[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, 1988/1 p33-36 later designated J7]
[Also on this page: Ayb Citron, Shakespeare, Dickens, Hoban, Rooten, Literature received.]
[See Journal and Newsletter articles by Stanley Gibbs.]

1971/72 New Spelling Amendments.

Stanley Gibbs.

Sometimes I have noticed the 1948 and 1956 versions of Nue Speling quoted in the Society's correspondence. In fact during 1971-72 some important 5 amendments were made, and the Nue Speling as amended is the official policy for the Society until our revised version is officially approved. All of these amendments were designed and proposed by Herbert Wilkinson. The amendments are:

Resolutions II 1971.
1. <dh> to be removed, <th> to represent <th> in both that, thick etc.
2. <oo-uu> to be reversed, thus guud food, fuul moon etc.
3. Alternativs aafter/after, baath/bath to hav a singl <a>: after, bath, pas, gras etc.

4. Replace ue, uer, ueth, Uel, uerself by yoo, yoor, yooth, Yool, yoorsey. But u to be used for you (yoo = yew).
5. For children, a ligature to be inserted during the learning stage only: consonants <ch, sh, thin, this, wh, zh, ng>, vowels <aa, ae, ee, oe, oo, ie, oi, ou, ue, nu>.

Resolutions III 1972
1. Double <r> to follow the five short vowels (formerly restricted to <arr, orr, urr>. Thus karri, horrible, hurri, and now also cherri, lirrik etc.
(Note: the idea was to make a tidy rule: all five short vowels have a following <r> doubled: <arr, err, irr, orr, urr, - SG)
2. Adoption of <o> for the long sound at the end of words: tomato, kaliko etc.
3. Adoption of wur insted of wer, to line up with hur, sur, fur, stur, blur etc; thus eliminating wer as a wordsign.

[See Journal, Newsletter, Anthology and SPB articles, by Ayb Citron.

English Spelling, the Underclass, and the Distribution of Power.

Ayb Citron.

Ayb Citron is Exec. Dir. of BEtSS Better Education thru Simpl. Spelling.

A miserable inefficient English spelling system designed with a foreign alphabet in feudal eras for leisure classes, and used today in technological societies, constitutes an extreme case of cultural lag.

Spelling reform, brushed aside by the academic establishment, has been identified, when thought of at all, as a matter of pedagogy, as a debate in curriculum, or low-priority discussion in psycholinguistics.

However, the use of writing over its six-thousand year history reveals a clear trend-it spreads from use by a privileged few to wider usage by additional groups and classes. Furthermore, this history shows that, in general, those who use writing, whether nations, classes, or individuals, possess more power than those who do not.

Our own culture is now moving into a post-modern, computerized, information-processing, service-centered economy which demands higher levels of literacy than ever before. It is at this point that our educational institutions, despite remedial programs, are failing to reduce the number of illiterates in the population.

Illiterates and functional illiterates are especially helpless in the complex and technical society around them: they form an increasingly large sub-group characterized by multiple problems and constituting a relatively unyielding underclass.

The support of this tenacious and slowly multiplying group, costly in all social services, is felt as a growing burden by the other sectors of the economy.

A direct approach to this problem, which would be effective in radically reducing it, is a rationalized spelling system, with an emphasis on pre-school education and a re-emphasis on basic skills in the primary grades. The key element here is a reformed, rationalized spelling system along phonetic lines. This will mean the continuation of the wider distribution of power thru the wider distribution of literacy.

Further, a rationalized spelling system will improve the writing and reading skills of all Americans, and will stimulate greater productivity and vigor in the total economy.

Thus, the issue of spelling reform should be seen as Promethean, as an effort to meet the crisis in our society by the transmission to wider groups in our population of the means to power.

Spelling reform is not a mere 'matter of curriculum', it is an issue of the re-distribution of power.

A Literary Potpourri.

How do you spell Shakespeare?

William Shakespeare. The Complete Works: Original Spelling Edition edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor, Oxford, 1456pp. £75, ISBN 0 19 812919X.

