WNW: Spelling Protesters. Really.
I'll be the first to admit that English is a conglomeration of funky ways to spell things. That's largely because so many languages have contributed to English. We have "rules" . . . and then a thousand exceptions to each one. It's almost a surprise that any of us ever learn to read.
Let's take a quick look at a language where spelling is a piece of cake: In Finnish, spelling is the ONE easy thing. The language has an insane number of cases, all of which I had to learn at one point in grammar class.
Bragging rights: I outscored my friend Marjo on one such test, and she was annoyed because I wasn't even a Finn . . . but I'd studied. Don't ask me to do it now. Totally couldn't.
But spelling? Piece of cake. It's nice that there's something not mind-numbingly difficult about Finnish.
See, everything is phonetic. If you learn what sound each letter makes, you can read anything in Finnish. (Caveat: a few letters make difficult sounds. Point still stands.)
Hence, my little sister, who was eight when we arrived in Finland, could read aloud in class flawlessly . . . without a clue as to what any of it meant.
English, however . . . yeah, well, there's a reason spelling bees exist in the States.
And it turns out that some people don't like English having odd rules. More, they don't get that language is a living thing and that you cannot force change onto it.
(That should totally be a Word Nerd post of its own. Taking mental notes . . . although I kind of talked about it in this post.)
As a result of our funky English non-rules, we have spelling bee protesters. Seriously.
This Yahoo! article describes how protesters came to a national spelling bee in D. C. (some even dressed in BLACK AND YELLOW. Bees, get it? Haha.) to protest that English should change its spelling.
Their posters sported the following:
Enuf is enuf. Enough is too much.
They claim that "heifer" (as in the cow) should be written as "hefer."
When I saw that, my brain went back to my childhood days of watching The Electric Company (totally dating myself) where I learned that double consonants make the vowel short, while single consonants make the vowel long.
To show the concept, they had this great skit with SUPPER MAN, who needed a P taken off his name so he could be a true super hero, a SUPER MAN. They showed the same rule applying with dinner/diner and other word pairs, adding and subtracting consonants.
(Obviously, the rule has stuck with me more than three decades later, so the show did something right. Yay for educational television! Kids, go watch more TV!)
Based on that simple idea, if we're changing the cow's name and trying to use standard, easy-to-remember rules, shouldn't the spelling protesters have suggested HEFFER?
Because yo, protesters, how do you propose we get long vowels? What if we wanted hiefer to be pronounced as HEE-fer? How would you spell that?
Then you get the Spelling Society of London, founded in 1908. I'm with them on promoting literacy and getting word out about the crazy rules, but a quick look at their site didn't clarify whether they're trying to change things. (If so, good luck, folks. 100 years hasn't done much for ya.)
Now, just for laughs (but also something that will just encourage spelling protesters, alas), something that shows just how crazy English can be.
Here is a proposed spelling of the word FISH (naturally, courtesy Dr. Oaks and his awesome teachingness):
How could that be, you ask?
Take these words:
GH in ENOUGH creates the F sound.
The O in WOMEN is often pronounced like a short I. (Really, no one really says women with a short O. Say it aloud. No O, right? It's closer to a short I, although some dialects could argue an "oo" as in BOOK sound.)
And finally, we get SH from the TI in EMOTION.
Put them together, and those spelling protesters could argue that, based on the "rules," GHOTI is a reasonable way of spelling FISH.
Spelling has always been my weakest area of language, but I'm not about to bend to black-and-yellow costumed protesters.
English is also a beautiful language with a rich history. And like I said before, it's alive. Hence, by extrapolation, it's, oh, not dead. Therefore, you can't prescribe this or that to suddenly change it.
Whine all you want, but speakers will still speak and write the language like they have for years. Changes will happen, but they take time, and you can't insist on what they'll be.
English will continue evolve on its own, just as it has for centuries.
I just hope that texting language doesn't win out in the end. 'Cause that would be gr8.