[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J24, 1998/2 pp3-10]
See Chicago Tribune articles.

Spelling the Chicago Tribune Way, 1934-1975, Part I.

John Burke Shipley.

Foto of Burke Shipley
Dr Shipley is Professor of English (Emeritus) at University of Illinois, Chicago.

Part II of this article will appear in JSSS J25 1999/1 and Part III will appear in JSSS J26 1999/2.


This article has three parts:
Pt. I. The spelling reforms.
1. From 1934 to 1939; 2. From 1940 until autumn 1955, soon after the death of the owner-publisher, Col. Robert R. McCormick; 3. from late 1955 into 1975.

Pt. II. Responses
1. The Tribune staff; 2. Readers; and 3. Books, periodicals, domestic and foreign newspapers.

Pt. III. Conclusions.
1. Dictionary publishers as possible allies; 2. Causes of abandonment of the reforms; 3. Possible influence.


I thank the following for their help in my research: Mr. Kenneth H. Ives, Chicago, Illinois, and Mr. Eric Zorn, Staff Writer, Chicago Tribune and especially Mr. Cornell Kimball, Sherman Oaks, California; and Mr. Robert Wiedrich, Archivist, Tribune Archives, McCormick Research Center, Cantigny, Wheaton, Illinois. Copies of material Mr. Wiedrich has given to me will be identified as at the McCormick Research Center. I also thank the reference and other librarians at the University of Illinois at Chicago library and the staffs of the Chicago Historical Society library and the Newberry Library, Chicago. Finally, a special word of thanks goes to Deborah S. Graham for her meticulous conversion of the original typescript to electronic form.

Part I.

1. The spelling reforms: from 1934 to 1939.

1.1. McCormick's 1934 launch.

The New York Times, Sunday, January 28, 1934, ran the following item, date-lined Chicago, Jan. 27:
Colonel Robert R. McCormick, publisher of The Chicago Tribune, has changed the spelling of his name to M'Cormik. The dropping of the first and third "c" coincided with the publication in the Sunday Tribune of a list of twenty-four words 'spelled in a manner harmonizing with sane trends toward simpler spelling of the English language.'

The revised spelling of the publisher's name will appear on the editorial page of tomorrow's Tribune over the text of an address entitled: 'The Prospect for America' given recently at Northwestern University [in Evanston, Illinois]. [1]
This minor and, as some might choose to see it, ironic 'scoop' was confirmed that Sunday when the name Col. Robert R. M'Cormik appeared as author. [2] Other publications duly noted the change: News-Week got it right in its issue of February 3rd, while The Literary Digest got it wrong:
"... McCormick is credited by ironic editors with making the supreme sacrifice in the cause of simplified spelling, in changing the spelling of his own name to McCormik [sic]" [3]
Both weeklies noted, of course, that the Tribune had adopted 24 simpler spellings that day. Within a few weeks, the spelling of the publisher's name went to M'Cormick and returned to conventional form some months later; or, as Advertising Age, also published in Chicago, put it somewhat prematurely, "Col. Robert R. McCormick, editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune, will continue to spell his name that way, reports to the contrary notwithstanding." [4]

Had McCormick read the New York Times news item about new-spelling his name he might well have smiled: they take me seriously; let them float on their sense of linguistic superiority - they cannot recognize a joke. For to an interviewer from Editor & Publisher, on Monday, January 29, McCormick, in effect, confirmed what Advertising Age was later to state:
As to the report that he has changed the spelling of his own name to Mcormik, the Tribune publisher said that it was more or less a joke. An article did appear under the name of Col. M'Cormik [as we have seen], after members of his editorial staff had suggested that if he was to be consistent, he should eliminate the unnecessary c's in his own name. This he did, suggesting also that Clifford Raymond, [chief] editorial writer, eliminate the y from his last name and that John T. McCutcheon, [editorial] cartoonist, do away with the c, t, and e in his name. Col. McCormick stated, however, that it was difficult to change the signature of one's name and therefore impractical. [5]

1.2. A 19th century tradition.

McCormick had doubtless approved the spelling-change of his name to emphasize the Tribune's reinvigorated and now much more public effort at spelling reform. Why he chose January 1934 to commence this effort when he had already begun mighty battle with President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal is not clear. What is, is that McCormick saw his spelling reforms as part of a long-standing tradition, orthographic change being, one later editorial was to state, as old as the English language itself. The same theme was taken up again and again over the first 15 years of the experiment. [6]

This sense of purpose and of tradition, in both the short and long term, motivated McCormick and James O'Donnell Bennett, the most scholarly reporter then on the Tribune, to whom McCormick initially entrusted the enterprise. In an interview, McCormick said,
"I have instructed Mr. Bennett to make suggestions in this matter [of simplified spelling] and Mr. Edward S. Beck, managing editor, to pass upon them. We feel that much can be accomplished in regard to saner spelling for many words." [7]
Tribune interest in spelling reform, as both McCormick and Bennett knew, had actually begun some 50 to 60 years earlier. Joseph Medill, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Tribune from October/November 1874 until his death in March 1899 - and, most to the point, McCormick's grandfather - had initiated its experiment with simpler spelling. Various sources furnish details of Medill's interest in and experiments with spelling reform. [8] It is appropriate here, therefore, to examine briefly certain less well-known aspects of Medill's reform efforts, especially those relevant to his grandson's.

Medill, like McCormick later on, received both praise and criticism, some of it mocking, for his spelling reforms. As early as 1867, Medill had declared himself for simpler spelling in a monograph, An Easy Method of Spelling the English Language, that Tribune editorial writers in McCormick's day were to quote from. "Dhi Shicogo Tribyun," according to Professor Francis A. March, in his presidential address to the Spelling Reform Association at its annual meeting, July 15, 1880,
wez dhi furst tu mec dhi plunj. On dhi secund de ev September in dhi yir ev aur Lord wun thauzand et hundred and seventi-nain, dhis gret progresiv reprezentativ peper ev dhi Northwest apird in amended speling thruaut. [9]
Words such as definit and indefinit, la'd 'laid', favorit, infinit, assasinated, opposit, and hight as in ..."the hight of folly" began to appear in the Tribune From September 1879 on. Indeed, if a broadside, headed "Corrected Spellings" to be used in the Tribune, dates from that time, then a high degree of correlation exists between these words and those that McCormick/Bennett came to simplify. [10]

Some three years later, the Tribune reprinted a letter on the subject from the New York Evening Post headlined "THE SPELLING REFORM. / Opinions of American Collegians in its Favor. / Discard Silent and Useless Letters in Words." [11] McCormick's Tribune would similarly cite prominent individuals supporting reformed spelling, but could never quite match that letter-writer's list.

