[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J25, 1999/1 pp3-10]
See Chicago Tribune articles.

Spelling the Chicago Tribune Way,
1934-1975, Pt. II.

John B. Shipley.

Dr Shipley is Professor of English (Emeritus) at University of Illinois, Chicago.
Part I of this study appeared in JSSS 24, 1998/2 pp3-10, and Part III will appear in JSSS 26, 1999/2.

Abstract.
This article falls into the following divisions:
Pt.I. The spelling reforms 1. From 1934 until the autumn of 1955, soon after the death of the owner-publisher, Col. Robert R. McCormick; 2. from late 1955 into 1975. (Published in JSSS 24, pp3-10.)
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.

Acknowledgments.

I thank the following for their help in my research: Kenneth H. Ives, Chicago, Illinois, and Eric Zorn, Staff Writer, Chicago Tribune, and especially Cornell Kimball, Sherman Oaks, California; and 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 typescript to electronic form.

Part II

1. Responses: the Tribune Staff.

In February 1934, The Trib, in-house publication for Tribune staffers, headlined its brief account of the newly created spelling reforms, "Help! Help! Cries Vox Pop as Tribune Opens Drive for Simplified Spelling." The account began, "Vox Pop has been brimming with letters from Tribune readers pro and con the simplified spelling ... adopted by the Tribune ..." [1] Unsurprisingly, this house organ did not publish staff reaction to the experiment.

Yet indications appeared elsewhere, mostly negative. The editorial of March 26, 1939, furnished one clue: "...[T]he staf was agast," it said, at the initial spelling reforms in January/February 1934. [2] One ought not to make too much of the word 'public' as against in-house response in an early Bennett news article: "Public response to the changes already adopted has been for the most part favorable." [3] Occasionally, a staff member or a department of the newspaper was said to favor a specific change. [4] Occasionally also, a shocker surfaced to which staff members vehemently objected: iland and frater come to mind here. As a whole, a knowledgeable writer observed, "The simplified spelling project ... was abused even more [than in letters to the editor] by members of the paper's editorial staff in their private conversations." [5] Tribune editorialists admitted, in spring 1939, that "our own writers and compositors have not become fully accustomed to these forms [then introduced]." [6] In a 1973 interview, the then-executive editor and later Tribune archivist, Harold Hutchings, spoke of the simpler spelling crusade in more measured terms:
"It was thought of as an interesting experiment" - this, apparently, in the 1940s - "which brought to the public attention a movement that was discussed in academic circles. There was a certain logic behind it so the words would become acquainted forms. At the time, it caused a lot of people to think in an important area, but nobody acted." [7] That Hutchings may not have confided fully in his interviewer, a college student, should not surprise. Another Tribune staffer, in a more personal and perhaps more forthright reminiscence, struck, nonetheless, a reasonably positive note: "It was something to play with when writing a humorous story. Shorter spellings made it easier to handle words. Why not make the language easier? Some of the changes made good sense. We used to laugh and grin in the newsroom before...[some simpler spellings were cut back], but simplified spelling was a real identifying mark, a tradesmark of the Trib." [8]
The only insider account in print (that I am aware of) furnished an interesting glimpse of staff reaction to the changes from simplified to standard spelling, which as time went on apparently divided along generational lines. In this account, written in 1970 by Dorothy Collin, assistant Sunday features editor of Chicago Today, [9] a veteran copy editor made the point: "...[T]he young writers like the changes [recently made in style and spelling, but], ... one old-timer on the copy desk said it was an awful blow at the Colonel." Collin agreed: "The younger generation of journalists at the Tribune and Today think the new style is another indication of the Tribune's stately progress into the latter half of the 20th century." These reporters and copyreaders, according to Collin, had scarcely been able or had troubled to learn the earlier style - involving, to be sure, many more elements than just simplified spellings - but older copyreaders disapproved and found it all "rather confusing..."

The Colonel would also have disapproved. In his day, that would have been enough. Despite the humor or light tone in one editorial or another in those earlier years, McCormick took his experiment with simplified spelling seriously. That possibly apocryphal account of his insistence on using frater may be a case in point. When "...Bennett started a complete Tribune style-book ... McCormick, with reason, considered [it] invaluable to unify practice [of spelling and so forth] among stablesful of varied writers. He adopted it for his books and letters ... and searched the paper every day against sinners" against Tribune spelling and style. [10] From later 1933 until his death in 1955, McCormick wrote two books and delivered upwards of 500 speeches and radio addresses, the last of these apparently in 1951. His book of 1934, Ulysses S. Grant, The Great Soldier of America, employing some Tribune spellings of that time, offered some oddities as well - neophites (p.ix), and vocabularinism (p31 - unless this is a typographical error for vocabularianism). [11]

Perhaps these number among the Tribune's unheralded spellings from before 1934. In his speeches and radio addresses, all or nearly all of which seem to have been published, McCormick - or his printers - sinned occasionally against Tribune spelling, a doctrine here instead of doctrin, a thoroughly there instead of thoroly. A few speeches and broadcasts contained spelling sin after sin, sufficient to suggest a printer's devil at work or a McCormick flouting his own rules. [12] One supposes that in the vast majority of his speeches and radio addresses McCormick and his printers followed the straight and narrow, spelling words the Tribune way.

Whatever way that was, it was time, as Bennett said concluding his first presentation of simplified spellings, to "let the Voice of the People rage". Vox Pop was to be mightier than staffers' memos.

2. Responses: Vox Pop.

Something of overall reader response may be ascertained from a comment in the 1939 editorial, 'Not Yet the Hemloc': "Five years ago this February [sic] we turned (perhaps we should say we definitly and genuinly turned) humanitarian, only to discover, as so many reformers have in the past, that the rifraf does not appreciate efforts put forward in its behalf." [13] If readers objected to being called "rifraf," none of their outrage appeared in Vox Pop ("The Voice of the People"). Yet negative reader response came to play a major, perhaps even the major, role in the ultimate abandonment of the experiment.

