[See also: Chicago Tribune 1997, and articles by Burke Shipley.
Also on this page: Chicago Sunday Tribune, March 26, 1939 Chicago Tribune, September 24, 1939.]

Chicago Sunday Tribune, January 28, 1934 Part 1 - page 1, page 4.


Applies System to List of 2 Dozen.


THE TRIBUNE this week adds twenty-four words to a list of words which it long has spelled in a manner harmonizing with sane trends toward simpler spelling of the English language.

The new selections are:
advertisment for advertisement
analog for analogue
canceled for cancelled
catalog for catalogue
controled for controlled
controler for controller
cotilion for cotillion
decalog for decalogue
definitly for definitely
demagog for demagogue
dialog for dialogue
drouth for drought
extoled for extolled
fantom for phantom
fulfilment for fulfillment
harken for hearken
hocky for hockey
indefinitly for indefinitely
monolog for monologue
patroled for patrolled
pedagog for pedagogue
prolog for prologue
skilful for skillful
tranquility for tranquillity

In all except one of those words a more simplified spelling is attained not by changing a letter but by eliding one, or at most two, superfluous letters. Those letters are superfluous because they can be dropped without affecting the pronunciation of the words, without blurring their derivation, and without giving them a grotesque appearance.

List Purposely Limited.

The list is extremely limited, and it purposely was kept so. Readers are irked by sudden sweeping changes and by the immediate application of general rules, however logical, which would alter the spelling of hundreds of words, analogous in structure though those words are. In the simplification of English spelling it is as much a case of "here a little and there a little" as in the simplification of the law.

Among the reformed spellings recommended by the American Philological association and the Philological Society of England is "filosofy," but readers will not tolerate it as yet. The same readers accept "fantastic" without a pang. They forget that so recently as in the reign of Charles 1 - which in the annals of the building of the English language is, relatively speaking, not a long time ago - Jeremy Taylor, master of correct and beautiful English, spelled "fantastic" with "ph" instead of "f." But no responsible publication is willing as yet to demand that its readers accept "filosofy," although there are as good linguistic reasons for that change as there were for the change from "phantastick" to "fantastic." In short, in the matter of simpler spelling readers will not be hurried. Such sensible changes as "tho," "altho," and "thru" have not been generally accepted, and when they are used they exasperate many persons to the point of profanity.

Changes Are Analyzed.

The first word in today's list of simpler spellings seems an especially happy choice. Dropping the second "e" from "advertisement" does not give the word a barbarous appearance nor can the most punctillious reader claim it at all blurs its origin. Above all, the omission of that "e" helps to the correct pronunciation of a word often mispronounced even by cultivated persons. Few words in common use are indeed so often mispronounced. But with the second "e" gone even the untutored will be more likely to place to stress on the second syllable of "advertisment," which is where it belongs.

"Analog" and its, in a manner of speaking, companion words "catalog," "decalog," "dialog," "monolog" and "prolog" are based as to their final syllable on the Greek word "logos," although they convey various shadings of that word's meaning. The point, however, is that dropping the "ue" does not blur the Greek origin of the final syllable of the six words. The "ue" is their termination in French.

The abbreviation of those words is so sensible that, in the case of "catalog" and "monolog," it has become pretty familiar. There are two reasons for this. Commercial houses like "catalog," and some of them request that spelling in the advertis[e]ments they send to newspapers. And theatrical press agents have made the spelling "monolog" familiar by using it in the programs of entertainments.

Preferred by One Dictionary.

In Funk & Wagnalls' "Standard Dictionary" the preference is given to the shorter spelling of the six "log" words just cited.

In shortening "demagogue" to "demagog" and "pedagogue" to "pedagog" the French termination "ue," which the English language took over, is thrown away, as in the case of "analog," etc.

The loving student of word derivations may object that the "ue" recalls the "us" with which "pædagogus" ends in Latin and that the "us" recalls the "os" with which "paidagogos" ends in Greek. That loving student may contend - and rightly - that if we throw away the "ue" we have lost one link in the chain which connects us with the Greek word "agogos" - meaning "leading" and that we therefore have blurred the interesting origins of the word "pedagogue" - leader of a boy, a teacher - and of the word "demagogue" - leader of the people and, in the original sense, a not ignoble leader.

But, in spelling, love has to yield to practicality. The surrender sometimes takes ages but convenience and common sense finally compel it. The trend of our time is to yield to "demagog" and "pedagog."

It was once a barbarism to spell "traveler" with one "l." That day has passed. The trend is now the other way. There is no more reason for the spelling "controller" than there is for the spelling "traveller." Hence THE TRIBUNE adopts "controler" and, as a natural sequence, "controled."

Cuts Out Extra "l."

Of equal value as steps toward a general scheme of simplification that sooner or later will, so THE TRIBUNE firmly believes, be adopted, this newspaper now ventures to try out "canceled," "extoled," "fulfilment," "patroled," "skilful," and "tranquility." In no instance does this dropping of an "l" change the pronunciation of the words, nor does it in THE TRIBUNE's simplification of "cotillion" to "cotilion."

"Definitly" for "definitely" means only the dropping of an unneeded and unsounded "e" and has the practical advantage of saving the foreigner new to the English language from giving the third syllable, "nit," the sound of "night" as he easily can.

"Harken" for "hearken" - to the longer spelling of which the latest Webster still clings - is so obviously sensible a change from THE TRIBUNE's former adherence to the Webster spelling that it requires no defense.

Origin of Word "Hockey."

