Simpler Spelling
Word of the Day
October-December 2004

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Friday, December 31, 2004: "anteek" for "antique"

New Year's Eve seems an apt time to propose this reform — out with the old (antique) and in with the new: "anteek".

Thursday, December 30, 2004: "goast" for "ghost"

Wun of the main thrusts of spelling reform is to get rid of silent letters that add nothing and make it hard to remember how to spell things. The H in "ghost" is both silent and needless because, unlike some other H's after G, it does not signal a hard-G that might otherwise be read as soft (gherkin, ghetto). Nor does it combine with the H to represent an F-sound (laugh, cough). Nor does the sequence G-H represent two separate consonants adjacent (bighorn, bunghole). So why is there an H in "ghost"?

We could simply drop the H, leaving "gost", parallel to hostmost and post. But many readers will instead see that as parallel to cost, lost, and frost or the -ost- in apostle, agnostic, and colostomy.

If instead we express the long-O by OA as in boast, roast and toast, no one will be confused: "goast".

Wensday, December 29, 2004: "wor" for "war"

"War" rhymes not with bar, car, and far, but with or, nor, and for. It would seem reasonable to change the A to an O to make that plain: "wor". But there's a hitch. One oft-used derivative of "war" is "warship", which would become "worship", which is already a word, pronounced wér.ship. Tho we can certainly offer "wership" (and do, at February 13, 2005), confusion would still exist between old spellings and new. So let's instead adopt the pattern of aura, centaur, and laureate. This has the added advantage of making war a "four-letter word": "waur".

Tuesday, December 28, 2004: "pire" for "pyre"

This is a sadly appropriate term today, given that thousands of people were killed by a horrendous tsunami Sunday in India and other areas in which the bodies of the dead are ritually burned in an open fire. "Pyre" is a pile of combustibles to which people set "fire" in order sanitarily to dispose of a corpse. Since "pyre" and "fire" are not just parallel in sound but also closely associated in meaning, there can be no reasonable objection to making the less-common accord with the more-common: "pire".

Munday, December 27, 2004: "anarky" for "anarchy"

There is no CH-sound (as in church) in today's word, but a K-sound. We have a similar word in English, autarky, in which the K-sound is simply spelled K. Nobody would have a problem seeing a K as representing a K-sound, and we'd save a letter. Purists might object that the -archy in anarchy and -arky in autarky come from different Greek roots, but who the heck cares? English is not Greek. 99 and 44/100% of native speakers of English don't know one Greek root from another, and should not be imposed upon to spell stupidly in order to accommodate the infinitesimal fraction of the population who know that -archy means "ruler" and -arky means "suffice". It is not necessary to know the ancient history of a word to know its English meaning and use it right. It is necessary to be able to spell it and read it unambiguously, and we shouldn't have to try to remember when to use a K and when a CH for the K-sound. English is English. That's good enuf.

The second issue in today's word is the sound of the initial-A. In many words, an A at the start of a word represents a schwa (ajar, afar, about, around, aground). In today's word, howevre, the A takes a full short-A sound. To show that, we need merely double the N: "annarky".

Sunday, December 26, 2004: "veezavee" for "vis-à-vis"

"Vis-à-vis", with or without an accent over the A, is a ridiculous spelling for an English word. Tho it started as a French phrase, it has become a hyphenated English word, none of whose elements has any meaning in English outside the phrase. Since the parts are inseparable and the meaning is unitary, not divisible (contrast up-to-date), there's no reason for hyphens. Even in some phrases whose elements are separable, we often shove words together in English: insofar, inasmuch, heretofore, nonetheless). Since it's English, there's no need for an accent, nor should either S be silent, nor a Z-sound be spelled with an S. And I is the wrong vowel! In short, just about everything that could be wrong with a spelling is wrong with "vis-à-vis". Let's just write it as we say it and stop pretending that English-speakers know French, so need to see a French spelling to know what the word means: "veezavee".

Saturday, December 25, 2004: "festiv" for "festive"

Christmas seems an appropriate day for this reform. There's no reason for there to be an E at the end of "festive". Quite the contrary, there is good reason for there not to be an E there, because a silent-E would ordinarily indicate that the vowel before it is long, whereas the I in "festive" is short. Let's lose a letter and gain in clarity: "festiv".

Friday, December 24, 2004: "sykic" for "psychic"

The traditional spelling of this word has a silent-P and a CH that doesn't indicate the CH-sound (as in church). Bad word, bad! Let's solve both problems in one swell foop: "sykic".