Letters on simplified spelling in "The Voice of the People" came in clusters, linked to the pattern of the Tribune campaign over the years. Just how many letters all told on this issue the newspaper received one can only guess at. For the four decades between February 1934 and autumn 1975, I have come upon 82 such letters. [14] Several, both pro and con, came from as far as Australia, early news articles asserted, none of these letters actually appearing in Vox Pop or the news articles themselves. [15] Chicagoans, Illinoisans and those living in Chicago-land - in such places as Auxvasse, Missouri; Dubuque, Iowa; La Crosse, Wisconsin; and Norway, Michigan - constitute the bulk of Vox Poppers on simplified spelling. But letters from farther afield also showed up: one each from Columbus, Ohio, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania; Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Burlingame, California. Headlined "HE VUZ WITH ALARM" was one from a "Bil Russel" of Athens, Georgia (home of the University of Georgia), who played the comic with his own version of simpler spelling. [16] Of all the 82, only two bore foreign place-names: that from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, had no great distance to travel, as against the one, in August 1955, from Mexico City.

The frequency of these letters seemed to follow a discernible pattern. Some 15 letters appeared in 1934, the first year of the experiment; surprisingly, none apparently was printed the next year. In 1936 a mere seven letters saw print. The introduction of tho, thru and thoro in 1939 caused the number of letters to peak at nearly three dozen, almost all of them commending the change. From here on out, letters on simplified spelling rarely showed up in Vox Pop. In all of 1945 (the year of frate and frater), 1946, 1948 and 1949 combined, only about a half-dozen apparently made it into print. For those telling years of 1955 and 1975 the letters-editors chose only about a half-dozen each year. In the intervening decades the gleanings remain meager, fewer than a half-dozen coming from the mid to later 1950's. [17] For all of the 1960's, there was apparently nothing other than a cryptic "No phonetic spelling" from one respondent to an open-ended 1968 reader survey. [18] From 1970 until the abandonment of the experiment in summer-early autumn 1975 Vox Pop kept silent on simplified spelling. Its editor, when queried in 1973, could "not recollect a letter from the public in some time." [19] But then the Tribune itself had not called attention in editorials or news articles to its way of spelling for years. The old adage, "out of sight, out of mind", seems to have worked here.

The Tribune's editors, including the one charged with "The Voice of the People", had decided early on on one grand distinction: letters from distinguished and influential persons were, almost entirely, swept up in news articles and editorials. Comments from "the rifraf..." were, by and large, consigned to the letters column. Interviews, almost always with academic types, constituting news, thus helped inform news articles. Another obvious distinction obtains here: unsurprisingly, the individuals mentioned in news articles and editorials almost to a man - the gender emphasis is intended - praised Tribune spelling to one degree or another. Letters in Vox Pop uttered decidedly varied opinions, some, we are assured, expressing their negative views in high dudgeon.

A short news item, headed "Scholars Approve Tribune Move For Simpler Spelling", appearing the day after the first list of January 28, 1934, indicated the level of support that Bennett, and behind him, McCormick, sought. [20] Few prominent persons turned up in other early news articles and editorials, indicating, perhaps, that the response from such individuals was not what was hoped for. Sir George B. Hunter, chairman, Simplified Spelling Society, wrote from England to approve. [21] Only a few more persons rounded out the early phase of the campaign in news articles, five being unnamed and only one of some prominence. [22] "Letters from university students," Bennett had written in an earlier article, "from business-men and from teachers have welcomed rather than resented the changes. ..." [23] This distinction between "university students..." and "teachers..." suggests this latter group comprised primary and high school teachers. If so, it is a group, especially the primary school teachers, that confronted the Tribune's spellings.

Just once more did a Tribune news article muster names supporting them, this time 15 years later under the headline, "Experts Like New Spelling Used in Tribune", the best known having been the author Hugh Walpole, examiner in languages, University of Chicago. [24] What had commenced with the president of Northwestern University and the chairman of the Simplified Spelling Society had come down to a representative of an obscure religious publishing house and an acting dean at a small mid-western college. This change in level of support does not image forth the arc of a successful campaign.

Most noteworthy about these letters is the ratio of male writers to female: seven to one. Given that Tribune spelling directly challenged primary school teachers in their classrooms - and that these teachers were almost exclusively women -, that they were not more heavily represented in Vox Pop leads to surmise. The Tribune spelling and letters editors obviously would have preferred to receive words of praise from academicians, then almost exclusively male, than words of criticism from those female grade school teachers. The editors doubtless would also have welcomed support from these teachers. But it was then a culture in which the male voice, especially if some weighty judge or serious author sounded it or if "Professor" announced it and "Ph.D." came up behind, carried farther and dominated discourse. The bias was culture-wide, culture driven. Few correspondents over the years actually gave their occupation, but of those that mentioned it, nearly all were teachers: two to three each, primary and high school, and three on the college-university level. A discrepancy thus exists between the very few letters from schoolteachers, of one mind in their criticism of the experiment, and the reasons offered in 1955 and again in 1975 for severely limiting and then abandoning it (ie, the Tribune did not want to get between Johnny and his teachers). Why the letters editors allowed this anomaly to develop over time almost certainly finds its answer in that cultural bias. Just how many letters, and phone calls, the Tribune received about simplified spelling from all those teachers of Johnny remains unanswerable.

Among the earliest letters in Vox Pop from a teacher are two in February and March 1934, written by a priest of the Augustinian order, who taught at a Roman Catholic high school. [25] Conservative doubtless by cast of mind and by his training, this teacher-priest objected "to the statement that the spelling of our words is 'utterly illogical'" and expressed the judgment that "in phonetic spelling we perhaps acquire something easier, but superficial, and lose something fundamental." "Our spelling," he sought to establish in his first letter, "is systematic and follows the logic of linguistic science." As for learning to spell, that comes about through "the formation of a habit..., based on a complexity of images," dissociated from etymology and meaning. Concluding his second letter, he addressed a problem serious students of orthography and orthographic systems have before and since sought to overcome or work around with varying degrees of success - namely, "... to keep a difficult spelling with an easy alphabet; or to have an easy spelling with a difficult alphabet." (By 'difficult alphabet' was presumably meant an expanded alphabet with unfamiliar extra letters.) These two letters, however strong or weak their argument, were among the most thoughtful on the subject to appear in Vox Pop.

