotheses were established:

1. That trade name spellings would extend over the range of the forty phonemes usually identified in American English speech.

2. That trade name respellings would focus largely on a limited number of phonemes.

3. That trade name respellings would focus largely on a limited number of words, and

4. That the majority of trade name spellings would represent a simplification of traditional spelling of words toward a more regular, logical, form.

Procedures.

The total of 6,127 items identified by Mazurkiewicz and Alloway (1975) were analyzed to establish a corpus of different tradenames. The corpus was then analyzed and classified into groups by the word or words in each trade name which was simplified. The spellings in each group of words was then analyzed and classified by spelling patterns. Each spelling pattern was compared to the frequencies of existence of spelling patterns in the Dewey (1970) and Hanna (1966) corpuses to determine the direction of the spelling changes; i.e. toward a more frequently used spelling pattern or toward a less used pattern, to establish the logicity of the spelling change.

Definitions and Assumptions.

For the purposes of this study, an item was defined as any product on the shelves of the A & P Supermarket used in this study and carried in its inventory. The count of items excluded the produce and meat areas. An item was further defined to include each separate brand of the product and each of the various sizes in which the product is marketed. Bread crumbs, for example, as one product had a count of 29. This count included only 5 different brand names, but one brand name, Roast n Boast, accounted for an item count of 8, the product being sold under this name in 8 different sizes or varieties. The trade name Roast n Boast was, therefore, counted only once in establishing the corpus of different trade names in which a phonetic spelling existed - in this case the use of syllabic n.

Logicity of the spelling changes was defined as the adoption of a more frequent spelling pattern as a substitution for a less frequent one or the adoption of a spelling which provides a one sound-one symbol pattern. Frequencies of usage of the spelling patterns were identified as those contained in the Dewey (1970) running word and Hanna et al (1966) corpuses. The words regular and phonetic are used as equivalents and are defined to refer to words in which one syllable represents one sound. The word went, in which each symbol represents one sound, would be considered regular or phonetic, while the word high is irregular since two symbols, g and h are unsounded. A more regular spelling is defined as one in which a spelling pattern of a higher frequency is substituted for a less frequent one. A word which substituted the spelling pattern i-e (37.7% occurence) for igh (8.6% occurence) would, therefore, be considered to have moved to a more regular or phonetic form. The reverse in a spelling substitution constituted movement to a less regular or less phonetic form. (Data in the instances cited above are taken from Table 10 of Teaching About Phonics. (Mazurkiewicz, 1976).

Refining the Corpus.

A corpus of 367 different trade names was developed from the 2,578 items having nonstandard spellings carried on the shelves of one New Jersey A & P supermarket. 28 trade names were found which used single letters or numbers to represent words of three or more letters. The substitution of a number for a word was not considered a change in spelling and such trade names as 6-12, 9-lives, A-1 Sauce, were eliminated from consideration. The use of letters in such trade names as RC, QT, V-8 (where V represents vegetables), or B in B Mushrooms (where B in B represents Broiled in Butter) were considered as mnemonic or logographic devices, not spellings, and were also excluded from the study.

An additional two produce names, Psssssst (instant shampoo) and Aqua Tee (Shaver Massager) were eliminated since label reading did not indicate that the words were spelling substitutions for any specific word.

Results.

A corpus of 337 trade names using 383 nonstandard spellings was identified.

As indicated in Table 1, commercial spellings restrict spelling changes to ten phonemes, the words of and and, as well as to dropping final or other letters in words. Spelling changes occur most frequently in the spellings of the phonemes /ie/, /ee/, and /k/, in the word and, or by dropping letters. Over one fourth (26.9) of the changes that have occurred thus far center around the phoneme /k/ with some change in the usual spelling of c, k, ck, q or x. A total of 68.4% of all changes occur in relation to spellings of /ie/, /ee/, /k/, and the word and.

Table 1.