In the larger world during the late 1800s reformed spelling received significant support. In Chicago itself, Medill's Tribune was engaged in lively, often rancorous conflict with rival newspapers in which his spelling reforms received their share of hits. After one such newspaper, the Inter Ocean, had been taken over by a William Penn Nixon in 1875, yet another journal, the Chicago Times satirized Medill's simplified spelling: "William Penn Nix / Is at his old trix." [12]

But Medill's Tribune did not fly - John Tebbel to the contrary - "in the face of outraged public opinion for years ..." or "found few converts ..." to simplified spelling, as another recent book asserted. [13] Quite otherwise. Medill's reform efforts came when distinguished Americans and Englishmen, in academic circles and beyond, enthusiastically supported simpler spelling. Theirs was, after all, the age of progress when, with the aid of science and technology, manifold improvements in the human condition seemed just a light bulb away. "To the would-be visionaries," Eric Zorn wrote, "the great lesson of the Industrial Revolution was that all things seemed perfectible through standardization, mathematical order and logic. Our often impenetrable spelling conventions seemed a perfect target." [14]

Thus the Spelling Reform Association was created in August 1876 in Philadelphia. Medill joined it early and became a member of its Council. Organizations both old and new, whose rolls were studded with the names of illustrious persons - the Philological Society of England, founded in 1842; the American Philological Association, in 1869; and the British Spelling Reform Association, in 1879 - were at one with the S.R.A. in promoting systems of simpler spelling. Efforts to put it into practice were certainly widespread in the United States, as the 19th century drew to a close. They continued into the present century.

1.3. Restarting from a low point.

By 1934, when McCormick began his reforms, the interest energizing those efforts, and thus the efforts themselves, had largely dissipated. World War I had finished off the idea of progress, and now the Great Depression seemed to bury it. Apple and pencil sellers on street corners gave little thought to the spelling of their wares. In the academy, "...intricate and esoteric theories about language and culture..." had also begun to move men's minds away from simpler spelling. [15] The Simplified Spelling Board, founded in New York in 1906, the most important American organization then supporting such reforms, "...[had been] reduced," H.L. Mencken wrote in 1936, "to a corporal's guard of despairing gaffers, its luxurious quarters have shrunk to desk room at the Lake Placid [New York] Club...." [16] When McCormick publicly took up the cause, no organized support in America existed to encourage him. Only one or two dictionary publishers were there, as we shall see, as potential allies.

Thus it was to a generally indifferent public that the Tribune announced on January 28, 1934, its adding 24 "new selections ...," in Bennett's words, to those it had "long...spelled in a manner harmonizing with sane trends toward simpler spelling of the English language." [17] He may have had in mind Medill's efforts a half century earlier. He may also have had in mind the Tribune's more recent, unheralded spelling innovations, the likes of ameba, calk and clew, and kidnaped. [18] Whatever precedents Bennett invoked, he was inaugurating a very public effort to reform English spelling when response - local and national and from the wider English-speaking community - was an unknown quantity.

This effort lasted 21 years, just to bring it to McCormick's death, April 1, 1955. Relevant news articles and editorials, along with resultant letters to the editor (discussed later), fall chronologically into three groups: the 1930s, primarily Bennett and his successor, the Rev. John Astley-Cock; the mid and later 1940s, Astley-Cock and then the Rev. John Evans; and the mid-1950s, at and shortly after McCormick's death, the writers undesignated.

1.4. Here a little, there a little.

From the outset Bennett and his successors furnished a mixed bag of reasons for the proposed changes. The guiding principle behind word selection, at least for the first several years, was, as Bennett said, "a case of 'here a little and there a little'...." [19] Of the 24 words in that first list of January 28, 22 were shortened simply by eliding a letter or two (e.g. advertisment, catalog, extoled, skilful (American spelling skillful, tranquility). Bennett was aware, of course, of the two orthographic group changes - analog/analogue, patroled/patrolled - in this list, but chose to obscure them. Thus instead of alphabetizing the relevant words within each group and arranging the others separately, he alphabetized them from first to last, then took up each word in turn to justify the given change.

In what came to characterize his method over four such lists by mid March, Bennett employed analogy and logic, etymology, phonetics, and philology, and cited as authorities the American Philological Association, the Philological Society of England, and the (American) Simplified Spelling Board, as well as certain dictionaries, primarily Webster's New International Dictionary, and Funk & Wagnalls' Standard Dictionary. He knew his material and, for the most part, reasoned well. Yet the overall effect seemed to be, to use his own words, "here a little and there a little."

The two exceptions in that first list (drouth for drought, fantom for phantom - forms changed by other than simple elision), which Bennett reserved to discuss last, deserve brief notice. The latter change, fantom, he justified by precedent (Chaucer, Evelyn, and Addison so spelled it), authority (Funk & Wagnalls preferred it), and analogy (it relates to fantasy). Drouth, however, Bennett adopted - though the Tribune had apparently been using this spelling since 1921 - because, he said, most American farmers thus pronounced it. It soon put him on the defensive, a posture the Tribune was forced, uncharacteristically, to adopt regarding spelling choices over the years. [20] On February 11, [21] Bennett added 18 more words, again presented in alphabetical order and thus again giving the impression of an apparently random selection. Yet buried in this list were also certain recognizable orthographical patterns, such as dropping a second L (eg, crystalize, instalment) and reducing the -EY ending (jocky, pully). But these, plus one or two other possible groupings, involved relatively few words. He then proceeded deliberately through each change, even those seemingly arbitrary - agast for aghast, aile for aisle, [22] burocracy for bureaucracy, crum for crumb. Two weeks later, [23] another 18 words received similar treatment. Again, certain patterns showed themselves: distaf, sherif, and staf; hammoc, hassoc, and hemloc. And again Bennett used the word-by-word approach, recognizant as he was of these patterns. It is here that he changed rhyme to rime, a change that "is everlastingly right ..." and for which he gave sound reason. The change lasted into 1939, to be reinstated in 1949, for another short life.