Between these two letters the letter editor inserted another one from a teacher, this to serve perhaps as contrast. This correspondent, a woman, wrote in from a small Indiana town in a quite different tone - though also negative, and then some. "As a teacher and a lover of euphonious construction in all writing, I feel my very soul rebel at the butchery of words such as you list today [letter dated Feb. 10]." Fantom offended her; rime was "more than...[she could] silently endure. 'Aile' ... is heresy, 'crum' ... pure laziness and your simplified bureaucracy and pulley are the worst of bad manners, slovenliness. In fact there is not one word in this morning's list for which there is a legitimate excuse for changes of spelling." [26] Representative of letters in Vox Pop from primary and high school teachers in their rejection of Tribune spelling, these two correspondents struck the extremes: the reasoned, measured response and the vitriolic.

The next-to-last letter on simpler spelling to appear in Vox Pop, 41 years later, seems also to have been from a teacher (possibly a college teacher) to judge from its contents, as civilly and as thoughtfully presented as those of the letters from the teacher-priest. Like that male teacher earlier, this correspondent, a woman, criticized the phonetic basis of Tribune spelling: "If the Tribune really wishes to aid students and teachers, it would help them to see that spelling is a visual skill, not an auditory one. ..." She referred to published and unpublished research (her own?) "that shows how regular our language is ...", this point being quite similar also to that the teacher-priest had made four decades before. [27]

For the rest, relatively little remains to report. The Tribune had most directly addressed teachers' concerns in Marcia Winn's series of articles on Johnny and his spelling in Chicago and suburban elementary schools, spring 1955. These articles elicited much interest, leading to many letters and a TV program moderated by Ms. Winn. [28] They also gave Tribune brass the opportunity to look upon what they had wrought in their way of spelling and, in finding it all too confusing, to mend their ways by returning to Webster III. Yet out of all the resultant outpouring from "the rifraf", the Tribune letters editor saw fit to print a mere five letters that August, all approving shelving simplified spelling.

The letter most germane came from the dean of a teachers' college in Evanston, Illinois. He appreciated - "we in the teaching field..." appreciated - "THE TRIBUNE's contribution in focusing public attention on the problems of spelling in our language" - this a reference, of course, to Ms. Winn's articles. Yet the Tribune authorities ought to recognize, he said, that as "most of our teachers seem to feel ..., changes in the spelling ... of words must come gradually and as a result of common usage." With Tribune spelling on the one hand and Webster III otherwise - "words ... spelled differently in different places ...", to quote the dean - children find it "all the more difficult ... to learn ..." English. The dean's mild language settled like a wet blanket upon the bedrock idea of Tribune spelling. [29] For the next 20 years, comment remained smothered, whether because few wrote in or because the letters editors wished to de-emphasize Tribune spelling, or both. At a workshop in 1972, in response to a query about it from a Tribune staffer, "almost half [of the 80 English teachers in the group] said they did not like it because it confused their students. [30] Ah statistics: one has to wonder about that other, larger half. Within three years the Tribune put its experiment behind it, so as no longer to confuse.

Over the years of the experiment general or summary comments on reader response in news articles and editorials revealed a basic shift in attitude from approval to disapproval. Initially optimistic, reporters could say that 75 per cent of correspondents favored the new spellings, with merely 25 per cent being critical. [31] Negative response seems quickly to have increased, for other early commentary indicated a "clamor of protest" was present from the start, or close to it. [32] An editorial in March 1939 spoke of having been "deluged with protests", and the same note was struck a decade later. [33] "Chicagoans", according to one of them, "developed the . ... [expression]: 'you spell like the Tribune'"; it was not intended as a compliment. [34]

The Tribune's own early estimate best epitomized the opinions about simplified spelling of the letter-writers as a whole. "There was intelligent praise. There was intelligent blame. There was some abuse more remarkable for virulence than for intelligence. A neutral observer, scanning certain of the letters, would have found difficulty in believing that etymology and orthography could enkindle such passion in the human breast." [35] Virulence against Tribune spelling almost never appeared in Vox Pop. What passed for humor or wit occasionally made its way into print. Nearly all of the letters came down on one side of the question or the other, with perhaps a half-dozen bestowing both accolades and brickbats.

Sounding the death-knell of the experiment, Johnny and his teacher had entered the scene in an editorial, "Helping Johnny to Spell", in 1955. They still sounded it 20 years later in another editorial which ended with the words:

"Sanity some day may come to spelling, but we do not want to make any more trouble between Johnny and his teacher." [36] Oddly, in 1955, when the Tribune cut back its experiment, six of seven letters praised lopping the list, whereas in 1975, when the newspaper abandoned that experiment, six of the seven letters voiced regret. These letter-writers seem also to have hoped, "Sanity some day may come to [English] spelling ..."

3. Responses: books, periodicals, domestic and foreign newspapers.

"Editorials about the Tribune's simplified spelling campaign", The Trib of February 1934 said, "have appeared in newspapers all over the country. Literary Digest, Editor and Publisher, Time and other weeklies have carried stories about it." [37] News of the campaign, we were told, reached newspapers as far as Australia. Recovering these editorials from "newspapers all over the country" and news reports in Australian newspapers and those of other countries becomes a fool's errand, especially given the years in question. (Not that I have not tried.) What follows thus rests on a necessarily very limited number of possible sources. In the light of this limitation, an epitome of responses to Tribune spelling in books of that time, in other newspapers and periodicals, American and British (the only non-American sources available), would be, baldly put, in the negative.

