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Click here for an index to words discussed throughout this project, in chronological order, most recent first, from the commencement of the project on June 1st, 2004 thru January 2017; and here for words added from February 1st, 2017 onward..
Click here for an index to words discussed throughout this project from A-M, and here for an index to words discussed throughout this project from N-Z, in alphabetical order.
(Within the webpages noted above are clickable links to all the discussions, organized by quarter year.)
here for a list of possible future
Click here for the principles that govern the selection of words for this project.
Click here for a list of words rejected for this project because of those principles.
Click here for links to other websites concerned with spelling.
(In general, only the base form of a word to be revised is given, but closely related forms, such as inflected variants of a verb or a noun created from the verb take the same change (e.g, the reform of "saturate" to "sachurate" carries over to "sachuration", "sachurated", and "sachurating"; "abizmal" carries over to "abizmally"; and so on.)
The distribution of words that require reform is wildly uneven from one initial letter of the alphabet to another. Ordinarily, we have considered one word a day for each initial letter, but we have just about run out of words in various parts of the alphabet, so will treat of the letters that have many, many words (e.g., C, D, P, M, and S) on multiple days in a row before moving to the next letter in alphabetical order.
Wensday, May 16, 2017: "cuvvet" for "covet"
There are two things wrong with this short word. First, the vowel in the first syllable is wrong. It's not an O-sound, either long as in "go" or short as in "on". Rather the sound is short-U, as in "cup". So we should write U. Because it is a short-U, we have to indicate that somehow. The convention is to double any single consonant after a short vowel, which, here, is a V. Let's do that. A third issue, not exactly a problem, is whether to leave the E or change it to I. This is not crucially important, because either E or I in this location will be said as a schwa rather than a full short vowel. In that the traditional spelling has an E, we can just leave the E: "cuvvet".
Tuesday, May 16, 2017: "cuzzin" for "cousin"
I'm astonished that I hadn't offered this word before now, in that this project has been going since July 2004 and this word is an obvious target for revision. Better late than never, I suppose.
There are three flagrant absurdities in this short word. First, there is an OU but no OU-sound. Rather, the sound is short-U, which would rationally be spelled with just-U, but followed by at least a two-letter consonant cluster. The absence of such a consonantl cluster is the second problem today.
The third problem is what consonant cluster should follow the U, to mark it short. Presently, an S follows the U, but that's phonetically wrong. The sound is not S, the voiceless member of the S/Z unvoiced/voiced pair. (Most people interested in phonetics will know what these terms mean, but if you are new to phonetics, let me explain. "Voiced" means that you employ your voice when saying a given consonant. There are several voiced/unvoiced pairs. B is voiced; its pair, P, is NOT voiced, but something like a whisper. D is voiced; its pair, T, is unvoiced/voiceless. F is unvoiced; its pair, V, is voiced. You use your voice with G, but not with K, which would otherwise be the same sound. J is voiced; its pair, CH, is unvoiced. If you were to use the wrong member of the pair in speaking, you would puzzle listeners. You should't do that in speech, and equally should not do it in writing. In alphabetic writing, what you write should plainly indicate what you mean people to hear when they say it to themselves. That's what an alphabet, as against ideographic writing, was designed to do: convey SPEECH. Happily, all the problems in today's word have easy fixes: "cuzzin". Bizarrely, some people would write "cuzzin" in dialect that is supposed to indicate an uneducated person, even tho it is far and away more intelligent a spelling than the idotic "cousin". Let us hereafter write the enormously more sensible spelling: "cuzzin".
Munday, May 15, 2017: "cortezan" for "courtesan" and "courtezan"
Few people realize that there are two spellings for today's word (for a high-class prostitute or paramour who bestows her favors on rich and/or noble men), but neither is quite right. The first, with an S, is very wrong. The second, with a Z, is less wrong, but still not right.
The first problem is that there is an OU in both spellings, but no OU-sound. We need to drop the misleading-U. The second problem is, of course, the misleading S, in the primary spelling, which is supposed to convey the Z-sound, but does not. The sound is actually the voiced member of the S/Z pair (S representing the unvoiced, or voiceless, member). The sound is Z, so we should write Z: "cortezan".
Sunday, May 14, 2017: "candelobrum" and (plural) "candelobra" for "candelabrum" and "candelabra"
A is not the right vowel for the third syllable of today's word. That spelling is supposed to represent neither of A's ordinary sounds, long as in "creation" and short as in "rat". Rather, the vowel sound here is "broad"-A, a dopy, needless alternative term for short-O, the same sound. Let's just write O: "candelobrum" and its irregular-plural, "candelobra".