Opponents of spelling reform often claim that reform would make English literature inaccessible if the great works were not reprinted in the new spelling, or it would prevent them being appreciated, because their present appeal is inseparable from the 20th century spelling in which they are now usually read. These objections can be countered with observations such as: no spelling reform could be introduced that made existing texts unreadable; spelling reform is designed to make reading (and especially learning to read) easier, so literary works would become more accessible; older works are today already read in 'reformed' (or at least, modernised) spelling, so their appeal for modern readers hardly depends on the spelling; and we do not read them in the spelling intended by the author. But although the objections are clearly unfounded, the question of how to spell modem editions of old texts is serious, and one that spelling reformers cannot ignore.

A useful discussion of some of the technical issues involved appeared on 21 May 1987 the London Review of Books, with a review article by Frank Kermode entitled 'How do you spell Shakespeare?'. It discussed the orthographical problems facing the editors of the new Original Spelling Edition of Shakespeare (bibliographical details above). We here summarise those points that may have implications for the future reform of English spelling.

For nearly 40 years the merits of original spelling editions of Shakespeare have been debated. Arguments in favour of such editions are that modern spelling seriously misrepresents Elizabethan English, it can destroy rhymes, and (despite distortions introduced by printers) the 'original' spelling may show what the author actually wrote. Against that, it has been objected that, as errors in the original sometimes have to be corrected, the new edition would not all be genuinely original; the 'original' spelling was not Shakespeare's own spelling anyway, but that of copyists, printers and proofreaders; if the purpose is to give the text an Elizabethan flavour, it is not a flavour the Elizabethans themselves would have been aware of, as for them it seemed as normal as modern spelling does to us; and photographic copies of original editions are anyway more reliable than newly typeset editions; a better alternative is the Hinman edition of Shakespeare, consisting of facsimiles of the best surviving copy of each page of the First Folio, and thus superior to any single original volume. Even so, printing-house practices and compositors' vagaries still represent a largely unexplored minefield of typographical variation.

The editor of the new edition, Professor Stanley Wells, wrote the best account of the problems of modernising Shakespeare's spelling in 1979. One difficulty in recreating 'original' spellings is that of 'silent alteration'. For example, in Antony and Cleopatra, the original edition has the phrase pannelled me at heeles, but later it was realised that pannelled made no sense, and that Shakespeare must have intended spanieled. However an earlier original spelling edition used the older form spannell'd, thinking it more appropriate than modem spanieled, but this was mere conjecture. So which spelling should a new 'original' edition use? Likewise in Henry V the Folio has table when the meaning suggests babbled, but Elizabethans would probably have written babeld; so again, which form is now appropriate? Then there are differences between the Quarto and Folio editions of King Lear - the former has roges for the latter's rogues; so which should now be adopted?

The original spelling edition contains an essay by Vivian Salmon on 'The Spelling and Punctuation of Shakespeare's Time'. It seems that both Shakespeare himself and his compositors were very fanciful in their spellings: the latter added letters to fill lines, and substituted letters for those they had temporarily run out of. Furthermore they sometimes worked from transcribed text, and proofreaders may have introduced further variants.

Frank Kermode ends his article by doubting whether original-spelling editions have any significant advantage over facsimile editions.

Can we draw any lessons this analysis for the treatment of literature in a putative reformed English orthography? The chronological gap in the case of Shakespeare is some four centuries, but with writing only one or two centuries old the problem does not now arise in anything like so acute a form: the Nonsuch edition of Jonathan Swift's works from the early eighteenth century preserves his spellings, creating a faintly antiquated flavour but scarcely distracting the reader. But how would it be if editions of novels that were written just twenty years ago appeared to young readers as strange as Elizabethan spelling does to us now? Several considerations may lead us to suppose that no real problem would arise. One is that people would easily become accustomed to the alternative orthographies (in Jugoslavia people read both the Roman and Cyrillic alphabets without difficulty). Another is that it is largely the more skilled readers who would wish to read texts more than a few days old. A third consideration, as already mentioned, is precisely that the essential criterion for a Stage I reform is that it should not appear too radical. A fourth point: objectors often imply the expense of retypesetting and reprinting would be prohibitive, but unreformed reprints could always be allowed, and with computerised typesetting, the changeover need not be expensive anyway. In short, although spelling reform would give rise to some tantalising dilemmas for the editors of literary reprints, the fears so often expressed by readers of the classics would appear unfounded.