Looking close-in at how Chicago-land publications reacted to Tribune spelling previews the national scene and beyond. The New York Times and the Washington Post had been the first to remark, if not comment, in those items about McCormick's name, datelined January 27, 1934 - though there is no telling how many other papers printed that AP dispatch, in addition to the Post. Yet one might expect a friendly reception on home territory, and that - if the few sources available are representative - was not quite the case. The Illinois Medical Journal lent measured approval. [38] But in noting that "the Chicago Tribune has decided to spell it 'advertisment'", Advertising Age added, "The average publisher is worrying about everything except how to spell it." [39] A newspaper beyond Chicago-land, the Fairmont (West Virginia) Times, may have favored spelling change, though not necessarily the Tribune's way. One in the Tribune's backyard, the Boone (Iowa) News-Republican, did not, saying, "The beautiful English language is to be dissected and reset to accommodate somebody's notion that it will read better in print." [40] Newsweek and then The Literary Digest had given basically neutral accounts of the Tribune's first foray into simpler spelling. [41] That May, however, in an exhaustive analysis in Fortune of the Tribune's modus operandi and business-financial activities, the writer dismissively characterized the "crusade ... for modified spelling reform" as "not ... exciting." [42]

From here on - in terms of available sources - it is largely a story of East versus Mid-West, with The New Yorker and the New York Times leading the forces of contempt against the Colonel's newspaper. Coming in right behind the Times and the Washington Post was another New York newspaper, the World-Telegram, that asked the question of the Colonel, "IS NOTHING SACRED?" - this on the 29th January 1934. Noting that he had pared his name down to M'Cormik, the World-Telegram observed, "... '[C]ontroller' will become 'controler' [in the Tribune] while benighted New York sticks to 'comptroller.'" (The Colonel, for his part, thought that America began at the Hudson River.) "After most of us reach a certain age," the World-Telegram concluded, "we resent such tinkering. Once having learned to spell 'exaggerate' and 'Alexander Woollcott', it's easier to keep on the old way than undergo the anarchy of remembering which words are stand pat and which reformed. And what now will become of the crossword puzzlers in Chicago?" [43]

The next effete Easterner to toss words at the Tribune - again given available sources - was H L Mencken in that New Yorker piece. The newspaper, he wrote, "went over to ... [spelling reform] without warning, to the astonishment, I daresay, of the Chicago literati and assassinati alike" - this in 1936, after all, the year also of the fourth and final edition of his American Language. [44] "In theology," he concluded, "economics, astronomy, anatomy, sociology, punctuation, and most of the other arts and sciences ... [the Tribune] leads indisputably, but not, apparently, in orthography." [45]

Next to throw words from the pages of The New Yorker was A J Liebling, who, though he had not worked for the Tribune as had Mencken, did spend time in Chicago late in 1949. Liebling needed no visit to the Tribune Tower to have a go at the Colonel, all his points of view, his whimsies and settled convictions, his practices and exhortations forming fair target, simplified spelling having been, for Liebling, in the rear ranks. Thus a three-part series on "THE ALIEN EAST..." that the Tribune ran in 1946 enabled Liebling to say of the reporter: he "... delimited what he meant by the East at the very beginning. 'Geografically speaking,' he ruled, employing the Chicago Tribune's simpliphied [sic] orthografy, 'the east is east of the Hudson.'" [46] Liebling took ample aim at McCormick and the Tribune in his four New Yorker articles early in 1950, but "simpliphied orthografy" had dropped out of Liebling's line of fire. [47]

Though frate/frater seem not to have weighed unduly heavily on the popular press in 1945 - there was the war's end to attend to, after all - Astley-Cock's spelling change from ph to f, in July 1949, reverberated among a few such organs. There was the inevitable Eastern representative, this time the New York Post. Its July 15th editorial "Phantasy" saw the change as "a new blow ['that The World's Greatest Newspaper has struck...'] against the English (language). ... There is probably some merit in this ephort," the editorial concluded. "Our instinctive negativism about the Tribune no doubt explains our pheeling that there is something phunny about the whole business." The Post's source was not the Tribune itself, but a Newsweek item on "M'Cormik's Spelling", its tone similar to the newspaper's. It spoke of McCormick's grudge against the English language, the paper's "gimmick ... call[ed] 'modified spelling'", and Astley-Cock as "vice-president in charge of Tribunizing His Majesty's English..." Out of the blue, Newsweek declared that "the Trib also was busy shushing an old rumor - that being that McCormick would not be fonetisized [sic] to M'Cormik." Wherever the magazine's staff came upon this notion, it was not from the Tribune of summer 1949, nor many a prior year. Silent on this long-time scotched rumor in its own comparable story, "F as in Alfabet", the other national news weekly, Time, adopted a somewhat less acerbic, scornful tone. Its account featured, not McCormick, but "Amputator" Astley-Cock - the British-born John Lucius Astley-Cock, possessor of "the most resounding by-line of the Anglophobe Chicago Tribune..." - who was responsible for the latest loppings. Readers of this account, nonetheless, learned in full of these changes. Though other domestic news outlets remarking his reducing ph to f have not come to my notice, certain ones among the English press, as we shall see - the Newsweek account instanced the Daily Graphic's "Few! Fetch Me a Dikshunnery" -, responded as had their American counterparts. [48]

The press, the Tribune included it should be emphasized, said nothing further about McCormick's long-enduring stand for simpler spelling until his death in 1955. Typical of the obituaries was that in the New York Times recognizing the Tribune's "phonetic spellings" as one of its trademark features. [49] McCormick's death came, as we have seen, just as Marcia Winn launched her many articles on Johnny and his spelling, spring and summer 1955. Her series and its reception enabled the Tribune's new management to cut back drastically on simplified spelling, among other changes. Several publications, including the New York Times and Time magazine, brought these changes to their readers' notice.

