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To be or not 2b, or is a donut holesome?

By jardinier ·
While the author of this article appears to be enraptured by his own verbosity, I find it quite amusing and food for an entertaining or even meaningful discussion.

The Guardian, November 7, 2006

A million fingers tapping out text messages might have started a revolution, writes Simon Jenkins.

THANK you, Scotland. First John Knox, then the Enlightenment and now the Scottish Qualifications Authority. In a direct challenge to the English at their most reactionary, the authority has declared that it will accept text-messaging short forms in school examinations.

The dark riders of archaism will protest and the backwoods will howl. No spell is cast as dire as spellcheck. But the champions of reason are massing.

It is silly to regard doughnut as "better" than donut. The same goes for alternatives to night, through, colour and wholesome.

When Noah Webster invented American spelling, he left British English immured in bigotry. He chided "even well-bred people and scholars for surrendering their right of private judgement to literary governors". To Americans, spelling reform was the sovereignty of common sense. For that reason the British treated it as foreign, vulgar and, worst of all, American.

I have no quarrel with grammatical authoritarianism. Grammar is a vehicle that needs a highway code of human communication. To parse is to prosper. Grammar evolves to reflect the new uses that language requires of it, as dictionaries include new words. Adverbs and adjectives fight the good fight against poverty-stricken nouns and verbs. Prepositions and conjunctions are hurled into the fray. A controversial time is had by all.

In contrast, spelling has become a no-go area, an intellectual tundra. While plain writing is considered a stylistic virtue, plain spelling is a vice. English orthography is an edifice of unreason. Word endings are the last gasp of the Anglo-Saxon and Norman invasions, embedded in the cultural DNA of literary Brahmins.

Not to spell properly is a sign of being common, as once was ignorance of Latin. Knowing your "ie" from "ei" or "-ible" from "-able" does not affect a word's meaning one jot. It is a caste mark, its distinction deriving from its very obscurity.

Students of English are driven to distraction by its spelling. Britons ridicule the French for their rule-based language, but at least they have a scholarly academy to discuss and approve (or resist) reform. While English adapts its vocabulary to circumstance, it has no way of adapting its spelling. Every time I write "cough", "bough", "through" and "thorough "(not to mention "write"), I think of the teeming millions of students who ask their teachers: why? There is no answer.

The dogmatism of English orthography is a bond of lexicological freemasonry a conspiracy against the laity. Orwell rightly associated such dogma with totalitarianism. Wrong is right, as in war is peace. In Shakespeare's day authors conveyed the clearest of messages with random spelling, even of Shakespeare's own name.
As David Crystal points out in The Fight for English, not until the 18th century was Chesterfield able to chastise his son on his poor spelling, warning that: "I know a man of quality who never recovered the ridicule of having spelled wholesome without the W."

Orthographical purity is perpetually under strain. Crystal estimates that the Oxford Dictionary gives alternate spellings for some 25 per cent of words at some time in history. "Hence the notion of standard spelling needs to be taken with a huge pinch of salt." Yet propose that "colour" be spelt "color" and it is like burning the flag.

When George Bernard Shaw, leading champion of a simplified alphabet (or alfabet) was censored for writing "shant", he asked why "shan't" and not the more accurate "sha'n't". He said of most apostrophes: "There is not the faintest reason for persisting in the ugly and silly trick of peppering pages with these uncouth bacilli."

He was right in claiming that archaic spellings were maintained to keep the poor illiterate, but wrong to think that they would impede the spread of English as a world language.

Spelling is the last fig leaf of empire, the last bastion of nanny (or Lynne Truss) knows best. It is stuck in the tramlines of the past, and nobody thinks straight on the subject.

Reform has seen many false dawns. Some hoped for a breakthrough with the telegram. But by charging for words, not characters, the Post Office dropped this pass. Isaac Pitman created a new English script with shorthand, but its boycott by teachers and restriction to a servile class of secretaries and journalists stamped it as a manual skill.

The same applied to stenography.

Another opportunity came with the qwerty keyboard. Designed to avoid the jamming of mechanical arms, it was a golden opportunity for simplified spelling. Yet even when electronic keyboards ended the jamming problem, nobody thought to reform the qwerty layout or spelling with it.