The final list in this sequence, with 20 words, was issued mid-March, bringing the total to 80. [24] For the most part, the words fell into orthographic groups already tacitly established, as eclog, hummoc, lacky, quil, tarif, tonsilitis. Here Bennett flung down his boldest spellings yet - derth for dearth, glamor for glamour, iland for island, lether for leather, among them. Glamor, Bennett wrote, "has to stand on its own merits". But "both etymology and phonetics... recommend ..." the change to lether. Iland, he said, corrects the erroneous analogy with Old French isle and reverts to its Anglo-Saxon origins. Reaction quickly set in. Many readers and even the Tribune itself stood "agast" at iland. 25

Adopting iland led the Tribune, a few months later, to a rare linkage between its spelling reforms and one of McCormick's larger antipathies, Roosevelt's New Deal. The editorial, headed "Cast on a Dismal Iland", runs thus:
Sometimes THE TRIBUNE views certain aspects of its new deal in spelling with doubt if not dismay, just as that other distinguished New Dealer, Gen. [Hugh S.] Johnson, the big Blue Eagle, looks at his centipede, the NRA [the National Recovery Administration, which Johnson headed], and wonders if it ever will be possible to get all its legs going in one direction at once and where it would get if it tried to go one place at a time.

Nothing in THE TRIBUNE's new spelling deal looks more like something the cat might have brought in than 'iland.' You may have your own pet aversion in the revised list. 'Iland' is THE TRIBUNE's. Why, then, you say, keep on doing it? That's the worst of a new deal. You start out with catalog and go on to staf and then you are at iland, lost on an uninhabited iland.

Words often contain pictures. They mean pictures. They are not merely so many letters logically arranged and phonetically true, but they are pictures of things. 'Island' is the picture of a body of land surrounded by water. It should have some palm trees on it. It may have Robinson Crusoe on it. He'd never get off an iland. There is no such picture in iland. Iland is an animal, a strange one, but somehow related to an eland. The picture in iland is that of a head with horns and distended nostrils arising from the water. It is swimming desperately and may make land, but it is being chased by simplified spellers. They want its antlers, a distressing sight.

THE TRIBUNE's only consolation is that its own new dealing with the alphabet will be easier to bear in the long run than the alphabetical new dealing in Washington. [26]

1.5. Chopping and changing.

Some time between then and March 26, 1939, but probably sooner than later, the Tribune dropped iland, "because it always looked [to us] like something bounding across the veldt." [27] Thus could the Tribune, and therefore McCormick who okayed everything on its editorial page, treat humorously a signal stylistic feature of the newspaper. Sarcasm, rather than humor, marked the editorial, "How to End War?", establishing seemingly the only other linkage in McCormick's Tribune between spelling reform and one of his antipathies, in this instance, pacifism.

Alerted apparently by a review in the Manchester Guardian, the Tribune editorialists learned of a book, The Influence of English, published earlier in 1934 with the intent "nothing less ambitious and desirable than the abolition of war". If his system of "automatic spelling" of English was to be adopted world-wide, the author, Mont Follick, [28] stated, universal understanding and thus universal peace would result. The editorial concluded, "...[W]e hopefully pass his theory on to the pacifists of our own country who have less promising panaceas in their armory." [29] Reader response, if any, stayed in the Tribune files.

Except for two editorials, both headed 'Spelling', during the years up to 1939, McCormick and his spelling editor let matters stand. "Some day," the second editorial said, "when the process of digestion has gone a little farther, more words may be added to the list", though the writer struck a largely defensive note. [30] Yet that total of 80 words achieved in March 1934 represented the high point. Occasional additions and more substantial subtractions would ultimately bring this number down by half, these to remain stabilized until the end. A change of spelling editor now seems to have occurred, from Bennett to the Rev. John Astley-Cock, who, if he is to be believed, "began ... to organize and classify the paper's spelling reform policy ..." in 1935. [31] If such was Astley-Cock's aim, subsequent orthographic changes in the Tribune show minimal evidence of it for the better part of a decade.

In 1939, two new phases of the reforms occurred. On one day that March, an early editorial, "Lacky, Pass the Hemloc", gave the enterprise its quietus, along with an adjacent list of the 80 words, "Headed for the Herse". A later editorial, "Not Yet the Hemloc," resurrected the cause. That McCormick was not somehow responsible for both editorials staggers belief. Yet "by all accounts" - to quote John H. Vivian - "Colonel McCormick had not authorized the policy change ... and ordered the [first] editorial yanked." [32] Appended to the later editorial was the list of now 79 words, minus iland, that the Tribune "has employed during the last five years." [33]

Changes, however, were in process. Four days later, a memo from the then managing editor conveyed McCormick's directive to "go back to Webster ..., effective ... Monday, April 10th" for 38 of these words - including drouth and iland, which seems to have continued bounding across the veldt, or was it rising from the water? [34] Yet another memo issued forth two days later dropping some more, but restoring others, among them drouth. (We seem to be entering the leaner years here.) Controversy over the spelling reforms had apparently risen to its highest pitch thus far in-house. "Our own writers and compositors", an editorial on April 9 admitted, "have not become fully accustomed to these forms". It all settled down in this editorial on 'Simplified Spelling', officially cutting the number of reformed spellings almost by half. [35]

A September 24 editorial constituted the second stage of changes that year, in introducing tho, thru, thoro and related spellings. Readers had responded favorably to a query about these contractions the previous month. [36] The editorial did not end there, but with yet another list, this of 40 words. It returned a few spellings standardized the preceding spring but was basically a shorter list. Any of that order and classifying Astley-Cock supposedly imposed upon the spelling is hard to find.