For its account of the changes the New York Times ran a straightforward news story sent in, not by its own news service, but by a news agency, whereas that in Time conveyed a sense of regret, the old order passing and so forth. "For the first time," the account said erroneously, "since the day in 1934 when McCormick ordered radical new simplified spelling, the Trib was going back to some old spelling rules. Instead of such words as frate, grafic, tarif, soder and sofisticated, the Trib will now use freight, graphic, tariff, solder and sophisticated, just like everybody else. Still unchanged are the Colonel's spellings of such words as thoro, burocratic and altho. " Journalistic applause at the new management's "efforts ... to strike out on their own ... was tempered by some regret." [50]

The most gracious of notices, ever, came not of course from New York City newspapers or magazines, but from that proper Bostonian, the Christian Science Monitor in an editorial in August 1955. This is not to say that its editors repined at the Tribune's cutting back on simpler spelling. The Tribune, it said, had had to negotiate "a conditional surrender with a world-wide fact: custom will not be rushed." Nevertheless, the editorial acknowledged in concluding
We would not begrudge the Tribune its share of credit were it to point to the fact that others also now drop the ue and spell it catalog and the ugh to make it thoro.

And the Tribune can testify that he who goes far and fast in a matter so intertwined with precedent is likely to find himself very much alone. All the more is it due some plaudits for trying. [51]
Nowhere else was the Tribune to receive this sort of recognition

As following those publicized cut-backs in the number of simplified spellings in 1955 the Tribune seemingly fell silent on the matter for 15 years and more, the press at large seems to have given little if any thought to it, and no book then seems to have taken it up, either. But as the defining year of 1975 approached, at least one publication, Newsweek, took note of those changes in the early 1970's, changes that, as it turned out, were stages in a process to be completed that year. "...[R]eaders," the magazine said, "are no longer confronted with 'frate trains'", though Time had said it better in having the Tribune "hop from frate to freight". Frate had actually been consigned to the Tribune's transport museum years earlier, yet reporters elsewhere still could not get themselves off those frate trains. [52]

It remained for the New York Times (and doubtless others, unknown) to attend the wake for Tribune spelling in 1975. The New York Times had quietly expressed its opinion of simpler spelling years before, in 1934 in fact, but not in terms of the Tribune's experiment, of which of course it was well aware. Editorially ignoring the Tribune, the Times singled out "An English Simple Speller", a Professor Barnes, recently retired from Cambridge, who had lamented (in The Times of London) the sorry state of English spelling. "Why," Professor Barnes asked, "shouldn't we write 'deth' with CHAUCER?" "Well," the New York Times writer returned, "why shouldn't we write 'death' with King ALFRED, a good deal earlier authority?" On "Mr. BARNES's preference for beleev, cheef, feeld, and frend, the New York Times commented, "Everybody to his taste." [53]

The New York Times, having made known its distaste for simpler spelling, relied once more on a straightforward news agency account to signalize the end of Tribune spelling announced late in September 1975. Yet that following Sunday, the Times did register that the Tribune "has virtually surrendered in its fight, begun in 1934, to correct an 'unspeakable offense to common sense' by simplifying the spelling of 80 words", in its weekly column headed, "Epilogue: A Glance Back at Some Major Stories". [54]

Just the day before, the New York Times had let its attitude show, not officially in an editorial, but in a Russell Baker essay, 'Dee Feet In Shacahgo', attributing the defeat to a failure "to allow ... for the fact that English words sound different to different people". [55] We all recognize, he said, "that English spelling is absurd and intolerable..., [but] the difficulty about bringing sanity to ... [it] arose from the [Tribune] reformers' excessively sensible assumption that words should be spelled as they sound." Baker then proceeded to contrast various pronunciations of words, such as love by Americans (luv) and Liverpudlians (loov) and schedule by Americans (skedyul or skedyoo-ul) and educated English (shedyul), with an understandable emphasis on American speech. Thus in Chicago the mayor becomes "thuh mayor" - I think it is closer to "duh mair" - and in New York City, "de mare"; while in the Ozarks (a small mountain range running north-south from Missouri through Arkansas into northern Mississipi), instead of "hare" growing on one's "hed," it is "hayir" on the "hayid." (That Colonel McCormick, who, despite all, had "something of a British accent..." and who is said to have believed that the name of his birthplace should be pronounced "Chisago", [56] would have concerned himself or his newspaper about such Southern speech patterns staggers belief.) Even if we were to pattern our speech after that of our presidents, Baker went on to demonstrate, we would encounter difficulties, as with Eisenhower's "nukular" for the usual American "newclear," and Kennedy's "Cuber" for "Kewbah." Tacitly using the principle of easier said than done, Baker remarked, "...[I]f we try to do something sensible, like spelling words the way they sound, we are likely to end up unable to communicate with each other any better in writing than we now do in speech, and then we'd really have insanity to worry about. Or, to put it more plainly, tho enough is not enawf, it is often better to quit while you're still behind." Thus the East gave burial, more or less decent, to the Tribune's "long, lonely struggle to simplify English spelling. ..."

Assisting at these obsequies there came at least one (dare I call it?) Chicago-land newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal, and at least one so far off as the Los Angeles Times. The Journal attended in straight up and down fashion, using the same agency account of the demise of Tribune spelling as had the New York Times. The account in the West Coast Times, headed "ALL THAT JAZ // Chicago Trib // Casts Its Spell", came from one of its own staffers (in Chicago). Even though this account began with a certain "too-bad" attitude in noting that "the Chicago Tribune, that paragon of American individualism, abandoned its efforts Monday to teach the rest of the English-speaking world how to spell", the staffer gave over the rest of his story to straight reportage. A decent enough burial, it was. [57] That proper Bostonian, the Christian Science Monitor absented itself.

The foreign press, so far as the thin record attests, did not attend last rites. Perhaps one day those Australian commentaries and news items helping at the birth of the experiment may come to light. And it may well be that such a paper as the Toronto Star or Mail & Empire (now Globe & Mail) also assisted at the experiment's arrival.