Thursday, December 23, 2004: "ecko" for "echo"

There is no CH-sound (as in church) in "echo" but a K-sound. "Eko" would be unclear as to whether the E is long or short; "ekko" would be too "un-English" to win easy acceptance (altho we have accepted "chukker" for an inning of play in the elite game polo). "Ecko", by contrast, seems a perfectly "English" way to spell this word (parallel to "gecko", a word that has become very familiar in the U.S. due to the animated lizard in Geico Insurance commercials*), and is the way a popular brand of youth-oriented clothing is spelled, so we have a head start on acceptance of this reform: "ecko".


* Interestingly, the taxonomic family of which the gecko is part is "Gekkonidae" — two K's — but the English popular name for the familiar lizard has CK.

Wensday, December 22, 2004: "uze" for the verb "use"

There ar two words in the spelling u-s-e. Wun is a noun, pronounced yues, meaning what something is utilized for. The uther is a verb, pronounced yuez and meaning to utilize. We occasionally encounter situations in which we initially read the wun for the uther and have to correct ourselves once the context makes clear that we read the wrong wun. There's no need for that. We can clarify whether we mean the noun or the verb by continuing to write the noun as it sounds, with an S (use) but respelling the verb as it sounds, with a Z: "uze".

Tuesday, December 21, 2004: "naber" for "neighbor"

EIGH is, aside from a preposterous formulation for any sound in Modern English, ambiguous. Tho it is usually pronounced AE, it is sometimes pronounced IE (height, sleight). No matter how a word might be pronounced, there is no way to justify a silent G and silent H in the same word — as tho there is any way to justify either a silent-G or a silent-H, anywhere, anytime. Let's just write this word, and its derivatives (neighborhood, neighborly, neighborliness, etc.), rationally: "naber", "naberhood", "naberly", "naberliness", etc.

Munday, December 20, 2004: "cloride" for "chloride"

There's no need for an H to convey the K-sound in this word, and the CH does not take the typical CH-sound, so let's just save a letter and simplify remembering which words take a CH and which just C: "cloride".

Sunday, December 19, 2004: "certan" for "certain"

The main pronunciation for AI in -ain words is long-A (gain, lain, pain, retain, refrain, even ascertain, which incorporates "certain" but pronounces it differently). The most common pronunciation for -an, however, is schwa/N (barbarian, Asian, cerulean, human, orphan, woman). So let's save a letter and make the pronunciation clear: "certan".

Friday and Saturday, December 17 and 18, 2004:
"bokay" for "bouquet" (flowers)

"bukay" for "bouquet" (fragrance)

There are two words in one spelling in "bouquet", one for a small cluster of decorative flowers and one for scent (usually but not only of wine or liqueurs; I've heard the term used in coffee commercials). We can separate these two senses into two distinct words at the same time as we get rid of a ridiculous spelling that looks as tho it should be pronounced BOW-kwet: "bokay" for posies, "bukay" for aroma.

Thursday, December 16, 2004: "verv" for "verve"

This is simple. There is no reason for there to be a silent-E at the end of this word. The vowel in the main part of the word is short, not long, and there's no second syllable. Let's save a letter: "verv".

Wensday, December 15, 2004: "thay" for "they"

EY is an ambiguous spelling that is most often pronounced long-E, be it as an integral part of the word (abbey, blarney, chimney) or a suffix to create the adjectival form (cagey, dicey, mopey). AY is a standard way of spelling long-A at the end of a word (bay, day, play, relay, pathway). Let's leave EY at the end of a word for long-E: "thay".

Tuesday, December 14, 2004: "brikabrak" for "bric-a-brac"

The present spelling looks like a hyphenated phrase of three elements each of which has its own meaning (like up-to-date), but it is only a single word, none of whose elements has an English meaning. So let's get rid of the hyphens. That would leave us with bricabrac. We could stop there, but I prefer using a K to represent the K sound. It is more common to use -ck in final position than either -c or -k, but why use two letters where one will do? Your choice. My choice is "brikabrak".

Munday, December 13, 2004: "aifid" for "aphid"

PH is a 'phoolish' way to show the F-sound, in part because there's no reason to use two letters where one will do, in part because neither of the two letters involved conveys an F-sound, and in part because PH is ambiguous. PH really is said as two separate consonants adjoining in words like uphill and upheaval. In shepherd, it's just P. In the English rendering of the name of the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, PH is pronounced P — or is silent! There's no reason for us to have to deal with this kind of complication. Let's just use F for the F-sound.