2. The spelling reforms: from 1940 to 1955.

2.1 Post-war phreight reights.

For six years the Tribune stood pat with its 40-some words. [37] Then, six years to the day, September 24, 1945, it brought forth frate and frater (ie, freight and freighter) upon an unsuspecting world. Oh brother, was the in-house remonstrance ever so swift, especially against frater. "When," according to a possibly apocryphal account in Time magazine, "his own orthographer [probably Astley-Cock] and key men on the Tribune staff objected to frater, McCormick splashed on their memo one red-ink sentence: 'We will keep frater because the Tribune likes it.'..." [38] The editorial itself, announcing these spellings and at one point employing the phrase "frate reights ...," to épater the Old Subscribers, hinted at the episode. The two spellings gave rise, the following year, to the best-known of Tribune editorials on reformed spelling - "To Phyllis Who Might Spell It Phreight", this in answer to a query from a California school girl, why frate? [39] Almost as an after-thought, the editorialist noted that the Tribune had "recently...adopted telegraf, geografy, etc., ..." as well - a clear-cut instance of an orthographic (Tribunese: orthografic) principle at work. [40] The Tribune, it explained to Phyllis, sought "to clean up the mess [that is English spelling], a little at a time", but would return to the old forms if the changes unduly annoyed its readers. They were asked, in turn, to submit words for spelling change.

This deference to reader wishes, to Vox Pop, both in considering words for simpler spelling and in returning them to conventional form, may seem good democratic procedure - one must be careful to use a lower-case D here when the Colonel is involved - but at the same time it bespeaks the lack of an overall theoretical approach to simpler spelling on McCormick's and his spelling editor's part. The Tribune also instructed its readers to read the chapter on spelling in a book then much in the news, H.L. Mencken's The American Language. So what impact did frate have? It came down to one local carrier informing the Tribune that he would use the spelling in his business-related paper and advertising. [41]

Nothing apparently happened on the Tribune spelling reform front for the next two to three years. An interlude occurred, though, in spring 1948, when a book-review section columnist reanimated reader interest in Tribune spelling by paraphrasing and quoting Mencken's account of it in The American Language, Supplement II. [42] Mencken might seem an odd choice, given his evident bias against any and all efforts at reforming English spelling. The Tribune itself in that editorial to Phyllis had directed readers away from Supplement II. But in face of its popularity, the columnist, one supposes, sought to make the best out of a notice, even though critical.

Astley-Cock finally delivered on his claim to organize the Tribune's spelling reform effort, in July 1949. In a news article on the 3rd [43] he established three orthographic groups, leading to such forms as sofism, philosofer, and - again - sherif and rifraf. He invoked consistency within specific groups of certain simplified spellings as his principle, the exception being rhyme returned to rime. In this word and several others, Astley-Cock resurrected modified spellings formerly in use. It was all made clear to Tribune staffers the following month when the in-house publication, The Trib, said, "Here's Complete List of Simplified Spellings" and presented a list of 47 basic words. [44] The same Sunday as Astley-Cock's news article, the Tribune carried an editorial, [45] 'Spelling Lesson', reinforcing the new effort. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century printers and Samuel Johnson's dictionary of 1755, it charged (as had Bernard Shaw and many another), brought on the sorry state of English orthography. "Once that is understood," the editorial concluded - once, that is, it is known "upon what shaky foundations that supposed authority rests" - "we believe that there will be less opposition to the attempt to rationalize inconsistencies between English spelling and pronunciation."

Astley-Cock's method whereby "to rationalize inconsistencies" jump-started that next year. Formerly, under Bennett, the words spelled more simply had come in clusters, their number moving up or down, in a controlled if not always rational way. Now various "...errant simplifications [began] to creep into Tribune usage without sufficient monitoring. By 1950, aging, cantaloup, cigaret, enrolment, eying, glycerin, hiccup, pean, numskull and sodder (for solder) were in use, as well as a host of -UE simplifications that had not appeard on previous lists although they stemmed analogously from announced changes. ....[T]he system had become open-ended as Astley-Cock noted in 1950 when he listed 63 reform spellings but added that the simplifications should be carried into countless adverbial, participial, adjectival, cognate and derivative affiliates." [46] Even the 1950 style book listed 58 words under "Tribune Spelling". [47] Either way, 63 or 58, this was the largest number of simpler spellings since March 1934.

2.2. Belated phonic rationale.

None of this proliferation of simpler spellings across the pages of the Tribune in 1950 and later seemed to have surfaced in explanatory news articles or editorials. McCormick and his spelling editor contented themselves with letting matters rest - on such as frate, frater, and sodder. [48] But the foundations upon which rested these matters of reformed spelling began crumbling. What helped hasten the process was a publishing event in early March 1955, the appearance of Rudolf Flesch's Why Johnny Can't Read, to the plaudits of the public and the scorn of (most) pedagogical experts. The Tribune heeded the voice of the people. [49] Shortly after Flesch's book made its splashy appearance, the Tribune editors obviously decided to exploit the issue of phonetic (or phonic) spelling. Whether McCormick assented or not is difficult to determine at this remove, as he lay on what would prove to be his death-bed. Yet the ensuing campaign, placed in the hands of Marcia Winn, a seasoned reporter who had long imparted advice on raising children, surely had received approval at the highest levels. The campaign itself, beginning in April 1955, some three weeks after McCormick's death, [50] ended that July, Winn having written a total of 20 articles. [51]

This extensive campaign, more emphatic and much more thoroughly presented than the spelling reform experiment itself, warrants notice here because the Tribune considered it an extension of that experiment - perhaps, finally, a replacement for it. For the huge success of this campaign coincided with the first major retrenchment in modified spellings following McCormick's death. An editorial that summer, "Helping Johnny to Spell", said it thus: "Ever since Miss Winn's articles ... drew attention to the deficiencies of many children in reading and spelling we have sought to do something about it. The arousing of interest in phonics was one contribution we were able to make. Another is the return to the conventional spellings" - all of ten words, including frate and frater and the PH words (eg, sofism). [52] That the Tribune editors - the "we" of the editorial - and others in the world beyond their pages did not understand how simplified spelling comes to the aid of phonics rings deeply ironic. The Tribune's coming to the aid of all elementary school teachers in what it liked to call Chicago-land - that five-state area where the paper was delivered daily - is but the excuse for abandoning the experiment. Abandonment, however, took another 20 years.

3. The spelling reforms: From 1955 to 1975.

The Tribune's simplified spelling experiment maintained a diminished presence over these 20 years until its abrupt end. Its trajectory across them is quickly sketched. [53] In 1958 the Tribune Style Book listed 44 words to be spelled its way, rime and riming among them. [54] Four years later, a new version of the style book appeared with a similar list - minus rime and riming, but still with drouth - 27 of them surviving from "the original 80 simplified spellings. ..." [55] Howevermuch diminished their number, the Tribune way with words in the 1958 and 1962 style books presented itself alphabetically and yet with the same groupings or categories it in fact had always had.