For as the record now stands, it is an embarrassment of poverty. Once and once only, so far as one is aware, the Tribune was able to inform its readers that the "BRITISH PRESS TAKES // NOTE OF SIMPLIFIED // SPELLING IN TRIBUNE", as the headline announced on July 5, 1949. The Chicago Tribune Press Service news item reported: "Five London and two leading Lancashire dailies carried stories from their own reporters in the United States or Reuters' agency dispatches announcing the Tribune's ..." latest spelling modifications. "Most [of these] newspapers," the account ended, "sought to capture the reader's eye by exaggerated spelling in headlines. The London tabloid Daily Graphic, as previously mentioned, carried the head: 'Few! Fetch Me a Dikshunnery,'" but the News Chronicle found it "Eesier for the reeders." [58] As the Tribune story stated, the Daily Express headed its short account, "Having Phun?," while that, somewhat longer, in the Liverpool Daily Post declared it "Orl rite for sum", in going on to notice the changes additional to such as frate, epilog, and tho. [59] The Manchester Guardian, also utilizing the Reuter dispatch, gave a fuller, straightforward account of the changes, under the head, 'A THORO CHANGE'. It remained for its equally liberal allied publication, the Manchester Guardian Weekly, to vent its displeasure several days later. Obscuring the Greek ancestry of such words as geography in geografy, the notice said, "will only rid them of any suspect taint of unAmerican activities". It went on to remark, living as it were up to its title as keeper of the verities, that "anyone this side of the Atlantic ... [need not] follow the 'Chicago Tribune's example. In fact, we might even launch a movement to resuscitate and extend some of the 'ph's' which the 'Tribune' has ruled out of order. What about a counter-attack to denounce this type of spelling reform as phrivolous, phat-headed, phantastic, and phootling?" [60] Foreign press notice of Tribune spelling thus seems to have terminated in medias res, the experiment having at least six years more of life in it and, to take it to 1975, as much as a quarter century. Once again, one must observe that the Tribune itself barely kept the experiment on a life-support system all those years.

Notes & references.

[1] The Trib, Feb.1934, XV:8, 5.

[2] Chicago Sunday Tribune (henceforth CST), that date, Pt.1, p.16, c.1.

[3] CST, Feb.1, 1934, Pt.1, p.1, c.1.

[4] "The sporting department ..." and "jocky", CST, Feb.11, 1934, Pt.1, p.10, c.6; Paul Potter, the agricultural editor, and "drouth," CST, Mar.4, 1934, Pt.1, p.4, c.4; Charles Collins, drama editor, and "jaz," CST, Mar.18, 1934, Pt.1, p.9, c.4; and George J Scharschug, cable editor, and "tarif," same issue, c.6.

[5] Lloyd Wendt (1979), Chicago Tribune: The Rise of a Great American Newspaper, Chicago et al: Rand McNally & Co., p.568.

[6] "Simplified Spelling", Apr.9, 1939, in Mencken, Supplement II, p.294.

[7] Vicini (1973), pp.44-45; interview, Sept.28, 1973.

[8] Interview with Harry Adams, a reporter, Sept.28, 1973, in Vicini (1973), p.50.

[9] Her art., Chicago Journalism Review, Sept.1970, III:9, 7. Chicago Today was a wholly owned subsidiary of the Tribune, running from late April 1969 to mid-September 1974. See Wendt, (1979), pp.762 and 780.

[10] Frank C Waldrop, McCormick of Chicago: An Unconventional Portrait of a Controversial Figure, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall Inc. (1966), p.106.

[11] Published that Nov., New York & London: D Appleton-Century Co., not the Tribune Co. See, for instance, unskilful (p.219), skilful (pp.24, 75, 95, 99), skilfully (pp.13, 82, 174). Another McCormick oddity is the spelling felix-itously occurring in a speech of November 1933. In McCormick's The War Without Grant, New York: Bond Wheelwright Co., 1950, conventional spellings appear throughout.

[12] In the Newberry Library, Chicago: See McCormick, How We Acquired Our National Territory (1942); A Handbook of the American Revolution ... (1946); Make Chicago America's Greatest City ... (1946); A Voyage to Three Continents - this has frate (pp.3, 66) and freight (p.61) and tarif(s) (pp.37, 62) and tariffs (p.69). The Newberry Library also has typescripts of four McCormick speeches, two each in 1943 and 1944, with various spelling anomalies.

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

[14] Of this number, 72 dealt entirely with the subject; two or three discussed it in part, one sought information (in another section of the newspaper), and six were mentioned just by writer's name with their opinion on the issue (the change to tho, thru) at hand. I have not undertaken an exhaustive search for such letters throughout the 41 years involved: the first annual index for the Chicago Tribune is for 1972. Vicini (1973), pp.48-49, cited four other letters apparently appearing in editions unavailable to me for the days in question. See my footnotes 17 and 28.

[15] On letters from Australia, see Bennett, CST, Mar.4, 1934, Pt.1, p.4, c.1; and Virginia Gardner art., CST, Mar.11, 1934, Pt.1; from a photocopy in the McCormick Research Center, the original issue unavailable to me.

[16] CST, May 2, 1948, Pt.1, p.22, c.7.

[17] Vicini (1973), pp.48-49, noticed one each from Oct.19, 1955 (apparently misdated 1953); May 12, 1956; Feb.12, 1957; and Mar.12, 1957.

[18] Vicini (1973), p.51 - cited by Vivian, Journalism History, Autumn 1979, VI:3, 96.

[19] Vicini (1973), pp.50-51, identifying 'The Voice of the People' editor as Alfred Ames. Vicini also noted the following, based again on interviews in late 1973: Genevieve Flavin, editor, 'Voice of Youth' column, "could not recall any instance when teachers or students ever commented on Tribune spelling" (p.50); "Eleanor McConnell [a Tribune staffer] scanned the reader surveys compiled by the Tribune and found no major reaction to spelling" (p.51).

[20] See Chicago Daily Tribune (henceforth CDT), Mon., Jan.29, 1934, p.3, c.6. Named are Walter Dill Scott, President, Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois; Denis E Sullivan, Chief Justice, Superior Court of Cook County, Illinois; and two University of Chicago professors.