Charles Dickens: from The Pickwick Papers.

From Chapter XXXIV. First published in book form 1837.

The following slightly abridged and linguistically almost surrealistic excerpt of dialogue from the trial scene in Dickens' The Pickwick Papers is based on the confusion of /v, w/ that was characteristic of Cockney English in the nineteenth century. Readers may like to ponder the logic of Sam Weller saying he spells his name with <v>, which his father (the voice in the gallery) pronounces as we, although he calls his son Samivel.

"What's your name, sir?" inquired the judge.
"Sam Weller, my lord," replied that gentleman.
"Do you spell it with a 'V' or with a 'W'?"
"That depends upon the taste and fancy of the speller," replied Sam; "I never had occasion to spell it more than once or twice in my life, but I spells it with a 'V'."
Here a voice in the gallery exclaimed, "Quite right too, Samivel. Put it down a we, my lord, put it down a we."

Russell Hoban: Riddley Walker.

London: (Jonathan Cape, 1980) Picador, 1982, 214 pp., E3.50, ISBN 0-330-26645-4

This remarkable novel is set in a primitive community some 3,000 years after a holocaust has devastated civilised life. English has undergone significant changes in pronunciation, vocabulary, syntax and spelling. The latter has a strong resemblance to Cut Spelling, with forms like: shel, tel, wel, stil, til, wil, ar, wer, befor, mor, candl, litti, rniddl, tho, thot, thru, yung, yu, cud, suddn, hart, reddy, lissen aftrwds, chyld, dryd, dy, fynd, hy, kynd, lyk, mynd, myt, shyn, sylent, guyd. Final consonant strings ar reduced, as in las, groun for last, ground; and the past tense of verbs inflects with <-t> rather than <-d>, e.g. kilt for killed.

Russell Hoban writes: "Years ago I read ... Voices in the Dust by Gerald Kersh. In... the future ruins of London little humanoids about three feet high ... sing corrupted versions of old songs such as Who Killed Cock Robin?:

Ookil 'karabin
Isapara mibanara
Ikil 'karabin Ikil 'karabin
Ookil 'karabin Ookil 'karabin
I found this language distortion very beguiling... I began Riddley Walker in perfectly straight English but early on there began to be very limited language corruption... and various neologisms creeping in. As this began to spread I recognized that it was perfectly natural... In developing my vernacular I trusted my ear which being an American ear has in it the sound of black vernacular and that of the Appalachian hillbillies."

Here is the opening of Riddley Walker:
"On my naming day when I come 12 1 gone front spear and kilt a wyld boar he parbly ben the las wyld pig on the Bundel Downs any how there hadnt ben none for a long time befor him nor I aint looking to see none agen. He dint make the groun shake nor nothing Ue that when he come on to my spear he wernt all that big plus he lookit poorly. He done the reqwyrd he ternt and stood and clattert his teef and made his rush and there we wer then. Him on I end of the spear kicking his life out and me on the other end watching him dy. I said, 'Your tern now my tern later.' The other spears gone in then and he wer dead and the steam coming up off him in the rain and we all yelt, 'Offert!'

The woal thing fealt jus that littl bit stupid. Us running that boar thru that las littl scrump of woodling with the forms all roun. Cows mooing sheap baaing cocks crowing and us foraging our las boar in a thin grey girzel on the day I come a man."

Luis d'Antin van Rooten: Mots d'Heures: Gousses, Rames

London: Angus & Robertson 1968

This collection of 40 very short poems (from which we reprint one below), apparently in French and garnished with elaborate pseudo-annotations, will totally mystify French readers; on the other hand, English-speaking readers able to pronounce French spelling may gradually realise that the language is in fact somewhat nearer to home... Permission to reproduce this version of a famous nursery, or 'Mother Goose', rhyme has been granted by Angus & Robertson (UK).