Retrenchment began anew in 1970, with another style book. Of the 27 survivals from 1934 in 1962, 19 made it into the 1970 Tribune Chicago Today Style Book. The winds of change carried away "words like frate [again!], tarif, sodder, etc.", shocking to readers, who "wondered if Tribune editors really knew how to spell". Tradition preserved the tho-thru group, however, as well as "analog [and its group?], and that old favorite, ameba." The 1970 style book contained a feature unique among those I know of, directly and indirectly, a feature unintentionally revealing the preparer's attitude toward simpler spelling. Here under three words - altho, pedagog and thru - he briefly discussed the history of simplified spelling as related to them and referred to the National Education Association list of 1898, to President Theodore Roosevelt's 300 words of 1906, and to the Tribune's own efforts begun "in 1935". Clearly, the author has used Mencken's The American Language as his source and has repeated the erroneous year found in all four of its editions and in the one-volume abridgment. The style book repetition of the error suggests "the Style Book author's lack of interest in ... [his own newspaper's] spelling reform campaign. ..." [56]

When an Australian, Maxwell McCrohon, became managing editor of the Tribune in January 1972, [57] further cut-backs of simpler spellings may have seemed, and certainly became, inevitable. Under his direction, someone "...[began] the task of writing a new style book", it was reported late in 1973, "that will eliminate such words as 'tho,' 'thoro,' 'thru,' and 'frate trains' [a burdensome word, this] from the Trib lexicon. 'I'm trying to get back to proper English,' [McCrohon said].... 'I told the staff I want the O.E.D. ..., but I'm willing to settle for Webster.'" [58] As comedy precedes tragedy in Shakespeare, so before the coup-de-grace was delivered in autumn 1975, the Tribune editorialists had their spring carnival with the expression "troughing out" that, apparently, had come to substitute for "bottoming out" among economists. "Troughing out," the editorial concluded, has "that ideal quality of government English. It sounds significant but doesn't mean much. In poker, people who talk like this are known as bloughers." [59] Three months later, thru was through, and so was tho. McCrohon had completed his handiwork. Yet he reportedly "best characterized the purpose of Trib [sic] orthography as 'a serious attempt to revise the English language.'" [60] The editorial explained "the Tribune's past experiments with simplified spelling and the changes that are made in today's issue. ..." [61] Some words in common use - archeology, cigaret, and those like dialog - they intended to keep. But tho, thru and the like had "not made the grade in spelling class." [62]

The schoolteachers had prevailed over what had been "perhaps the most enduring of ... [McCormick's] sometimes eccentric campaigns. ..." [63] Ever since 1955, when the Tribune editorialists used the Marcia Winn articles to sacrifice simplified spelling in the name of phonics, in ironic unawareness that that spelling assists English sounds, the newspaper had maintained silence. It continued its attenuated experiment without any notice whatever - this in the face of an increasingly puzzled readership that, as we shall see, came to conclude those editors could not spell. Thus in 1975, with the experiment finally given over, these readers could say that the Tribune writers now had been properly schooled.

Notes & references.

[1] Pt.1, p.17, c. 5.

[2] Chicago Sunday Tribune, Jan.28, 1934, Pt.1, p.16, c.3. Future references to the Sunday Tribune will be given as CST; those to the Daily Tribune, as CDT; and those to the more recent Tribune, as CT.

[3] News-Week, Feb.3, 1934, III:5, p.34, c.2; The Literary Digest, Feb. 10, 1934, p.38. The New York Times did not, in fact, have an exclusive: The Washington Post, Sunday, Jan.28,1934, p.1, c.4, ran a brief AP news item, also dated January 27, to much the same effect, with the name wrong in the headline "McCormik", but right in the text, "M'Cormik"; though the Times had more accurate information, the AP dispatch ended more interestingly: "The managing editor of the Tribune, asked if the publisher of the paper had decided to change the spelling of his name, made the terse comment, 'Look on the editorial page.'"

[4] See CST, Feb.11, 1934, Pt.1, p.16, c.3, and Feb.18, 1934, Pt.1, p.14, c.3; "Getting Personal", Advertising Age, Feb.10, 1934, p.18, c.4. According to Eric Zorn, "McCormick's wife [Amy, his first wife] reportedly put the kibosh on the Colonel's attempt to change the spelling of the family name to 'Micormak.'" Zorn, 'Errant Spelling / Moves for simplification turn Inglish into another langwaj', CT, Sun., June 8, 1997, Sect.3A, p.14, c.3. This information appeared in a letter, dated Oct.9, 1973, from Thomas Furlong, then executive Director, the Robert McCormick Charitable Trust, to James Vicini; Furlong, relying on his memory, added that office gossip ascribed the veto to her and that "it is my opinion he only used it in the first place to stir up his family and friends". See Vicini, 'Under the Spell of the Chicago Tribune', Senior Thesis, MacMurray College, Jacksonville, Illinois, Dec.1973, p.31. The original is in the McCormick Research Center. When published as a pamphlet later that year, The Prospect for America bore the name McCormick.

[5] "24 WORDS ARE PRUNED // BY CHICAGO TRIBUNE // ...McCormick // Denies Rumors He Will Simplify His Name", Editor & Publisher, LXVI:38, Sat., Feb.3, 1934, p.22, c.1.

[6] Bennett art., CST, Mar.18, 1934, Pt.1, p.9, c.1: "Some readers assert that this newspaper is 'launching a reformed spelling campaign'. It is not. It is trying to arouse and renew interest in the trend toward simpler spelling which has been in leisurely motion - far too leisurely, we think - for centuries"; edit., "Not Yet the Hemloc", CST, Mar.26, 1939, Pt.1, p.16, c.1: "We showed, as, indeed, Mr. Bennett had done, that spelling has undergone vast changes over the centuries and that our innovations were therefore not without their sound precedent"; edit., "To Phyllis Who Might Have Spelled It Phreight", CST, Wed., Aug.7, 1946, Pt.1, p.16, c.2: "... [E]ver since there has been an English language, spelling has been changing and most of the changes have been simplifications. All we are trying to do is carry along the work"; and John Astley-Cock art., CST, July 3, 1949, Pt.1, p.3, c.1: "Innovations adopted by THE TRIBUNE have been regarded as steps in the evolution of the written language. ..."