Saturday, May 13, 2017: "cardeomyoppathy" for "cardiomyopathy"
This Science Saturday, let's reform the spelling of a term from medicine, for a serious problem with the heart, but of unknown or ambiguous cause. There are only two problems in this seven-syllable word. First, IO is clearly not the right spelling for the sound sequence long-E plus O. IO should be reserved to a long-I sound plus long-O ("iota"), short-O ("ionic"), or schwa ("biological"). So we need to replace the I with E.
The second problem has as much to do with syllabic stress as with the vowel sounds. MYO will be seen by many readers as a long-I plus long-O, such that the end of this word would be said as -míe.yoe.pàa.tthe (and the full word, as kòr.dee.yoe.míe.yoe.pâa.tthee. That is NOT the pronunciation intended. Rather, the O after the Y is short. If we double the P thereafter to show that the O is short, we also cue the reader to where the syllabic stress falls in this very long word: "cardeomyoppathy".
Friday, May 12, 2017: "coorzhett" for "courgette"
This Food Friday, let's fix the preferred British term for "zucchini". The British version is a loanword from French; the preferred American term is on loan from Italian. Either way, the two terms are spelled inappropriately for English. We already offered "zookeeny", on March 16, 2007. Now it's time to fix "courgette", by (1) replacing the OU, which has no OU-sound, with OO; (2) replacing the G, which is completely wrong phonetically, with the phonetically correct ZH; and (3) dropping the silent-E, which serves no purpose, at the end. An E at the end of a word, even after two consonants, sometimes indicates a long vowel before the intervening consonants, as in "lathe" and "taste". The E here has no such effect, but has absolutely no effect on the word's sound, so should just be dropped. Leaving the TT should be enough to cue the reader to the fact that the word's stress falls on the last syllable: "coorzhett".
Thursday, May 11, 2017: "cheet/er/s" for "cheat", "cheater", and "cheaters"
EA is a hugely ambiguous spelling ("sea", "Beatrice", "diarrhea", "Sean", etc., etc.), so cannot be made plain, esp. to people outside the traditionally English speaking countries. Here, the sound is a simple long-E, which is best written EE. The verb has an agent form, "cheater", which we need to fix as well. There is, further, a noun, "cheaters", slang for "eyeglasses", that we should also fix: "cheet", "cheeter", and "cheeters".
Wensday, May 10, 2017: "candlelyt" for "candlelight"
This word includes the insanely stupid letter sequence IGHT, which has two silent letters, the G and the H. If they are silent, they shouldn't be written. But without them, the spelling would be "candlelit", which is an adjectival form derived from the past tense of the verb. There are three obvious ways to show a long-I in the third syllable, ITE, YTE, and YT. LITE is used in informal writing in the sense of the opposite of heavy, or rich in calories, so either LYTE or LYT would be better. LYTE has a silent-E, so if we want to show the sound sequence efficiently, we would do better to drop the E and let Y represent a long-I sound, as it does, without a silent-E, in words like "hydro", "bypass", and "dynamometer". So let's write: "candlelyt".
My thanks to "Fisherman..." for suggesting reform of this word, tho I chose a slightly different solution.
Tuesday, May 9, 2017: "cleevij" for "cleavage"
Altho most people, on hearing this word, will think of the third definition at Dictionary.com, "the area between a woman's breasts, especially when revealed by a low-cut neckline", that authority actually lists seven definitions for "cleavage". In any event, this project is concerned with spelling, not meaning, and the spelling is misleading, in that AGE should be said with a long-A, as in the word "age" to itself, "page", and "rage". That is not the sound here. Rather, the vowel (a schwa) is so close to a short-I that we might better write IJ. Let's.
In the first syllable, we have an EA, which is a highly ambiguous vowel sequence ("area", "rhea", "break", "bean", "Sean", and so on). Here, the sound is a simple long-E, which is best written EE: "cleevij".
Munday, May 8, 2017: "cinneeyast" for "cineaste", "cineast", and "cinéaste"
Three spellings none of them quite right for one word, is the kind of chaos that makes learning and using English so difficult, not just for the billions of people in non-English-speaking countries around this planet who want to master the most useful of all international languages in the history of the world, but also for people in the English-speaking countries themselves (ourselves).