Chacun Gille [l]
Houer ne taupe de hile [2]
Tôt-fait, j'appelle au boiteur [3]
Chaque fêle dans un broc [4] est-ce crosne? [5]
Un Gille qu'aime tant berline à fetard. [6]
[1] Gille is a stock character in medieval plays, usually a fool or country bumpkin.
[2] While hoeing he uncovers a mole and part of a seed.
[3] Quickly finished I call to the limping man that
[4] Every pitcher has a crack in it. If a philosophy or moral is intended, it is very obscure.
[5] "Is it a Chinese cabbage?" It is to be assumed that he refers to the seed he found.
[6] At any rate he loves a life of pleasure and a carriage.

Spelling Curiosities.

Fride Souls

On 15.5.1987 the Times Literary Supplement reviewed Ruth Perry's The Celebrated Mary Astell, the biography of an early English feminist, quoting the following from an 18th century luncheon menu: "Fride souls, I more hen, salid, stude frute and brill creem."


On 15.10.1987 the Duchess of York, known to the press as Fergie, visited the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham, on her birthday. The Birmingham Daily News reported: "Royal birthday-cake makers were left red-faced when one cake read Happy Birthday FURGIE." Embarrassed; trainee chef Gillian M.... 17, admitted she had no idea she had made a spelling gaff. 'It was not my fault. I asked the pastry chef where I work, and he told me how to spell it.'"


Spelling variation in words not originally written in the roman alphabet has long been a feature of English. Collins Dictionary gives 4 forms for the Chinese fruit lichee, lichi, litchi, lychee, and a recent catalogue of microfiche reprints of 19th century writings on linguistics includes these spellings of language-names: Arabaic, Asante, Bengalee Bengali - 1821), Burman, Cingalese (1821; Singhalese - 1830), Eskimaux, Goojurattee, Haussa (1843; Hausa - 1877), Hindee, Hindoostanee (1829; Hindustani - same author 1831), Kafir, Kisuaheli,Manks, Mosambique, Sanscrit, Suahili (1882; Swahili - 1884), Teloogoo (1821; Telugu, 1852), T'hai. We note that the later forms tend to adopt international values for long vowels in place of the eccentric traditional English <ee, oo>, as when Hindoostanee became Hindustani.


Certain groups of English words have been prone to shortening, thus in the days of sail bosun (boatswain), cox, (cockswain), fo'c's'le (forecastle), gunnel (gunwale), (1815; sou'wester (southwester). In this century widely used technical and scientific innovations have also been shortened, initially sometimes with an apostrophe: bus (omnibus,'bus), kilo (kilogram/-gramme), phone (telephone), photo (photograph), plane (aeroplane, airplane), pram (perambulator), pub (public house). The electronic age seems to be producing a group of its own: bit (binary digit, cf. pram), fax (facsimile, cf. cox), tele (or telly? cf. kilo, colloquial still for television, but for how long?).

JSSS 7 1988/1: Literature Received.

English Today (October 1987, January 1988).

Spelling Action (1986 April-June) from the Australian Spelling Action Society, 2 copies. Spare copy and back numbers will be sent to any reader on receipt of S.A.A4-E.

Journal of Research in Reading, Vol.10, No.2 (September 1987) for UKRA.

UK i.t.a. Federation Newsletter, Summer 1987, Autumn 1987.

Evidence Submitted to the Committee of Inquiry into the Teaching of English. Language by the United Kingdom Initial Teaching Alphabet Federation. Liaisons-Heso, September 1986 for AIROE, Paris.

Aspects of Adult Literacy, Proceedings of a Symposium on Adult Literacy held at the University of York July 1984, Goethe-Institut ed. Carl Faulmann Das Buch der Schrift, Vienna lst ed. 1880, reprinted Nördlingen: Franz Greno, 1985.

Joy Elise Melvin Spelling Reform: Inevitable or Impossible? Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts at the University of Kentucky, 1987.

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