[7] "24 WORDS ARE PRUNED // BY CHICAGO TRIBUNE // Simplified Forms Adopted As Regular // Style By Newspaper ...", Editor & Publisher, LXVI:38, Sat., Feb.3, 1934, p.22, c.1; the news story, dated Chicago, Jan.29, was "Special to EDITOR & PUBLISHER". McCormick also "stated his newspaper would continue its efforts in this direction". Slightly more than the first half of the story briefly summarized the news article by Bennett appearing on Jan.28, listed the 24 words, and quoted three paragraphs from it. I should add here that this is the only source I know of that quoted and summarized McCormick's own words on simpler spelling. Bennett (c. 1870-1940) gave his library of 7,000 volumes to the Tribune; the books are now in the Newberry Library, Chicago.

[8] See Philip Kinsley, The Chicago Tribune: Its First Hundred Years (Chicago: The Tribune Co.), II (1945), 310, 336, and 339, and III (1946), xii, 51, and 121; Lloyd Wendt, Chicago Tribune: The Rise of a Great American Newspaper (Chicago et al: Rand McNally & Co. 1979), pp.213, 268-9; and article by Alex Small, CDT, Sat., June 18, 1955, pp.1 and 8.

[9] Bulletin of the Spelling Reform Association, No.16, 1880, pp.2-3; see also pp.4-5. See also Bulletin of the Spelling Reform Association, No.14, Sept.1879, p.13; No. 22, Sept.1886, pp.54 and 62-3; and (Francis Andrew March), The Spelling Reform. Circulars of Information of the Bureau of Education. No.7,-1880. Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1881, pp.1 ff., esp., pp.21 and 24; and Circular of Information No.8, 1893, rev., enlrg. ed., Washington, D.C., 1893, p. 52.

[10] CT, Wed., Sept.3, 1879, p.4, c.6, for "hight of folly..." The broadside, in the library of the Chicago Historical Society, lists 23 words, plus several others simply set down as categories (eg, all words ending in "log" and "gog"). The broadside, with discussion of its date, is printed in Delos Avery, "Bookman's Holiday", CST, May 2, 1948, Pt. 4, p. 2, though omitting some words on the original list and substituting others for them from the categories (eg, carelesness, cigaret, demagog).

[11] Letter from a Charles P.G. Scott, CT, Sat., May 19, 1883, p.12, c.3, with the names of 19 distinguished Americans and nine Englishmen appended.

[12] John J. McPhaul, Deadlines and Monkeyshines: The Fabled World of Chicago Journalism (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall Inc. [1962]), p.74n.

[13] See Tebbel, An American Dynasty: The Story of the McCormicks, Medills and Pattersons, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc. 1947, p. 6; and Gwen Morgan and Arthur Vesey, Poor Little Rich Boy (and how he made good), Carpentersville, IL: Crossroads Communications 1985, p.28.

[14] Zorn, op.cit. (see fn.4 above), p.14, c.2.

[15] Zorn, op.cit. (see fn.4 above).

[16] "The Dizzy Rise (and Ensuing Bust) of Simplified Spelling", The New Yorker, Mar.7, 1936, p.37, c.1. The American Language, 4th ed., was first published 1936. For a brief survey of the efforts at simplified spelling before the Tribune commenced its experiment, see Frederick S. Wingfield 'Among the Spelling Reformers', American Speech, 7:1 (October 1931), 54-7. A later survey is in Kenneth H. Ives, Written Dialects n Spelling Reforms: history n alternatives, Chicago: Progresiv Publishr, 1979. The Tribune experiment is summarized on pp50-51.

[17] CST, Pt.1, p.1, c.1.

[18] According to Vicini (1973), pp.8-9, the earliest extant Tribune style books are from 1921 and 1923, with the following from 1921: controller (for comptroller), calk, drouth, tonsilitis; and from 1923: canceled, worshiped, kidnaped. The 1932 style book added councilor, bazar. John H. Vivian, 'Through With Thru at the Chicago Tribune: The McCormick Spelling Experiment', Journalism History (Autumn 1979), VI:3, 84, also gave this information. Vicini (1973), p.9, noted that the 1932 expanded list produced the following lead: "Because of a gasoline drouth, the controler [sic] of the buses canceled the weekend routes to the cotilion and the bazar." Vicini (1973), p.17, noted that "Tribune readers had already objected to bazar, ... instituted in 1932 ..." before its appearance on the Feb.25, 1934, list. For ameba, also introduced in 1921, see Dorothy Collin, 'Up the soviets, says Tribune burocrat', Chicago Journalism Review, Sept.1970, p. 7, c. 1. I thank Kenneth H. Ives for bringing this article to my attention. As for clew I haven't a clue as to when it was first used.

[19] CST, Jan.28, 1934, Pt.1, p.1, c.1.

[20] See editorial, 'Simpler Spelling', CDT, Fri., Feb.2, 1934, p.14, c.2; and news art., CST, Mar.4, 1934, Pt.1, p.1, cs.3-4.

[21] News art., CST, Pt.1, pp.1, c.1; 10, cs.4-7.

[22] See Virginia Gardner, news art., CST, Mar.11, 1934, Pt.1, aile was the change that most angered readers. Thus far, I have only a photocopy of this item; it appeared in an edition of that day's paper unavailable to me. The original is in the McCormick Research Center.

[23] News art., CST, Feb.25, 1934, Pt.1, pp.1, c.3;12, cs.1-4.

[24] News art., CST, Mar.18, 1934, Pt.1, p.9, cs.1-2.

[25] "Thomas Furlong, presently [sic] executive director of the Robert McCormick Charitable Trust, recalls that iland was so startling to everybody that it created a minor sensation in the newsroom." Letter, Oct.9, 1973, from Furlong to Vicini. Vicini (1973), pp.26-27.

