Monday, August 18, 2008

Me No Spel Gud

The push to simplify our spelling seems to come up every few years and sure enough, it has reared its ugly head once more.

Most teachers expect to correct their students' spelling mistakes once in a while. But Ken Smith has had enough. The senior lecturer in criminology at Bucks New University in Buckinghamshire, England, sees so many misspellings in papers submitted by first-year students that he says we'd be better off letting the perpetrators off the hook and doing away with certain spelling rules altogether.

Good spellers, Smith says, should be able to go on writing as usual; those who find the current rules of English too hard to learn should have their spelling labeled variant, not wrong. Smith zeroes in on 10 candidates for variant spellings, culled from his students' most commonly misspelled (or mispelled, as Smith suggests) words. Among them are Febuary instead of February, twelth instead of twelfth and truely instead of truly — all words, he says, that involve confusion over silent letters. When students would ask why there's no e in truly, Smith didn't really have an answer. "I'd say, 'Well, I don't know. ... You've just got to drop it because people do,' " he says. Smith adds that when teachers correct spelling, they waste valuable time they could be spending on bigger ideas.

This notion always strikes me as ludicrous. Maybe it's because I'm an intellectual snob or maybe it's because I've never had trouble with spelling. Whatever it is, I can't see why we should reshape our language because some people have trouble spelling. What's next? Simplifying algebra because it has too many equations? Fewer countries on maps so there's not so many to learn?

If you are someone who has difficulty spelling, I'm sorry, but you should just have to deal with it. Get a dictionary. Practice. I'm sure you have talents that someone else who can spell really well does not. But the idea of changing large parts of our language for the people who struggle with it is ridiculous. Or just, plain dum.

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