Kind, Number and Percentages of Spelling Changes in Product Names.


a change in spelling of: Number of non-standard names Percent of total

/k/
/ie/
/ee/
/oe/
/uu/
/ue/
/sh/
/ae/
/r/
/f/
/uv/
/and/
dropping final e
103
51
44
23
6
5
1
5
11
2
8
64
15
26.9
13.3
11.5
6.0
1.6
1.3
0.3
2.6
2.9
0.5
2.1
16.7
3.9

 38399.9

Tables II, III, IV, V, and VI detail these changes. Table II lists the spelling changes by phoneme and identifies whether the pattern substituted is toward orthographical regularity. The table shows in respect to the phoneme /ie/ that one spelling pattern, i-e for igh, accounts for almost seventy-five (74.5) % of the total spelling changes. Since the spelling pattern i-e is far more frequent (37.7%) in the Dewey (1970 corpus of running words than is the pattern igh (8.6%), the direction of this spelling change is orthographically correct, in the direction of a simpler spelling, and to a reduction in the number of alternative spelling patterns available to represent the phoneme.

Table II.

Spelling Pattern Substitutions in Product Names by Phoneme.

PhonemeSubstitution. Commercial
Spell. Samples.
No. of Diff.
Trade Names.
Direction of
Spell. Change.

/ie/i-e for igh



i-e for ig
i for y
i for igh
y for i
y-e for igh
Cut Rite, Diet Rite
Diet Delite, Sta Lite
Scotch Brite, Ultra Brite
My-T-Mite; Nite Lite
Sine Off
Mi-Lem, Tri-Fri
Hi-C, Hi and Dri
Ty-D-Bol, Olde Tyme
Vu-Lyte
14
19
2
3
1
6
3
3
1
M R
M R
M R
M R
M R
M R
M R
L R*
L R

/ee/i for y
ee for ea
ee for y
e-e for ea
ee for ie
e for ea
T for ty
Easi-Clean, Fanci-Full
Gleem, Heet
Speedee, Squeezee
Crème
Easter Stickees
Soft-Weve
My-T-Fine
11
8
3
14
1
1
2
L R
M R
M R
M R
M R
M R
L R

/k/K for C
K for ck
Kool, Kreme, Kraft
pak
62
13
M R
M R

/K/

/ks/
K for q, k for ck
c for ck
q for c
x for cks
Press-Kwik
Buc Wheats
Bisquick
Stix, Snax
1
16
2
9
M R
M R
L R
L R

/oe/ o for ow
o for ough
o-e for oa
oh for ough
Sno-Cups, Copper Glo
Donut
Flote-Bole
Pla-Doh
12
4
4
1
M R
M R
M R
M R

/ae/
a for ay
ay for ai
Da-Vue, Sta-Flo
Ayds
4
1
M R
L R

/er/A for er
a for er
R for er
Broil-A-Foil
afta, Wanda Chair
U-Dek-R-Ate
1
6
4
L R
L R
L R

/uu/u for ue
u for o
u for oo
oo for ui
Tru-Art
Redu
Pruf
Froot Loops
1
1
2
2
M R
M R
M R
M R

/ue/ue for iew
u for ue
Da Vue
Super Valu
3
2
M R
M R

/f/f for ph
Foto2M R

/sh/sh for sShur-Lock1M R


* M R represents more regular; L R, less regular.

The letter i (35.2%) for y (8.5 %) and igh (8.6%) is similarly in the direction of simplification and to the more frequent spelling even tho the usage of i as a final letter representing /ie/ is in marked contrast to orthographic reality. While the letter i represents the phoneme /ie/ at the end of unaccented and accented syllables within words, an analysis of the Hanna (1966) Corpus indicates it never represents that sound in the final position of words. The spellings y for i, and y-e for igh are a reversal of the general procedure identified above since the spelling patterns adopted are less frequently used. In the case of /ie/, a consistency to adopt a more frequently used spelling is observable in 92.2% of the occurences identified for the /ie/ phoneme.