[26] CST, May 20, 1934, Pt.1, p.16, c.2. Next month, the Tribune returned to the theme, without political overtones, in an editorial entitled 'Gnus and Islands', which stated, "A gnu is a promontory, a body of land in the water up to its neck. It is, if an isle is a body of land completely surrounded by water." CDT, Thurs., June 21, 1934, p.14, c.2.

[27] Editorial, "Not Yet the Hemloc," CST, Pt.1, p.16, c.1.

[28] CDT, Thurs., July 12, 1934, p.12, c.2. See Follick The Influence of English, London: Williams & Norgate Ltd (1934), pp.131 and 169, for the source of quotations in the editorial; the earlier quotation (not so stated in the editorial) is a line from Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, ch. xii.
Follick, M.P. (Lab.) for Loughborough 1945-55, had introduced a Spelling Reform Bill into the House in 1945 and was to do so again in February 1953. On Follick, see George Bernard Shaw on Language, Abraham Tauber, ed., New York: Philosophical Library (1963) pp98 and 137-39; and Follick, The Case for Spelling Reform, London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons Ltd (1965), pp.249-324, on his campaigns in the Commons for spelling reform, and especially pp.256-79, for his bill that had its second reading on Friday, Mar.11, 1949.

[29] The CDT, Fri., Mar.11, 1949, ran the following Associated Press dispatch from London:
The House of Commons rejected a bill [87 noes to 84 ayes] which would have Englishmen spel Inglish laik this.
Education Minister George Tomlinson asked the house to kill the Mint [sic] Follick's spelling reform bill which, among other things, would have made its sponsor's name come out 'Folik'.
"Very few people", said Tomlinson, "have the opportunity to ride a hobby horse for 40 years and then bring it to the House of Commons."
My source for this news item is Vicini (1973), pp.43-44. Someone at the Tribune must have had a long memory, given the 15 years between the editorial and this item.

[30] See CDT, Sat., Dec.28, 1935, p.8, c.1, and CDT, Thurs., Mar.26, 1936, p.12, cs.1-2.

[31] Abraham Tauber, 'Spelling Reform in the United States', Ph.D., diss., Columbia University, 1958, pp.244-5, cited a letter to him, dated July 25, 1949, from Astley-Cock in which he apparently so stated. I thank Cornell Kimball for bringing this material to my attention. Bennett did not retire, however, until Jan. 30, 1939 - see The Trib, Feb., 1939, XX:8, p.4, c.1.

[32] Vivian, op.cit. (see fn.18 above), p.85. Vivian's source is Vicini (1973), p.32, who quoted an inter-department memo, dated Aug.13, 1973, from Harold Hutchings, then executive editor. Vicini (1973), pp 32-33, discussed these editorials. Mencken, The American Language, Supplement II (1948), p.294, quoted extensively from the earlier editorial, 'Lacky, Pass the Hemloc', and noted the later "shift of mind in the Tribune office...."

[33] CST, Mar.26, 1939, Pt.1, p.16, c.2.

[34] This memo, dated Mar.30, 1939, listing the 38 words, as well as those to retain Tribune spelling, is in the McCormick Research Center.

[35] Most of this information comes from Mencken, Supplement II, pp.294-95, and Vicini (1973), pp.33-34, who dated the managing editor's memos, Mar.30 and Apr.1, 1939; Mencken briefly quoted from and he and Vicini discussed the editorial of Apr.9, 1939, which appeared in an edition unavailable to me. See also Vivian, op.cit. (see fn.18 above), p.85; he dated the second memo "April 1939".

[36] See CDT, Tues., Aug.1, 1939, p.12, c.1.

[37] The 1943 style book lists 42 words.

[38] 'After the Colonel', Time, Aug.29, 1955, p.51, c.1. See also 'The Colonel's Century', Time, June 6, 1947, p.66. In 'Our Far-Flung Correspondents: Return of a Non-Native', The New Yorker, Apr.6, 1946, p.95, Stanley Walker wrote: "What seems really to annoy his readers (it annoys me a little, too) is his ruling, in effect since last fall, that Tribune reporters and copyreaders must use 'frate' for 'freight'. People saw some sense in his earlier decree ordering the use of 'tho' and 'thru', but 'frate' is hard to take. It may well be that this time the Colonel has gone a bit too far" - as against, no doubt, his thumping Mid-Westernism, his anti-liberalism, and on and on.

[39] CDT, Wed., Aug.7, 1946, Pt.1, p.16, c.2; reprinted, A Century of Tribune Editorials, (Chicago:) Chicago Tribune (1947), pp.146-147, with this headnote: "THE TRIBUNE for many years has been doing its part for spelling reform. Here purposes and result of the campaign are outlined."

[40] Vicini (1973), p.37, stated that Astley-Cock's grounds for spelling change, "modern usage and accepted custom", differed from Bennett's, "etymological, historical precedent, and phonetic standard", but this editorial did not seem to support the distinction. Vicini also attributed the editorial to Astley-Cock without independent authority. The change the editorial offhandedly noted of PH to F (as in telegraf) was formalized the following spring in two inter-department memos (unavailable to me) from the then managing editor, dated Mar.29 and Apr.3, 1946, but excepting graph, graphic, and graphite. Vicini mistakenly linked these memos with Astley-Cock's article of July 3, 1949 (see fn.43 below), though the changes had been made by spring/summer 1946.

[41] News item, CDT, Sat., Sept.7, 1946, Pt.2, p.21, c.3. Vicini (1973), p.38, noted that at the Hubbard Street exit of Tribune Tower is a "Frate Elevator Only. No Passengers." "Today, ..." Eric Zorn wrote in 1997, "virtually the only remnant in Tribune Tower of the Colonel's grand experiment are elevators labeled 'Frate.'" Zorn, op.cit. (see fn.4 above), p.14, c.3. In a column, 'A little-known legacy from the Colonel', CT, Mon., May 5, 1997, Sect.1, p.15, c.1, John McCarron said, "For some he'll always be the publisher...who wanted everyone to spell it 'frate' instead of freight". The spelling still lingers in memory.

[42] Delos Avery, 'Bookman's Holiday', CST, Apr.4, 1948, Pt.4, p.2. Supplement II was published in 1948. A follow-up column, already discussed, concerning Medill appeared in CST, May 2, 1948, Pt.4, p.2.

[43] CST, July 3, 1949, Pt.1, p.3, c.1.

