Since I'm no fashion plate when it comes to clothes, I choose to write about another kind of style.
Du u prefur fonetics?
The Sunday Scribblings prompt is My Style.SPEKING AND SPELING
Du u prefur fonetics?
My father used to tell this story:
There was once a college in the middle west that had a winning football team for the first time in many years. It was in contention for the the regional conference title. This had so pleased the alumni that there had been an unusual numbers of large grants and directed funds to the university. The president of the university was beside himself with joy. And if the Big Game was won on the coming Saturday, cinching the title, much more money could be expected.
The football coach also was delighted. He was making a real reputation for himself. Much of it was due to the brilliant player, Joth Anon, the most essential player in every game.
There was also in this university a young English instructor who didn’t follow the fortunes of the team, nor would he have changed his standards of grading even if he had. Joth Anon was enrolled in one of his classes. And Joth Anon was flunking. The instructor issued the usual warning. This warning meant that Joth Anon was barred from athletic teams until he made a passing grade in the class.
Joth came to his coach, almost in tears, and explained the situation.
His coach, almost in tears, went to the university president, and explained the situation. The president and the coach, almost in tears, went to the English instructor and explained the situation.
The instuctor didn’t seem to understand the gravity of the situation. “I had to flunk Joth; he has never turned in a single paper, nor has he taken any tests. I’m not sure that I even know who he is or whether he has ever attended the class.”
The president reminded him that he was soon up for tenure.
“Well,” the instructor compromised, “I’ll pass him if he turns in one perfect paper of, say, a thousand words. I would insist that the composition be done in my presence so that I know it is his own work.”
“One thousand words? Isn’t that excessive?”
“Five hundred?” the instructor ventured.
Finally, in desperation, the instructor suggessted, “One twelve letter word, perfectly spelled?”
“Make it a six letter word, and you can’t really demand perfect spelling. How about one correct letter in it?”
The instructor agreed, and they called Joth to the office and explained what he would have to do to get a passing grade.
Feeling utterly defeated, the instructor said, “Spell ‘coffee’.”
Joth scratched his head thoughtfully for quite a while. Then he started. “K--A--W...” He thought a little longer; then his face brightened and he finished, “P-H-Y.”
More than one of my four children, those who were not brilliant at spelling, became early proponents of simplified English spelling. Now I’ll admit that when I am in a hurry to write an urgent message that I’ll sometimes use thru and tho, although (there’s another one I sometimes use--altho), but I also correct them if I am, say, sending out a manuscript. In general, though, I find myself an opponent of any tampering with the English language. Our heritage of words from different roots makes for a clarity of meaning that could be easily lost by simplification.
In other words, I believe in a wordw-r-i-g-h-t’s r-i-g-h-t to w-r-i-t-e about any strange r-i-t-e that catches her fancy. One of my sons solved the problem of spelling these same-sounding words by using w-r-i-g-h-t-e for any one of them, undoubtedly with the hope that by covering all bases he would please his teacher.
Now, it might be possible to discern the meaning of a phrase with this spelling--a wordrite’s rite to rite about any strange rite. Even so, I don’t know how the spelling simplifier would manage the a-n-g-e sound in s-t-r-a-n-ge, which is hardly a simple phonetic pronunciation.
There are many other words that would have ambiguous meanings if spelled phonetically--site and sight, for instance. “The Sierras are a wonderful s-i-t-e.” Does this mean that you should take your camera there or that it’s a good place to build your summer cabin? (The simplified spelling purist would probably write that as “thu Sieras ar a wundurful site”)
If one goes to the s-e-e, is he at the ocean or visiting the bishop?
“That second-hand store specializes in r-u-f-f clothing.” Does this mean rough canvas jeans for scrambling over rocks, or does it mean formal clothes with a ruff on the tuxedo shirt?
And what about those two words, error and errer which most of us, rightly or wrongly, pronounce alike? How does one distinguish the mistake from the person who makes the mistake?
And if foot is simplified to fut, would boot be distinguishable from but or butt?
Yes, I know that it’s hard for an elementary school student to master the tough lessons of spelling rough, cough, though, through, thought and bough.
I’ll still stick to my precise, multi-faceted, expressive English language.