The /ee/ phoneme is primarily represented by some variety of the letter e, and the letters i and T, where T represents the letter name. The letters e, ee, e-e are used consistently to represent the /ee/ phoneme almost 68% (67.5) of the time. The substitution of i for y is orthographically correct (e.g., ski) but i is found at the end of words only once in the Hanna Corpus (1966: 489) and is among the spelling patterns least frequently used to represent /ee/. The letter y represents /ee/ 29.2% of the time in the Dewey Corpus and over 39% of the time in the adjusted count of the Hanna Corpus. The substitution of the capital letter T for ty represents the first usage encountered thus far of letter name usage to represent the phonemes of a syllable. It is considered a less regular usage since it violates the principles of regularity, established by this study.

Altho the letter c is used far more frequently (73.27%) to represent the /k/ phoneme than the letter k (12.74%), the letter k consistently represents the /k/ phoneme or is silent in all instances of words studied in either the Hanna or Dewey Corpuses. It is therefore considered a more regular usage than the letter c to represent that phoneme. The usage of K for C in Kool, Kreme, etc. accounts for over 60% of such spelling changes in commercial product names. K for q and C for CK are identified as more regular spellings since the usages of K and C are far more frequent than q or CK to represent the phoneme /k/. q for c is identified as less regular on the basis of frequency, while the usage of x, representing two phonemes, the /k/ and /s/, can be seen to deviate from the principles of one sound - one symbol established for this study. It is also identified as a spelling used less frequently than ck(s) to represent the phoneme string.

/oe/


The usage of o for ow and ough not only is correct from the standpoint of one sound-one symbol, but also based on frequency. The pattern o-e is also more regular since it is far more frequent (14.3%) than the oa (4.87%) in the Hanna Corpus (1966:608). The pattern oh, usually recognized as being used as a word, reduces the number of letters in dough to represent the phoneme /oe/, and thus is considered the more regular of the two spellings.

/ae/


The pattern of using the single letter a rather than ay to represent the phoneme follows the principle of regularity and is the more frequent (44.95% vs. 6.2%) of the spellings. While a frequently appears at the end of syllables and represents the phoneme /ae/, its usage is to represent the /a/ phoneme in final positions. The final position usages in commercial product names is therefore orthographically incorrect tho at the same time more regular usages. The substitution of ay for ai in Ayds is a less regular usage since ai is used more frequently (17.6%) than ay (6.2%) to represent the phoneme.

/er/


All three usages as shown in the table are less regular since each single letter represents two phonemes or produce a distortion from sound representations as seen in dictionaries.

/ui/, /ue/ /f/, /sh/


Based on frequency, all usages are more regular than the spellings they supplant.

A re-examination of the table reveals that only 29 commercial product names deviate from a consistent role of simplification toward the least complex, toward the most frequent spellings used to represent phonemes, or toward the use of the single vowel letter typically used to represent consonant and glided vowel sounds. Over 88% (88.2) of commercial product names in this table follow the regularity principle. It should also be noted that no instance of a spelling change was discovered in respect to unglided vowels.

A second approach to orthographic change in commercial product names is observable in Table III. The table holds these words in which the vowel letters a, e, and o are assigned a diacritic mark to represent the glided vowel phonemes in the words. Four of the usages are considered regular since they follow the procedure of one sound-one symbol and use the traditional symbol to represent the expected glided vowel. The usage of e to signal the phoneme /ae/ is considered irregular since three spellings use the French letter (e plus acute) to represent the phoneme and, rather than a reduction, represents an addition to the multiplicity of existing spelling patterns. Altho the American spelling of café no longer uses the acute, the e might also be considered regular by some since its usage would certainly help the reader recognize which pronunciation is required or whether the e is silent as it typically is.

Table III.

Product names using Diacritics


PhonemeSubstitution Commercial
Spell. Examples
No. of Differ.
Trade Names
Direction of
Spell. chg.

