[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1992/1 pp21,22, later designated J12]
[also on this page: SSS 50 years ago.
The Simplified Spelling Society.
Annual General Meeting - Saturday 27 April 1991 - Minutes.Committee members present: Chris Jolly, Govind Deodheker, Chris Upward, Mona Cross, Jean Hutchins, Bob Brown, Frank Garnett (representing Alun Bye).
Members present: Ron Footer, Frank Jones, Adrian Murphy (part time).
Apologies for absence: Laurie Fennelly, Paul Fletcher, Alun Bye.
The meeting opened at 10.45, Chris Jolly in the chair.
1. Minutes: The minutes of the last AGM on 28 April 1990 were approved and signed.
2. Matter arising - Charitable status - Bob Brown reported that he was, for the present, ignoring the past history of refusal (on the grounds that it was a long time ago and many things could have changed) and approaching the Charity Commissioners afresh. After discussion, it was agreed to continue to seek charitable status provided it did not mean a large expenditure on legal fees and the like. It would save about £1,000 of tax annually, and potentially more if it were ever decided to realise some of the capital gain in investments.
3. Chairman's report: Chris Jolly summarised the significant points of the last year:
- There has been a subtle change in the teaching of literacy, and discussions of phonic vs. non-phonic methods, are now firmly on the educational agenda. The kind of pressure we can bring to bear is thus more likely to be heard.
- An article in the Times Educational Supplement by Chris Upward has opened floodgates of publicity. The Chairman and Chris Upward have each appeared on several radio programmes, both have talked to many journalists (with generally useful coverage resulting) and Chris Upward is booked for a forthcoming TV talk programme.
- Altho not very visable, a great deal of useful work has been done over the last year, for example Chris Upward's efforts in bringing Cut Spelling to press, and the Chairman's own experimental work with new orthographies in schools.
- The Chairman sees the Society's role as providing a debating forum on the kinds of reform possible and how they should be introduced. Some members may have firm personal views about these things but they should approach discussions with an open mind. It is our clear duty to involve a wider public in debate.
4. Secretary's Report: As he has only recently taken over from Laurie Fennelly, Bob Brown first read a short report from the retiring Secretary, the main points of which were:
- On election to Committee, LF came to feel that the Society had lost its way, being diverted by ita, not publishing anything, forgetting New Spelling, and only acting as a discussion group.
- He had worked over the years to rectify these problems, in particular of late concentrating on bringing out a new edition of New Spelling, as the last one was in 1948!
- This is now nearing completion and it is with the printers. It will be distributed free to members during May. LF felt it should be used as the spearhead of the proposed promotional drive during 1991, altho other schemes could obviously be presented on a discussion basis.
- He welcomed Bob Brown to the post.
BB restricted his comments to:
- Noting that he has now taken over the Membership Secretary role too, previously carried out by Chris Upward. He reported 107 names currently on the member list, 82 of whom had been sent reminders regarding subscriptions with the AGM mailing.
- He intends to be quite active this year. The first task is to get together a decent stock of publications that can be given or sold to enquirers, then to launch a promotional drive to encourage more enquirers.
A motion was put by Chris Jolly (seconded Chris Upward) that "the Society would like to express its appreciation to Laurie Fennelly for his excellent work as Secretary." Passed unanimously.
5. Editor's Report: The main points of Chris Upward's report were:
- He very much regrets that pressure of other work had made it impossible for him to get out a Journal since Autumn 1989. There was a strong feeling from his correspondents that it had an important role in holding together discussion on the subject worldwide. The work pressure is presently getting worse. CU is investigating appointing a guest editor to bring out a couple of issues, and would welcome help and suggestions from suitably qualified members. It was suggested and generally agreed that his title should now be changed to Editor-in-Chief, reflecting his likely supervisory role in working with other editor(s).