[44] August 1949, XXXI: 2, p. 5, cs. 1-2. The managing editor is given as the voice of authority.

[45] July 3, 1949, Pt.1, p.6, c.2.

[46] This paragraph is based on Vivian, op.cit. (see fn.18 above), p87 - citing an Astley-Cock memo to the managing editor, May 29, 1950, not available to me. Vicini (1973), pp.37, 39 and 45, had discussed this memo.

[47] See Rules of Composition for the Use of Operators, Editors, Copyreaders, and Proofreaders, Chicago Tribune, 1950, p.T54.

[48] Vicini, (1973), p.46, said that the only related items he could find in the Tribune from 1950 to 1955 are these: an article on Bernard Shaw's will, on Nov.3, 1950; an article on the results of a national study on misspelling, on May 31, 1954; and an article on the National Geographic Society and English spelling, on June 15, 1954. None of these articles shows up in the Tribune editions available to me.

[49] See the review by LaTourette Stockwell, CST, Mar.13, 1955, Pt.4, p.4, c.5; and Henry Hansen, 'Why Johnny Can't Read ...',CST, Apr.17, 1955, Pt.4, p.10, cs.1-4. A news item in the Tribune reporting on the National Educational Association convention in Chicago that July tried to give special emphasis to the "sizable proportion of educators..." backing Flesch; see CDT, Thurs., July 7, 1955, Pt.1, p.15, c.2. But see F. Duane Lamkin, 'An Analysis of Propaganda Techniques Used in Why Johnny Can't Read - Flesch', The Reading Teacher (Dec.1955), 9:2, 107-117; Maria E. Schantz and Joseph F. Brunner, Reading in American Schools: A Guide to Information Sources, Detroit, MI: Gale Research Co. (1980), p.11, item 51; and D.W. Cummings, American English Spelling, Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press (1988), pp.12-24 on phonetic spelling vs. others - Flesch's book does not make its bibliography.

[50] See art., CDT, Mon., Apr.25, 1955, Pt.3, pp.9, cs.1-2; 10, cs.7-8.

[51] The last, CDT, Tues., July 19, 1955, Pt.2, p.1, cs.5-7. Along the way, letters, editorials, and news items concerning the series were printed, including a news item on July 20th. Apparently, the Tribune received hundreds of letters on the topic from across the country.

[52] CST, Aug.21, 1955, Pt.1, p.20, cs.1-2. Various commentators have picked up on the surprise registered in the editorial that no reader had written or called to remark the changes effected the previous Monday. But with the possible exception of frate/freighter, it would have taken a sharp-eyed reader to spot advertisement, cotillion, paean, bailiff, tariff, sheriff, solder (for sodder), and the PH words scattered about the pages of the daily issues. A follow-up editorial on the Winn articles, 'Spelling and Allied Subjicks [sic]', appeared, CST, Aug.28, 1955, Pt.1, p.20, cs.1-2. The Trib, Sept., 1955, XXXVII:3, p.7, c.3, under the headline, 'It's Good-by to 'Frate', 9 Other Simplified Spellings', indicated these words "were dropped from the simplified spelling list Aug.15. They should be deleted from page 32 under 'Tribune spelling' in the 1953 Style Manual."

[53] From autumn 1955 - spring 1957, all Vicini (1973), pp.48-49, turned up were what he termed "personal letters" to the Tribune: an eighth-grade teacher writing about a supposed misspelling (of sherifs), on Oct.19, 1955 (apparently misdated 1953); a superintendent of public schools in a Michigan town, on May 12, 1956; a housewife from Moline, Illinois, on Feb.12, 1957; and from a Detroit, Michigan, high school student, preparing a report on Bernard Shaw, on Mar.12, 1957. These letters do not appear in 'The Voice of the People' in the editions available to me.

[54] The Chicago Tribune 1958 Style Book..., p.65.

[55] The list is given in Mencken, The American Language, One-Volume Abridged Edition, 4th ed., Raven I. McDavid, Jr., and David W. Maurer, eds., New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1986, pp.490-91, fn.5; the abridgment was first published 1963. I have not seen a copy of this style book. The number of survivals comes from M[orris]. M. Murphy, 'A Few Afterthoughts About a Campaign That Failed', Grass Roots, Spring 1971, p.194. Murphy, Associate Professor of English, Amundsen-Mayfair College, a Chicago city college, published the literary magazine, Grass Roots, with and for his students. The original, along with the student paper preceding it, Corinne Wayne's 'Trying to Clear Up the Mess', is in the McCormick Research Center.

[56] My sources for this paragraph are Collin, Chicago Journalism Review (Sept.1970), III:9, p.7, c.1; Murphy, Grass Roots, Spring 1971, pp.194-96; and Vicini (1973), pp.51-53. Mencken's 1936 New Yorker article gave the correct date of 1934. Vicini (1973), p.67, interviewed Dr. Albert Sutton, Professor of Journalism, Northwestern University, Sept.28, 1973, who said that Tribune spelling "had an effect upon readers. They thought the Tribune frequently misspelled words."

[57] Wendt, (1979), p.763.

[58] Marshall Rosenthal, 'The Media: And Now the Local News...', The Chicagoan, (Oct.1973), I:1, 114. According to Vicini, who interviewed her, Jackie Wells, chief copyreader, wrote the 1973 and 1974 style books: See Vicini (1973), pp.3 and 68.

[59] Edit., 'Sounding ough', CT, Wed., June 25, 1975, Sect.2, p.2, c.2.

[60] Interview, Sept.29, 1973, noted in Vicini (1973), p.58.

[61] See box, CT, Mon., Sept.29, 1975, p.1, c.1.

[62] Edit., "Thru is through and so is tho," CT, Mon., Sept. 29, 1975, Sect. 2, p. 2, cs. 1-2. Zorn, op.cit., p.14, c.3, wrote that these simplifications have "gradually disappeared from Tribune pages."

[63] Tim Jones, 'May 13, 1914 / Colonel puts personal stamp on Tribune', CT, Sun., Apr.27, 1997, Sect.4, p.2; reprinted, Stevenson Swanson, ed., Chicago Days: 150 Defining Moments in the Life of a Great City, Lincolnwood, Illinois: Contemporary Publishing Co., (1997), p.102.

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