/ae/ ā for ai
ă
e
Drāno
Brănical
Nescafe, Boucle, Rondele
1
1
3
Regular
Regular
Irregular
/ee/
/oe/
ē for a
ō for o,
and o-e
Nestlē, Cēpacal
Nōdoz, Compōz
4
2
Regular
Regular


Diacritic mark usage, while identified in only 2.9% of the total product names, is being used more widely than this percentage would suggest. Corporation names such as Apēco, Colēco, etc. exist and such place names as Tōkyō and Ōsaka are typically found so designate on maps. These usages are also regular.

Table IV lists the variety of ways product names spell the words of and and. Altho pronunciation represented by either a or o is the unglided /u/ when the /v/ is elided and either of these letters accurately represents the pronunciation of the word of in colloquial speech, the letter a more frequently (15.2%) represents the /u/ sound (Mazurkiewicz, 1976) than the o (21.5%). The difference in these percentages suggests that the o should be preferred since it begins the word. However, the letter a is probably more recognizable as representing /u/ because of its usage to represent the sound in the initial position of words and in the unaccented usage of the word a.

Table IV.

Spellings of the Words 'of' and 'and' in Product Names.


WordSpellingExampleNo. of Diff. Usages Direction of Change

of


and
-a-
o'
o
n
n'
'n
'n'
-n-
-A-
Cup-a-soup
Breast o' Chicken
Breath o Pine
Good n Plenty
Brown n' Serve
Burger 'n Gravy
Fill 'n' Eat
Frost-n-Swirl
Rice-A-Roni
1
2
5
16
8
29
8
3
1
M R
M R
M R
M R
M R
M R
M R
M R
L R


The most popular spelling of and is 'n as suggested by the fact that it alone accounts for 42.2% of the six spellings listed. More accurate, however, is the pattern 'n' since the apostrophe indicates letters omitted at both ends of the word. Since the syllabic n is being represented, however, the unmarked n, second most popular, is possibly as good as the most popular. The letter A in Rice-A-Roni, while adequate for this product's name and suggestive of its contents, rice and macaroni, is considered less regular since the letter A pronounced /u/ in this instance doesn't necessarily suggest the word and.

Table V lists the variety, of product names from which the final e has been omitted from one of the words.

Table V.

Final 'e' Omission in Product Names


activ
bubl
Nos Kote
squeez
stor
cheez
Brut
Enfamil
Hair Weev
Liv crème
Pretz-l
Thermo-Serv
Ry Krisp
Shur Lock
Fertl-Sticks


Other spelling changes are also apparent when two words are utilized. Sine the final e has purely a graphical usage following v and z, the words activ, squeez, cheez, liv, weev and serv are respellings which would be considered regular since the i in liv follows the generalization that "single vowels followed by one or two consonants are unglided and glided; try the unglided sound first," (Mazurkiewicz, 1976) - no difficulty in accepting these respellings is seen. The words bubl, fertl, and Pretz-l, in which the final e in traditional spelling is interpreted as signaling the syllabic l can also be considered as reasonable approaches to regularity when the principle of one symbol-one sound is developed or recognized as existing in such words. The elimination of the final diacritic e in Shur, Noz, Brut, Stor, and Ry is seen, in the case of Shur, to be effectively supplanted the spelling sh for s since the diacritic e relates to that s. (Mazurkiewicz, 1975) The vowel sound in Nos, Stor, and Ry do not depend on the diacritic e but, rather, are predictable from the above stated generalization. The word Brut is predictable from the above only when it is recognized as a special case whether the letter u represents its own glided and unglided sounds and also that of the glided /uu/ among others. The presence of the final e adds the information that the u is glided, partially reducing uncertainty, and therefore, it seems to serve enough of a useful function to merit its retention.

The analysis suggests that at least 93% of the 15 words have been improved to more regular spelling status.

Table VI lists the words in which letters other than the final e are eliminated.