- He does plan to issue 2 or 3 Newsletters per year. - He reported that he has just been awarded a contract by Oxford Univ. Press for a book on English spelling, and will report on what slant this will take when he has agreed its scope with the publishers. It had been thought that the OUP might be interested in publishing Cut Spelling but they have now declined. - He reported more detail on his recent radio and newspaper exposure, and his involvement in a proposed major TV debate on phone vs. non-phonic teaching methods.
6. Treasurers Report. Frank Garnett, the Society's auditor, read the report from Alun Bye, who very much regretted not being able to be present due to ill health. The main points were:
- AB's gratitude to Mr Garnett for standing in for him.
- Two typing errors have crept into the Accounts as circulated prior to the AGM. (1) on the Balance Sheet the 1989 figure for the Nationwide Anglia account should read £2501 not £2510. (2) on the Schedule of Investments, tax credits on the Ferguson holding should be £55 not £555. Totals are unaffected in both cases.
- A detailed commentary on the figures was then given. (Any member wanting a copy of the full report, please contact the Secretary.)
- AB expressed his willingness to serve again if asked.
In discussion following the report, AB's suggestion was agreed that the funds in the Nationwide Anglia account should be consolidated into the higher-interest Barclay's account. It was also generally agreed that the balance between interest- bearing cash accounts and capital growth investments seemed about right. The Accounts were formally adopted by unanimous agreement.
Chris Jolly proposed a vote of thanks to Alun Bye and Frank Garnett, seconded by Bob Brown and passed unanimously.
7. Appointment of Auditor. Frank Garnett said he was happy to continue and was reappointed, with the same fee of £100 being set.
8. Subscription: A motion to leave it at £10 for the calendar year 1992 was proposed by Chris Jolly, seconded by Chris Upward, and passed unanimously.
9. Re-election of President. Under our Constitution, Dr Donald Scragg came to the end of his three-year term at this meeting and had previously indicated his willingness to serve another term. His re-election was proposed by Chris Jolly, seconded by Govind Deodekhar and passed unanimously.
10. Election of Committee: It was noted that the President, Secretary and Treasurer were ex-officio committee members, and that up to eight others could be appointed. The following expressed themselves willing to serve and were elected by unanimous vote in each case, having been proposed by Bob Brown and seconded by Frank Jones: Mona Cross, Govind Deodekhar, Laurie Fennelly, Paul Fletcher, Ron Footer, Jean Hutchins, Chris Jolly and Chris Upward.
The meeting then closed and reconvened as a meeting of the newly-elected Committee.
A principal business of the Committee was discussion and arrangements for next issues of the Journal. Details were left in the hands of the Editor-in-Chief (See his Message, and Editorial in this issue).
Dates of Meetings for the coming year were set as: 13 July, 1991, 26 October 1991, 11 January 1992, 25 April 1992 (AGM), all to be at the YWCA Central Club as usual.
Chris Upward then presented for discussion his article "On Harmnizing Cut Spelng and New Spelling!' (elsewhere in this issue).
[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1992/1 pp23,24, later designated J12]
Memories of the SSS fifty years ago.
We are grateful to the author and to The Spectator for their permission to reprint the following reminiscences which, with minor amendments, formed the bulk of an article that appeared in The Spectator on 12 March 1988 (p.19).In 1937, as a young editor in the publishing house of Pitman, I was recruited by the then Mr I J Pitman (later Sir James) to be one of a committee of the recently revived Simplified Spelling Society, with the object of preparing a new edition of the proposals for spelling reform first put forward in pamphlet form in 1912, under the auspices of Sir George Hunter. My chief had inherited from his grandfather, Sir Isaac Pitman, inventor of the shorthand system that bears his name, a fanatical zeal for the subject, and had therefore offered to undertake publication of the proposed book.