The first problem is that a single-N makes unclear whether the preceding-I is long, as a reader might expect, esp. in that there is an E immediately after the N, which calls into question whether we have here one of the multitudinous "silent E's" that are not exactly silent but mark the preceding vowel, beyond an intervening consonant, as long. INE in particular is a special case. This letter cluster has three common pronunciations, as in "fine" (long-I), "magazine" (long-E), or "adrenaline" (short-I). Here, the E does not link to the I before the N, but is the vowel sound of a syllable to itself, pronounced long-E. To clarify that the I is short, and thus that the E in the second syllable represents another sound, we need to double the N.
The second problem in this trio of spellings, is that in two of them, "cineaste" and "cineast", the letter cluster EAST might be seen as one syllable, having the sound eest, as in the term for the cardinal point of the compass ordinarily shown to the right in maps. In actuality, however, in these words there are two syllables in the letter cluster EAST, which divide between the E and A. In "cineaste" and "cineast", the E just after the N represents a long-E sound; and the A, a short-A. In "cinéaste", the A still represents a short-A, but the E with a written acute accent represents a French pronunciation that equates with an English long-A sound. Curiously, tho, the A thereafter, in the Frenchified spelling, does not take a French pronunciation, which would be, in English, "broad"-A or short-O, the same sound.
Few native speakers of English will prefer the French-form spelling "cinéaste", nor its pronunciation with a long-A rather than long-E in the second syllable. Pretentious people who do want to say this word in the French fashion why? Do they think that French is a better language? that has more prestige than the most important language, ever, ours? can retain the French-form spelling, with its accent. Everyone else should prefer to dispense with both the written accent and the long-A sound.
The third issue is whether to retain the E at the end of two of this trio, or drop it. Inasmuch as the A is short, we should definitely drop the final-E, which could otherwise lead readers to say a long-A in the third syllable (e.g., "taste","chaste".and "haste"): "cinneeyast".
Sunday, May 7, 2017: "cannan" for "canon"
We have, this Church Sunday, a word that could be thought to have a long-A, as in "Canaan", because there is only a single consonant after the A. In actuality, the A is short. Fortunately, all we have to do to show that is to double the following-N. UNfortunately, if that were the only change we make, we would end up with "cannon", which is already a word, of completely different meaning. How can we distinguish these two homophones, then? Simple: just change the O in the second syllable to A: "cannan".
Saturday, May 6, 2017: "capassiter" for "capacitor"
This Science Saturday, let's make plain that the A in the second syllable is short, whereas the single consonant after it would permit a reader to see it as long. The conventional way to show a short vowel is to double the consonant after it, but the following consonant in this word is C, and CC would be pronounced as tho written KS, rather than just-S. To show an S-sound and a short-A before it, we need to change the C to S and then double it.
One other minor issue needs to be addressed, an OR at the end, which should be ER, to prevent a misreading of that suffix as having an AU-sound, as happens with some other words that end in OR, such as "sensor" and "mentor": "capassiter".
Friday, May 5, 2017: "cureus" for "curious"
Today's word is not long, but it nonetheless presents three issues. Working last to first, we need to change the OU toward the end, because it does not represent the OU-sound, but only a schwa. That has a quick fix: just drop the O, and the U that remains will be read, correctly, as a schwa.
The second issue, just before the OU, is also clear. An I stands in for a long-E. Why would we use an I to represent an E? If the sound is E, let's write E.
The last issue, at the beginning of the word, may not seem as clear-cut as the others. When a reader encounters a U that would seem to be long, s/he must decide whether that U-sound has an initial Y-glide, as in "cute", or not, as in the placename "Rancho Cucamonga". As it happens, CU, at least at the beginning of a word, ordinarily does take an initial Y-glide, as it does in the traditional spelling of today's word, so we need not worry about how to show a Y-glide after a C (we can't write EU, because CEU would be seen as having a "soft"-C (that is, an S-sound); and CYU would probably be seen as needless and overlong). We do, after all, have the model "cure" on which to pattern alteration, or as guidance that we don't need an alteration here. In spelling reform, the least change is probably also the best change, so let's leave the CU as-is: "cureus".
My thanks to "Doorbell..." for this suggestion.
Thursday, May 4, 2017: "caylee" for "ceilidh"
This is one of the most ridiculous and contemptible spellings ever admitted into the English language.* The word is Gaelic; its spelling is unreadable by native speakers of English. We MUST fix it, to show that its sounds are not at all complicated: "caylee".
* Cambridge Dictionary: "a special event at which people dance to traditional music, especially in Scotland and Ireland".
Wensday, May 3, 2017: "civvil" and "civillyan" for "civil" and "civilian"
Here again we have single consonants that do not guide the reader to whether to say a long-I or short before the L-sound. In both cases, the sound is short-I, which we can show, as is so often the case in traditional English, by doubling the following consonant, here, the L.