Table VI

Product Names in Which Letters are Eliminated


Letters
eliminated
Examples of Product Names No. of Different Products

g
t
y
a
u*
e-y
se*
e
l*
d*
u*
f*
s*
ne
b*
Lovin Spoonful, Cookin, Gravy Makins
Coton, Contac, Sof Stroke
La-Z Boy, E-Z Foil
E-Z Pack
Oven Gard
Saf-T-Nubs
Star-Kist
Freshner, D*Lete, Lectric Shave
Realemon
Endust
E-Z Por Cap
Fluf
Jet Glas
Ken-L-Ration
Liquid Plumer
10
5
2
5
3
1
1
6
1
1
1
1
1
1
1


Altho each of the spellings can be justified on one or more bases, only the spellings of Coton, Gard, Kist, Realemon, endust, Por, Pluf and Glas are considered as more regular, since unnecessary silent letters are eliminated. The use of letter names to represent more than one phoneme is rejected as is resultant spellings which correspond to colloquial pronunciations.

Only 10 (25%) of these product names, those letters marked with an asterisk and the word Coton, are identified as more regular. The elimination of silent letters characterize this group.

Conclusions and Implications.

The results of the study indicate that trade names typically exhibit logical spelling changes, that is, changes which substitute a more frequent spelling pattern for a less frequent one. The results permit rejection of hypothesis one that trade names extend over a range of 40 phonemes usually identified in American English speech, but the acceptance of the remaining 3 hypotheses: that the majority of trade names represent g simplification of word spellings to a more regular form, trade name respellings focus largely on a limited number of phonemes and on a limited number of words.

A total of 64 of the 383 different product names follow principles which allow their classification as less regular (16.7%) while 319 or 83.3% can be identified as more regular if not wholly regular according to the established criteria. In 88% of the 2,578 names studied, the direction of change was to a more regular, more phonetic form. The greatest number of spelling changes occurred in relation to the letter c where k was substituted, to the word and where syllabic n (marked variously) was substituted, and to words in which igh appeared where the pattern i-e generally was substituted. Frequently used spellings included rite, lite, creme, Pak, Kool, and glo.

Based on the results of this study and within its limitations, it would appear that, in the absence of ratings from an authoritative body, spelling changes used in commerce follow procedures for simplification for the most part which are in agreement with the frequency of spellings within the language. The basic principle which seems to exert most force on these spelling changes is one of simplification to a one sound-one-symbol base. The second principle operating is one in which the phoneme is encoded using the vowel consonant plus e pattern. This principle, however, is often modified to exclude the final e where its diacritic functions are superflous and to rely on the single or geminate vowel for encoding the phoneme.

Since these kind of simplifications allow for a greater percentage of utility of such phonic generalizations as "a single vowel followed by one or two consonants is usually unglided, sometimes glided; try the unglided sound first;" or the secondary diacritic e generalization concerning vowels once removed (Mazurkiewicz, 1975), few of these changes are identified as meritorious of negative concern.

Should repetitive usage of over 80% of these trade names lead to changes in equivalency status and subsequently, to acceptability as spelling alternatives, the changes can only be viewed as positive for ease of learning by the child both in reading and spelling. The spellings of commerce can generally be viewed as a beneficial source of spelling change.

References.

Dewey, Godfrey. Relative Frequency of English Spellings, New York: Teachers College Press, 1970.

Hanna, Paul B., Hanna, Jean S., Hodges, Richard E., and Rudorf, Edwin H. Phoneme-Grapheme Correspondences as Clues to Spelling Improvement, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of H.E.W., Office of Education 1966.

Mazurkiewicz, Albert , J. Teaching About Phonics, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1976.

--- and Alloway, Ruth, "Spelling in Business and Industry". Unpublished Research Report.

--- and Rath, Charlotte, "Affects on Adults' Spelling Behaviors" Reading World, v. XVI, No. 1.


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