The committee formed for this purpose was chaired by Professor Gilbert Murray, then President of the Society, the other members being Professor Arthur Lloyd James, the BBC adviser on spoken English, Professor Daniel Jones, Professor of Phonetics at London University, Mr Harold Orton, of King's College, Newcastle-on-Tyne, Mr Walter Ripman, the surviving author of the original pamphlet, Mr I J Pitman and myself.
Flattered though I was at finding myself in such distinguished company, and obliged to sit in on - and even participate in - their deliberations, I could not myself share their enthusiasm or feel any great confidence in the eventual outcome. That English spelling was indeed a hopeless jumble of inconsistencies bearing little relation to the spoken word, and baffling to those, indigenous or alien, who had to master it, none could dispute: that there was the slightest chance of any far-reaching reform seemed to me highly questionable.
Americanisation might eventually substitute program for programme, and sox for socks, but it was surely too much to expect that those who had themselves had to learn English the hard way could ever be persuaded to change the spelling of baths to baadhz, or always to aulwaez. Yet such curious transliterations had to be accepted in any comprehensively revised system of spelling restricted to the 26 letters of the existing alphabet universally enshrined in typewriters and (then) printing presses throughout the world.
In retrospect it seems strange that such a distinguished classical scholar as Gilbert Murray, whom one might have expected to oppose any reform of traditional spelling, should have lent his name and his remarkable intellect to the perpetration of such linguistic contortions. But as Professor Lloyd James put it: To us, brought up in the birthplace of our language, its history and traditions are amongst our most cherished treasures. The idiosyncrasies of its spelling are as dear to us as our ancient landmarks and national monuments. Its visual appearance is almost sacred. But, alas, sound is sound, and sight is sight. To expect the hundreds of millions of English speakers, present and to come, in all parts of the world, to be burdened indefinitely with our traditional English spelling is to expect too much.
One factor that lent impetus to the work of the committee was the news that a legacy of £18,000 - a considerable sum in those days - was waiting to be claimed by any society devoted to spelling reform. Unfortunately there was a rival potential claimant in the Society for Pure English, and so the Simplified Spelling Society had to get its skates on. On legal advice, it was necessary to call an annual general meeting in order to prove that the Society was properly constituted, and no such meeting had been held, it transpired, since 1908. Not surprisingly, those few who attended the meeting convened at Pitman House were distinctly long in the tooth.
I do not know to this day whether the Society beat its rivals to the legacy. However, the committee's work progressed, till in June 1938 the results of its deliberations finally appeared in book form. An extract from the final chapter ('A Specimen of Simplified Spelling') must suffice to show future generations what was in store for them if the hopes of the Simplified Spelling Society were ever realised:
To dhe lurner interested in dhe histori ov dhe langwaej dhe oeld speling wood be eezili aksesibl; far mor eezili dhan dhe speling ov Chaucer or eeven Shakespeare. He wood be aebl to traes derivaeshonz kwiet az eezili az nou; and he wood enjoi dhis graet advaantaej, dhat he kood not eskaep dhe soundz and deel widh leterz oenli - which iz at present soe seerius a daenjer in dhe paath ov dhe yung stuedent ov langwaej. He wood aask himself agaen and agaen whie dhe oeld speling (unliek dhe nue) deeviaeted soe freekwentli from dhe pronunsiaeshon.By way of a postscript to my story, a brief but true anecdote. In May, 1940, as an infantry platoon commander, I was sheltering in a very muddy Belgian slit trench from a rain of German mortar bombs when the last consignment of mail from England was delivered to us. There was only one letter for me, which I eagerly tore open. It was from Harold Orton, who wrote that as the committee of the Simplified Spelling Society was unable to meet in wartime, it fell to him to ascertain the opinion of its members as to whether the word bicycle should be spelt biesikl or bysikl. It was not the best of moments to apply myself to the resolution of such a difficult and important question.
A fue daez laeter, I woz on dhe beechiz at Dunkirk - and I kood hav dun widh a biesikl, or eeven a bysikl, in geting dhaer.
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