[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J31, 2002/2, pp25-26]
[Also on this page: Tribute to Laurence Fennelly.
[James Pitman: see Anthology, Bulletins]
[G.B. Shaw and the Shaw alfabet: see Journals, Newsletters, Bulletins.]

Introduction to Shaw's Alfabet.

Sir James Pitman.

Excerpts from Sir James Pitman's Introduction to
the Shaw edition of Androcles and the Lion. p. 12-15

With the Shaw edition of Penguin Books Androcles and the Lion, you have both the traditional writing system and the Shavian transcriptions on facing pages. [Amazon price about $10]
Shaw, Quickscript, PMF, Readscript Why should anyone wish to use (the Shaw alphabet)'? And why should there be any departure from the familiar forms of the Roman alphabet in which English is printed and written?

The characters themselves are very distinct. To prove them more legible, open the book and hold it upside down in front of a mirror.

The economy in space and greater simplicity of characters ought also to increase the speed and ease of writing - even more than it does the ease of reading. Many of the characters easily join into pairs; the sounds of the language are completely characterized, thus permitting abbreviation with great reliability.

Shaw found traditional script too laborious, and Pitman's shorthand too economical.

Though at this time we can only guess, it is probable that an abbreviated handwriting speed of 60-100 words a minute, with complete reliability of reading, will be possible for those who attain 'automatic' facility with Shaw's alphabet. In other words, reading may be 50-75 per cent, and writing 80-100 per cent faster, and even 200-300 per cent, by using simple abbreviations.

Shaw insisted that, unless his alphabet were to offer the substantial advantages he himself desired, there would be no reason for adding to the existing media of communication, which include: typewriting, shorthand, morse, semaphore, and braille, in addition to the Roman alphabet which is itself represented by three quite different sets of signs (as in ALPHABET, alphabet, alphabet) Upper case, lowercase, italic.

Although this means starting from scratch, remember that Isaac Pitman, whose shorthand Shaw used for all his writings, also did so with a system offering the same advantages as Shaw's alphabet: that is, the saving of time, effort, and money.

Sir James Pitman teaches 4 boys.
Sir James Pitman teaches 4 boys
the i.t.a. spelling of "ies creem"
Shaw did not want you and me to abandon the Roman alphabet. The long-established Roman figures (I,II,III,IV,V,VI,VII,VIII,IX) remain even after the Arabic figures (the newer and handier 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9) have found favour. We now use both, with greater convenience. The new figures were not imposed, nor the old supplanted. Similarly, Shaw believed, uses would be found for a new and handier alphabet without abandoning the old one.

If those who tried it found it advantageous, they would use it, and by it would gain what following it deserved. If its benefits were substantial enough, it would spread and establish itself through merit - as Arabic numerals did despite the then complete satisfaction with Roman numerals.

Utilitarian advantage is thus the principle governing the new alphabet. Shaw was unique in pointing out that substantial economy could be attained only (a) if the designer were to depart from a system evolved by the Romans 2,000 years ago for carving their public notices in stone; (b) if a single set of alphabetical characters were used - abolishing the different look of words in capitals, small letters, and linked handwritten letters; and (c) if each distinct sound of the language were spelt with its own unvarying character.

These three factors in designing, taken together, made a non-Roman alphabet essential. Of course, there is nothing revolutionary in that. There are hundreds of non-Roman alphabets - and there are several variations within the Roman alphabet,

HERE IS A SENTENCE, here is a sentence,
hir iz a sentens, here is a sentence
(Greek) ηρ ισ α σεντενσ (Russian) ИP ИC a CeHTeHC

Thus these four English words may already be represented in a number of existing alphabets. Those who know Greek and English, Russian and English, etc., will have no difficulty in reading that sentence immediately in as many alphabets as they know - and it is considered at school that once a child has learned his A, B, C, D, he is well placed to learn also his a,b,c,d, his a, b, c, d, his α, β, Γ, δ, [Greek] and his A, б, Г, д. (Russian].

Shorthand scripts

President of the SSS
In personal and intimate writing the forty-eight (40+8) characters of the Shaw alphabet may faithfully portray the pronunciation of the individual; but, as Shaw pointed out, too eccentric a dialect may hamper, and even destroy, effective communication. He considered that, though there was no need to standardize writing if not intended for publication, there was every need for conformity in print; standard spellings being particularly desirable when that print is intended for circulation throughout the English-speaking world.

In his Will, Shaw specified just such a standardization for this play. He laid down for it a 'pronunciation to resemble that recorded of His Majesty our late King George V and sometimes described as Northern English'. He was an expert in stage direction and, so it may be supposed, considered this pronunciation to be the best basis for comprehension with acceptability in reading as he had found it to be in speech from the stage.

But by all means write as you think fit, and leave experts to standardize printers' spelling.


Tribute to Laurence Raymond Fennelly, 1926-2002.

Lawrence "Laurie" Fennelly died in January 2002 at the age of 85. Laurie joined the Spelling Society in the 1966 and served as its treasurer from 1985 to 1987. From 1987 to 1991, he was the secretary of the Spelling Society.

Laurie was the leader of the working party on New Spelling 90 and wrote the NS90 leaflet and Pamflet 12 NS90.

NS90 continues to be one of the favorite alternative writing systems among society members. I recall favorable comments from Ron Footer and Ian Hunter. Ron is now a proponent of RITE, a writing system with more exception rules and a closer correspondence to T.O.

Laurie joined SSS in the 1966 and he may have joined the committee earlier than our current information. He was the author of two journal articles: "Revision of "New Spelling'," J1 Autm 1985 pp 3-4 and "Revised New Spelling - The Position in 1987," 1987/3, pp. 14-16. One of the basic changes was the use of Y for the new spelling <ie>.

Chris Upward wrote about Laurie in January, "He was, I think one can say, the SSSs most active orthografr in th late 1980s, producing th 'New Spelling 90' pamflet, and I found my argumnts with him then most stimulating."

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