The word "hockey" may be derived from the Old French "hoquet," meaning a shepherd's crook, or from the English word hook. If "hockey" is from the French word its aspect has been so changed that the elimination of the "e" cannot be considered an etymological crime. If it is from "hook" there is indirect warrant for dropping the "e" in the fact that the word meaning to play truant and also meaning full of hooks is spelled in Webster "hooky."

In support of its adoption of "drouth" in place of "drought" THE TRIBUNE cites the fact that most persons use the pronunciation indicated by the first - and simpler - spelling.

The adoption of "fantom" for "phantom" is not so revolutionary a change as some of our readers may think. It is really a return to an earlier English spelling. Five hundred years ago Chaucer and Gower were spelling the word with an "f" instead of with "ph." So, later, did Wyclif, Evelyn, and Addison spell it. But a better reason for the change is that it is in harmony with the trend that has changed "phantasy" to "fantasy."

Traced Back to Greek.

Both "fantom," which is preferred by the "Standard Dictionary," and "fantasy" can be traced back to the Greek word "phaos," meaning light, and might today as properly retain the "ph" as "philosophy" does. But the English speaking world, which thinks "filosofy" looks funny, sees nothing funny in the spelling "fantasy." To that spelling it has become accustomed. To "fancies," which also can be traced back to the same Greek root as "fantasy," we are so thoroughly accustomed that we can hardly believe there was a time when English writers spelled it "phancies." "Fantom" is therefore no grotesquerie - for that word, by the way, Webster prefers the simpler spelling "grotesquery" - but is a rational following of the trends of English spelling.

And now let the Voice of the People rage.

Copyright 1934, The Chicago Tribune

Chicago Sunday Tribune, March 26, 1939 Part 1 - page 16.


From time to time in the last five years we have yerned to leven this page by tossing a couple of well waranted editorial missils at cotilions. Unfortunately the young ladies of the society department have provided scarcely a crum of news upon which to feed the editorial quil and not even the most skilful of writers can operate without at least a bagatel to work on. Accordingly we have been obliged to direct our attention to such matters as tarifs, etiquet, sherifs, and drouths. Occasionally we have noted derths [though not of bailifs, burocracy, or tonsilitis] and there are no doubt many subscribers who can recall our lacrimose observations about pedagogs.

For seven hundred years English spelling has been an unspeakable offense against common sense. No one who is really fond of children can approve it. From time to time humanitarians have attempted to do something about it, but without success. Five years ago this February 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. Even the staf was agast.

We gave our simplified spelling the best kind of a start. The task of choosing the words was entrusted to the greatly beloved and scholarly James O'Donnell Bennett. He chose his words wisely and well. He presented them in small and, as we thought, palatable doses. Every one of his improved spellings had its etymological justification. There was rime and reason for every alteration.

And yet we were deluged with protests. We stood our ground. We defended our course in the columns of this journal. We wrote letters to Indignant Subscriber, carefully explaining why herse was an improvement on hearse and hefer on heifer. We demonstrated beyond possibility of doubt that spelling is arbitrary and we argued that it might be better intelligently arbitrary than unintelligently so. 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.

A few of our readers, to be sure, wrote, as one of them said, to thanc us, and he didn't mean to be funny. After a while the uproar died down, but from time to time it has flared anew. We were not distraut and stood pat except on iland and we dropped that because we couldn't convince ourselves that it was something surrounded by water; it always looked like something bounding across the veldt.

We stood pat for five years [the list as published in an adjoining column was completed on March 25, 1934], but now we cannot overlook the obvious fact that everybody except us continues to write heifer and leather and that goes for those who applauded as well as those who cursed the innovations.

We have stood for a good deal of lether lunged laughter in our bailiwic, but we've got an intern in the house and we can take it. What's more, we can take it with tranquility.


Following is the list of simplified spellings which THE TRIBUNE has employed during the last five years.


Copyright 1939, The Chicago Tribune

Chicago Tribune, September 24, 1939


A few weeks ago readers of THE TRIBUNE were asked whether they would approve the spellings, thru, altho, and tho. By an oversight, thoro was not mentioned.

A good many letters were received and almost all of them were favorable to the changes. Accordingly, we propose to adopt the simplified forms, including thoro, beginning Oct. 15, and we shall carry the new spelling into derived words like thoroly and into compound words like thorobred, thorogoing, and thruout.

It is now five years since THE TRIBUNE adopted eighty simplified spellings. The experiment has been instructive. Certain changes appear to have been welcome. Decalog, dialog, and kindred spellings have been widely adopted. Others like tarif and sherif, have been resisted. As Mr. James O'Donnell Bennett showed, when he prepared the list of simplifications, the double f in these words has no warant [bear up for just a few moments] in etymology or common sense. In spite of our excellent example, people have continued to write sheriff and tariff or sherrif and tarrif and seemed determined to go on with this nonsense indefinitly [hold everything]. They will have no trafic [steady, men!] with the improved forms. They regard the insanities of English spelling as their bailiwic [whoops!] and, in a word, they stand agast.

Last April we decided to abandon some of the simplified forms, including aile, bailif, bazar, crum, lether, staf and twenty-seven others, not because we didn't like them but because they weren't being accepted by others. We said then that we would reexamine the list from time to time. Accordingly, we have decided to adopt tho, altho, thru, thoro, and thoroly. At the same time we are abandoning agast, bailif, bailiwic, definitly, indefinitly, sherif, trafic, tarif, and warant. Though we are saying farewell to definitly we are keeping genuinly as a ewe lamb.

The complete list of simplifications which will remain in use follows:


We shall always be glad to receive comments and suggestions from readers who may wish to see the list lengthened or shortened.

Copyright 1939, The Chicago Tribune

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