[21] Bennett art., CST, Mar.4, 1934, Pt.1, p.4, cs.2-4; Hunter, who also received mention in a later article, joined three others here, one being the only woman to receive such notice. The letter from one of them, a Walter F Schwank, the Tribune called "the most arresting communication that has come ... in the course of this whole campaign ...", Schwank having presented the word potato in the form, GHOUGHPHTHEIGHTTEEAU. This example of mangled pronunciation for potato had also appeared, in somewhat different form, in News-Week magazine, Feb.10, 1934, p.35, in the account of a speech, favoring simpler spelling, by DeWitt Clinton Croissant, head, Department of English, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

[22] See Gardner art., CST, Mar.11, 1934, Pt.1; one unnamed person was a professor of English, while another was the only one to render negative verdict. See also Bennett art., CST, Mar.25, 1934, Pt.1, p.8, cs.4-6: the article focused primarily on a letter from Dr Thomas Kite Brown, co-editor of a dictionary, and mentioned Hunter again, along with three others.

[23] CST, Feb.11, 1934, Pt.1, p.1, c.1. Instancing a businessman, it presented the favorable views of a Benjamin Franklin Afflek "formerly Affleck", President, Universal Atlas Cement Co.

[24] Rev. John Evans art., CDT, Mon., July 11, 1949, p.14, cs.3-4. Evans interviewed eight in all; the others were a Professor of German, Northwestern University; four Professors of English, DePaul and Loyola Universities, Chicago; a representative of a religious publishing house, Chicago; and an acting dean, Cornell College, Mt. Vernon, Iowa.

[25] The Rev. A B Maxwell, O.S.A., St.Rita High School, Chicago, in CDT, Wed., Feb.14, 1934, p.14, cs.6-7; CDT, Thurs., Mar.1, 1934, p.16, c.6 - this headed "The Psychology of Spelling."

[26] Glea Brown Richer, letter dated South Whitley, Ind., Feb.10, in CST, Feb.18, 1934, Pt.1, p.14, cs.6-7. The date must be an error for Feb.11, when the list in question appeared unless, of course, as happens today, the Sunday edition was made available on Saturday.

[27] Letter, Helen Sprietsma Wolf, dated Northfield [Illinois], n.d., in CT, Sat., Oct.18, 1975, Sect.1, p.8, c.3.

[28] Vicini (1973), p.49, may be technically correct in saying that "the long range public reaction to Marsha [sic] Winn's article[s] was neglible [sic]." The Tribune may have received only three inquiries - one in May 1956 and one each in February and March 1957 - "during the two years after it started to abandon simplified spelling", if one supposes that the letter editor printed all those sent in on the subject. Vicini has ignored the short term, however, Ms. Winn herself having spoken of the many letters she had received.

[29] Letter, Robert F Topp, Dean of the College, National College of Education (now National-Louis University), Evanston, Illinois, dated Aug.24, 1955, in CST, Aug.28, 1955, Pt.1, p.20, c.7. This letter, plus four others, including two from high school teachers and one from Ernest Sirluck, Associate Professor of English, University of Chicago, came under the heading "Helping Johnny to Spell."

[30] Vicini (1973), p.51, gave as his source Allen Yamakawa, director, Tribune Educational Services Division.

[31] Gardner art., CST, Mar.11, 1934, Pt.1. See also Bennett art., CST, Mar.18, 1934, Pt.1, p.9, c.1.

[32] Bennett art., CST, Feb.25, 1934, Pt.1, p.1, c.3. See also editorial "Spelling", CDT, Tues., Mar.24, 1936, p.12, c.1.

[33] Edit., "Not Yet the Hemloc", CST, Mar.26, 1939, Pt.1, p.16, c.1; and Astley-Cock art., CST, July 3, 1949, Pt.1, p.3, c.1.

[34] Vicini (1973), p.60. About 21 in 1973, Vicini also relied on his mother's experience, she too having grown up in Chicago.

[35] Bennett art., CST, Feb.25, 1934, Pt.1, p.1, c.3.

[36] CST, Aug.21, 1955, Pt.1, p.20, c.1; and edit., "Thru is through, and so is tho", CDT, Mon., Sept.29, 1975, Sect.2, p.2, c.2.

[37] XV:8, 5. I have not located the account in Time from late January through February 1934; the Time index for this period also refers to no such story.

[38] Mar.1934, LXV:3, 195. The Journal was the official publication of the Illlinois Medical Society.

[39] Under "Rough Proofs," Feb.3, 1934, Pt.1, p.1, c.1.

[40] Both editorials appear in "The Other Side," a column of editorials from other newspapers reprinted on the Tribune editorial page, the News-Republican in CST, Feb.11, 1934, Pt.1, p.16, c.2 (sent to me by Cornell Kimball); and the Times in CDT, Tues., Mar.6, 1934, p.14, c.2. According to the list in Editor & Publisher, Sat., Jan.27, 1934, pp.188-89, the number of daily newspapers then published in Chicago-land were as follows: Illinois, 25, plus the three Chicago dailies; Indiana, 23; Iowa, 14; Michigan, 16; Missouri, 17; and Wisconsin, 18 - a total of 116 daily newspapers. Then there were the weeklies.

[41] Newsweek, Feb.3, 1934, III:5, 34, c.2; "Simpler Spelling in Chicago", The Literary Digest, Feb.10, 1934, CXVII:7, 38. See Mencken, The American Language (1986), one-volume, abridged edition, pp.490-491 and fn 5, and 499.

[42] Fortune, May 1934, IX:5, 113.

[43] New York World-Telegram, Mon., Jan.29, 1934, p.16, c.3.

[44] "The Dizzy Rise (and Ensuing Bust) of Simplified Spelling," The New Yorker, Mar.7, 1936, p.38.

