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How did things get this ridiculous?

  English in Shakespeare's day was fluid, with no fixed 'correct' spellings for words.   You could spell a word virtually how you liked.   In fact, there were 41 spellings of Shakespeare's name in his day.  But he only used 5 variations!  In the 17th century, when the printing press was introduced, printers fixed most of the spellings we now consider correct, but they gave little thought to making the spelling consistent (for example receive but relieve, speak but speech).
Most of our irregular spellings come from the first modern English bible.   It was illegal in 1526 to possess or print an English bible (they had to be in Latin) so the first English bible was printed in Germany.   Most of the type setters who arranged the letters in the press knew no English - imagine yourself type-setting a German bible without knowing a word of German from a hand-written copy!
English people bought that bible - often the first book they had ever possessed.   So they learned to read from it and to write from it too, copying and learning the spelling mistakes it contained!  This gradually made many English spellings very weird.
How silly is that - our dictionaries say we must still use those spelling mistakes and we are corrected and even laughed at when we use more logical spellings?
Read on ... there is more stupidity to follow.
© SSS. updated 2006.02.24    The Simplified Spelling Society