In the second of today's related words, we don't need to double the V, because the word's stress falls on the syllable after the V, so a reader would know not to say a long-I before the V-sound. But the IA might puzzle many readers, esp. outside the English-speaking world, and we must never forget that hundreds of millions of people in countries where English is not the local language are trying to learn and use English because it is the most utilitarian of all languages in a host of areas of human activity. In the case of the second word today, we need to guide readers to the actual sounds. The IA does not represent the sequence long-I + schwa, as in "dial" and "diametric", nor long-I + long-A, as in "hiatus" and "striation", but a consonantal-Y plus schwa, which we can indicate easily by replacing the I after the L-sound with Y: "civvil" and "civillyan".
Tuesday, May 2, 2017: "carryattid" for "caryatid"
Many readers will see the CAR in today's word as having a "broad"-A, as in the word "car" to itself, plus many other words of the same form ("bar", "barn", "star", "start", "tart", etc.) That is not the sound here, Rather, it is short-A, as in "arrow", "marry", and "carry". That difference is made clear by a double-R. So let's use a double-R here. A second problem is that a single-T leaves unclear whether the A before it is long or short. It's short, which we can show easily by doubling the T: "carryattid".
Munday, May 1, 2017: "cartryt" for "cartwright"
The first element in this compound word is fine as-is. The second, however, is not at all fine. It has three silent letters, W, G, and H! If a letter is silent it should probably not be in the spelling. We can easily drop the W without loss to readability. But if we drop the G and H, what we'd be left in the second element is RIT, which would be read as having a short-I, whereas the I is actually long. To shot a long-I, we could write ITE or Y. If we write ITE, however, we might mislead the reader into thinking this element has something to do with "writing" or "righting", whereas the combining form -WRIGHT actually means someone who builds and repairs something, here, carts. So Y is the better choice: "cartryt".
We are running low on, or have already run out of, words in need of reform that start in I, J, K, L, N, O, Q, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z. If readers see the need for reform of words that start in any of those letters, and which have not already been used (as recorded in this project's chronological archives) or rejected for this project files, please suggest reforms. But we need not change spellings unless the present spelling is inadequate or misleading, or there is more than one spelling and we need to settle on only one.
Please bookmark this page and stop by regularly. Tell your friends. Tell your teachers. Tell the world!
Tho it would be neater to change all words of a pattern at the same time (e.g., all -OUS endings to -US), that is implied in the change of individual words of that pattern. But traditional English spelling isn't consistent, which is why it is so hard to master. Some words that sound the same are spelled differently (there, their, they're); some words that are spelled the same are pronounced differently (refuse as verb and noun). To impose complete consistency on English without radical reform is impossible. Short of radical reform, then, we can either reform some words or surrender to spelling chaos and do nothing.
English spelling didn't become crazy all at once, but one word at a time. Old English was phonetic, and such variations in spelling as occurred reflected variations in pronunciation. New words have come into the language one by one, with their own individual spelling, sometimes quite unreasonable. In like fashion, we can change some unreasonable spellings to reasonable, one word at a time, inefficient tho that approach may be. See below for radical reform that does address all the issues at once.
* SSWD is a project of L. Craig Schoonmaker, Newark, New Jersey, United States, creator of Fanetik: Reformed (Phonetic) Spelling - at Least for Teaching. [NOTE: On April 5, 2017, I corrected the link above, and the two below. They had pointed to a website I was paying for, but the Australian webhost proved unreliable. So I moved the key files to the free webhost Tripod, which is compensated for its webhosting by ads atop each hosted webpage. These links now point to my free Tripod website.] Phonetic pronunciations on this site are rendered in Augméntad Fanétik, which employs accents for syllabic stress. For information about other ways to change irrational spellings, search the Internet for spelling reform.
Comments? Suggestions? If you have suggestions as to words to reform, please check first if they have already been used or have already been placed on the list of words to be addressed in the future or words that have been considered but rejected. Please also check the principles that control whether a word will or will not be offered. Once you have done that, or for any other purpose, please write to Fanetiks@aol.com. Because, for reasons I do not understand, some people have written under temporary email addresses that are abandoned before I can reply, I will not make personal replies to anyone who (a) does not request reactions and (b) does not provide a valid return email address (which will be checked, before I write any substantive reply, by a test email). And if you'd like credit on this page for any suggestion you make that is used, please provide a name and location (city, state/country) for that credit. Absent a personal name, credit will be given to an abbreviated form of the email address, without the at-sign or domain information (e.g., if the email address is "email@example.com", credit might be made to "mjmart...")