Most English words are twice as long as they need to be, staggering under a weight of unvoiced vowels and consonants surplus to requirements. Computer users may be hard-wired to qwerty, but millions still plod across the keyboard searching with single-finger typing. Thousands are disabled by repetitive stress injuries.

Can texting finally spur revolution? Young people have evolved both a new script and a cost-effective reason for using it. They are breaking free of spelling dogma and expanding the alphabet with emoticons. Texting is the shorthand of the computer age. It is concise, cutting through the verbal jargon by which the professional classes seek to exclude the less educated.

The Txtr's A-Z, a dictionary compiled by Andrew John, points out that mobile texting literally puts a price on waffle, while "ingenious abbreviations have been contrived to capture a vaguely philosophical thought, a loving sentiment or a beautifully crafted obscenity". He describes what is a chaotic literary pidgin.

The Scottish examiners are adamant that they are not rewarding text spelling, since there will be no marks for it, only for accuracy of meaning. Pupils will be credited for quoting "2b or not 2b" but will get higher marks if they spell it conventionally. That they should be penalised for an offence that Shakespeare himself committed is strange. Surely pupils are saving paper and helping examiners by their brevity. But all change must start somewhere.

Already a million fingers are tapping out a revolution. The Scots are showing the way.

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Would this be the application, then

by gadgetgirl In reply to To be or not 2b, or is a ...

of a form of antidisestablishmentarianism ??


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Try this one

by jardinier In reply to Would this be the applica ...

Hint. It relates to a breakfast menu.


And it came from my father, who was a Pom.

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oldie but goodie, Jules!

by gadgetgirl In reply to Try this one

that was in a 2 Ronnies sketch, either just before or just after the 4 Candles one....

C? I'm not such an ID 10 T as U 1st thort.

(I find it almost impossible to spell things wrong intentionally, tho'!!)


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Much older than that

by jardinier In reply to Here's the script

My Dad died in 1973 -- the year before that Ronnies sketch.

But it would be about 50 years ago that my Dad first told it.

And I am sure you all know this one:

11was a racehorse

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Hmmmmm. Thoughts of a pedant

by neilb@uk In reply to To be or not 2b, or is a ...

Take a simple word - colour. So, we relax the spelling rules (what's this 'we' crap, you relax the spelling rules) and we have to allow all and everything that is remotely interpretable as colour. The colour/color debate has been with us a while but to accept color into our English, we have to accept colure, colur, coulour... If we start down this slippery, lazy slope, where can we stop? Well, logically we can't.

Cellphone/Mobile Text is what it is because of the mobile phone's keypad and is typed - if that is the word - with the thumb. There's no reason whatsoever to allow it in exams just because you can - and the "kiddies" like it. There is no reason why a student cannot use the full English language unless we are dealing with someone with a major disability. Given that communication of ideas is argually as important as those ideas themselves, I would have thought that rewarding those who choose to aim their argument at a very limited subset of the reading population is very counter-productive if your aim is education.

"By all means, change must start somewhere" - Why? What change? Who is going to be the arbiter of what level of change is acceptable? The young? You?

Me? I'm OK with English as it is.


p.s. I do regard doughnut as better than donut. Our spelling tells what the f*cking thing is made of! Bad, bad example...

Bring on the Pilsbury Do Boy? I don't think so.

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Good point but I think you spelt it incorrectly

by drowningnotwaving In reply to Hmmmmm. Thoughts of a ped ...

its spelt culla, u ful.

{Sorry I haven't found them smiley-gadgets. Just a salesman. No hope at all.}

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Smileys and stuff

by neilb@uk In reply to Good point but I think yo ...

One gotcha is that where the smiley page shows a capital 'o', you should substitute a zero.

I expect to see your future posts suitably adorned.

Another TR convention - one of the MaxRules (tm) - is to use the format <insert smiley face> as this allows you to invent your own icons.


p.s. Me? Fool? Ha! Cula has only one 'l' in Surrey so who's the fool now?

<insert head-scratching icon>

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you're both wrong....

by gadgetgirl In reply to Smileys and stuff

it's kulla up here.....

<insert smacking head icon>


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norveners - sheesh

by drowningnotwaving In reply to you're both wrong....

u no nuffink gerl

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