[45] Mencken, op.cit. His surveys of spelling and spelling reform in his American Language, first published in 1919 and its fourth edition in 1936 - this edition, p.406, condensed the Tribune section of The New Yorker article and, unlike the article, gave the start-up date as Jan.28, 1935; and his American Language, Supplement II, published 1948, see pp.294-295 and 317 on Tribune spelling (still with the wrong year) - these are readily accessible and thus need no comment here, Mencken's attitude having been the same in 1948 as in 1936.

[46] A J Liebling, "Wayward Press: Two Pounds for a Dime," The New Yorker, Nov.2, 1946, pp.82, 85-89; see The Wayward Pressman, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., 1947, p.208. On p.211, Liebling took off, in passing, on the difference between the Tribune's "photograf" and the "inquiring Fotographer" of the New York Daily/Sunday News, published by McCormick's cousin, Captain Joseph Medill Patterson, until his death, May 26, 1946, the difference leading Liebling to wonder "whether it was a difference over how to spell this word that for ten years had come between ...." them. See also p.220. The three Tribune articles appeared on July 28, Aug.11 and 18, 1946. On Sept.22, 1946, the New York Times printed a humorous rejoinder, featuring an interview with McCormick, who is quoted as saying of Thomas E Dewey, soon to be elected governor of New York and Republican candidate for president in 1948, "He's no American; he's a New Yorker."

[47] The New Yorker, Jan.7, 1950, pp.52, 54-59; Jan.14, 1950, pp.63-68; Jan.21, 1950, pp.54, 56, 58, 60, 63-65; and Mar.25, 1950, pp.97-105.

[48] New York Post, Friday, July 15, 1949, p.X5 ("Home News" section), c.1 - the only belief-system the liberal Post shared with the Tribune was anti-communism; Newsweek, July 18, 1949, p.48, c.3; and Time, July 18, 1949, p.56, c.2 - these news magazines always appear before their issue date. Newsweek erroneously attributed wile to the Tribune for while. Time filled in its readers on the then "74, bushy-browed, patrician Astley-Cock", who had begun his varied career as a Cambridge University athlete long before joining the Tribune staff in 1932.

[49] "Tribune Reflected McCormick's Vigor ...", New York Times, Fri., Apr.1, 1955, p.17, c.4: "With its multicolored cartoon on page one; its phonetic spellings; its savage and quoted newspaper in the Midwest."

[50] "Chicago Tribune Revises Spelling", New York Times, Tues., Aug.23, 1955, p.19, c.8, its source the North American Newspaper Alliance; "After the Colonel", Time, Aug.29, 1955, p.51. See also "When Three Bosses Fill One Vacant Chai", Business Week, May 19, 1956, p.85.

[51] Edit., "Fonetic Phonetic Again", Christian Science Monitor, Fri., Aug.26, 1955, p.18 (edit. p.), cs.1-2. The editorialist got two items wrong: Col. Robert C [sic] McCormick; and "fotograf", a New York Daily News, not Tribune spelling ("photograf").

[52] Frank Maier, "The Media: The 'Liberal' Trib," Newsweek, LXXXII:1, July 2, 1973, p.50; caption to a photograph, Time, Aug.29, 1955, p.51.

[53] "Topics of the Times", New York Times, Thurs., Sept.27, 1934, Sect.1, p.20, c.4. Barnes was the Rev. Dr William Emery Barnes (1859-1939), Emeritus Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, and Emeritus Professor of Divinity, 1934. An AP news item, "596,000 Ways Alleged for Spelling 'Scissors'", New York Times, Sun., Dec.23, 1934, Sect.2, p.3, c.7, concerned an Ernest B Roberts of Toronto - whose letter to the Tribune that paper had quoted in part the previous March [CST, Mar.25, 1934, Pt.1, p.8, cs.4-5.] - and his claim about the number of ways to spell "scissors", "as an example in advocating his 'spel-rid-ryt' system." "He did not list ... [the different ways]", the news item offered in deadpan.

[54] "'Thru is Through' As Chicago Tribune Ends Spelling Fight", New York Times, Tues., Sept.30, 1975, p.22, c.1. The account is UPI. For the weekly column, compiled by Joyce Jensen, see under "Spelling Lesson", New York Times, Sun., Oct.5, 1975, Sect.IV, p.9, c.4. The other major story in that column casts a pall over the Tribune item, in that it concerned the shooting by his wife during a quarrel of a gun enthusiast, member of the Alabama House of Representatives, a segregationist and preacher, who had been bringing a revolver into the House and who had bought pistols for all his family. The House eulogized him the Tuesday before.

[55] Russell Baker, "Dee Feet In Shacahgo", New York Times, Sat., Oct.4, 1975, p.27, c.1.

[56] John Gunther, Inside U.S.A., New York & London: Harper & Bros., 1947, pp.361-62.

[57] "Tribune Gives Up on Spelling Crusade", in Accent section, Milwaukee Journal, Wed., Oct.1, 1975, p.3, cs 1-4; and Los Angeles Times, Tues., Sept.30, 1975, Pt.1, p.5, c.4.

[58] CDT, Tues., July 5, 1949, p.1, c.5; the dispatch was dated July 4. In addition to the Daily Graphic, the London newspapers were the Daily Mail and the Daily Express - the two others were not named (The Times was not one of them) - and those in Lancashire were the Liverpool Daily Post and the Manchester Guardian. The Tribune modification was that one changing such words as sophomore to sofomore and tariff to tarif. Vicini (1973), pp.41-2, had noted the Tribune news item.

[59] Daily Express, Mon., July 4, 1949, p.5, c.5 - from Express News Service; and Liverpool Daily Post, Mon., July 4, 1949, p.1, c.6; and London News Chronicle, Mon., July 4, 1949, p.4, c.2 - both from Reuters, this being one of the two unnamed London newspapers in the Tribune news story.

[60] The Manchester Guardian, Mon., July 4, 1949, p.5, c.6. "MISCELLANY: Spelling Reform in Chicago," The Manchester Guardian Weekly, Thurs., July 14, 1949, p.15 - not p.95, as given in some sources. Vicini (1973), p.43, referred to this commentary.


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