Spell Bites from the Spelling Progress Bulletins.

March 1964. G.B.S.
As an example he gave: "the kneeling knight thought he knew" which could be written with 17 letters instead of 30, because it has only 17 speech units. He went at great lengths to point out that not only is the saving of space important but also it is the saving of labor and time in writing each sentence that is equally as important.

Summer 1966.
From the Salisbury, Rhodesia Herald: A raw African working in a city building asked why the Europeans there who speak English need to use dictionaries. "I know my African language without using a dictionary," he said. He was very much surprised when told they were needed to be sure of the spelling as well as the pronunciation.

Winter 1966. R E Zachrisson.
Nearly 100 years ago, JACOB GRIMM, the world-famous philologist, expressed himself as follows on the chances of English as a world language: "When we consider its richness, intellectuality, and condensed adaptability, not one of all other living languages maybe placed at the side of English. Did not a whimsical, antiquated orthography stand in the way, the universality of this language would be still more evident."
[1785-1863. Jacob Grimm, German linguistics pioneer.
Encyclopædia Britannica 1961 article on J Grimm by Murray Fowler, Prof. of Linguistics, Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison.]

Spring 1967. Headmaster, William Reed.
English has about 40 speech sounds, but we have more than 500 different ways of spelling them. Our children surely have a right to something more scholarly than this....Scores of countries have reformed their spelling.

Summer 1967. In a book review.
[In 1948], in a letter to Prof. Daniel Jones, Bernard Shaw recalled this bit of evidence of the depth and extent of that prejudice and fear [of spelling reform].
"As to teaching children, I urged a Minister of Education to encourage them to spell phonemically, just as they speak, thus enabling the teacher to detect their mispronunciations and correct them. He replied that the merest hint of such heresy would banish him from public life. It is safer, nowaday, to be anti-Christ than anti-Johnson." [the dictionary-writer].

Summer 1968. Newell Tune in revew of John Downing book.
Actually, artificial phonetic alphabets for English have been suggested for as far back as 1551, when John Hart started writing a series of books on "the vices and faultes of our writing, which causes it to be tedious, and long in learnyng: and learned hard, and evill to read." This was followed by Sir Thomas Smithe, William Bullokar, James Elphinston, Alexander Gill, Charles Butler, Ben Jonson, Alexander Ellis, Sir Isaac Pitman, and many others including Benjamin Franklin.

Spring 1969. Ernest Horn, quoted in review of
How They Murdered the Second R, by George Riemer:
"Since Italian is a one-sound-one-symbol language, an Italian never has to spell his name to another Italian, whereas we seem always to be spelling our names to someone."

"Italian school children never have to buy a speller since spelling is not a subject in their curriculum (they spell by sound). By contrast, American children learning English must buy a speller every year from the 2nd grade through 6th grade and in some systems through 8th grade."

Fall 1970. Bartlett's Worthy Quotes:
N. W. Tune: Spelling is learning all the inconsistencies English wouldn't have if it was written fonetically.

Winter 1977. Harvie Barnard.
According to Samuel Clemens, [Mark Twain] "... the English alphabet is pure insanity...", "It can hardly spell any word in the language with any degree of certainty."

Summer 1978. Abraham Citron.
A professor of language has rightly called our spelling "the world's most awsome mess." (Mario Pei, 1965)

Summer 1979. Sydney J. Harris.
More than 50 years ago, when H. W. Fowler published his monumental Dictionary of Modern English Usage, which took the world by storm, he recommended a careful, piecemeal revision of our spelling system, which is so difficult for natives and nearly impossible for foreigners.

Summer 1979. Harvey Barnard.
According to Ralph D. Owen, Ph.D., Prof. Emeritus of Education, Temple Univ. (Philadelphia), "It takes our English-speaking child nearly three years to progress as far in reading as the Italian child does in one year."

The most eloquent appeal of all is offered by Mark Twain, (Samuel Clemens), in his essay on "Simplified Spelling" in his Letters from the Earth, [1] in which he sed, "But I appeal to you in behalf of the generations which are to follow you, ... age after age, cycle after cycle. I pray you, consider them and be generous. Lift this heavy burden (traditional spelling) from their backs. Do not send them toiling and moiling down the 20th century still bearing it, still oppressed by it ... I pray you, let the hieroglyphics (old spelling) go, and thus save millions of years of useless time and labor to fifty generations of posterity that are to follow you... This cost of time is much too expensive. It could be employed more usefully in other industries, and with better results."

Back to the top.