The other problem with this word is the initial-A, which would ordinarily be seen as a schwa ("ajar", "afar", "about"). That's not the sound here. which is long-A. The two spellings we might expect for that sound are AI and AY. So which is a better spelling? "Aifid" or "ayfid"? Diferent people might come down on different sides, but I think AI is more typical in English words except at the end ("aim", "paid", "waist"), so let's use that : "aifid".

Sunday, December 12, 2004: "sez" for "says"

Yesterday we dealt with one form of the slightly irregular verb "say", its past and past participle "said" (to "sed"). Today, let's deal with its other unusual form, "says", which looks regular but isn't pronounced as it looks. Rather, it is pronounced "sez", and that spelling is very commonly used in informal, slangy writing, especially in the challenge, "Sez who?" There was even a movie in 1999, starring the bizarre basketball player Dennis Rodman, called Simon Sez. Since no speaker of English has any confusion about what word is intended by that spelling,* we should write what we say: "sez".


* In searching on Google to see how common the spelling "sez" is, I saw that there is even a mock advice column called "Confuseus Sez". SEZ is also an abbreviation for Special Economic Zone. There's a band called "Jeffery Sez". And there are, oddly, two airports with that abbreviation, one in Sedona, Arizona and one in Mahe Island, Seychelles! With all the acronyms and abbreviations, it's hard to know how many of the 2,050,000 website listings Google came up with relate to the use of "sez" as an alternate spelling for "says", but there are plainly a great many. Google came up with 11,600 listings for the quoted phrase "sez who"!

Saturday, December 11, 2004: "sed" for "said"

The verb "say" is slightly irregular, in having s-a-i-d as its past and past participle rather than s-a-y-e-d. AI for short-E is an unusual and ambiguous spelling. AI far more often represents a long-A (acclaim), flat-A (air), even short-A (plaid) and two vowels side-by-side (archaic). We don't pronounce "said" any of those ways, so shouldn't use that ambiguous spelling. Rather, we should write what we say: "sed".

Friday, December 10, 2004: "rane" for "reign"

There is no way to justify a silent-G, and EI is ordinarily pronounced either long-I or long-E (as in the two pronunciations of either), so this word is spelled wrong twice. In Middle English, it was identical to the Old French word it derived from, reigne, and the G wasn't silent but combined with the N to make an NY-sound, as in lorgnette. There is no such sound in the modern word "reign", so we can drop the G. If we were to change the E to A, we would end up with a homograph for rain. But if we use the vowel/consonant/silent-E pattern to show the long-A, we retain distinctiveness for this word in writing even tho in sound it is indeed a pair for rain: "rane".

Thursday, December 9, 2004: "meddicin" and "medissinal" for "medicine" and "medicinal"

The first-E in today's word is short, so should be followed by a double consonant, here, a double-D.

The second I in this word is short, not long, but the silent-E at the end of the word would ordinarily signal a long-I sound (valentine, Alpine) or long-E (brigantine, gasoline). Sometimes different people, given no clear indication by the spelling, see the same letters in the same word but assign different values: e.g., Argentine, which some people say on the pattern of columbine but others say like figurine. We don't need all this confusion.

When, in traditional spelling, we add an -al to create the adjective "medicinal", we drop the E (tho we do not in some other words, e.g., line/lineal), so we plainly don't need an E on the noun either. But we do need to respell the adjective too: "meddicin", "medissinal".

Wensday, December 8, 2004: "jernal" for "journal"

This is one of those words that etymological purists object to reforming because "jour" — "day" in French — is important to them. They argue that having "day" as a major part of the word indicates the meaning in some way that removing that French element would somehow obscure. But most speakers and writers of English don't know French, so the "jour" in something that sounds like jernal (and its derivatives, journalist and journalism) merely puzzles and irritates them. "Why should we have to write OU for an E-sound?" We shouldn't: "jernal" (and its derivatives, "jernalism" and "jernalist").

Tuesday, December 7, 2004: "sizzers" for "scissors"

This word has gone thru lots of spelling changes to turn out this absurd! SS is one seemingly unambiguous way to spell the S-sound, but here it represents the Z-sound! Insupportable. The C is silent, so there's no reason for it to be there. Indeed, in Middle English, again, there was no silent-C. Here is this word's complicated history from
From alteration (influenced by Latin scissor, cutter), of Middle English sisours, scissors from Old French cisoires, from Vulgar Latin cisoria, from Late Latin, pl. of cisorium, cutting instrument, from Latin caesus, -cisus, past participle of caedere, to cut.

So Middle English had no silent-C in this word. The Latin from which the word is now thought actually to have derived had no S. For some reason, pretentious medieval scholars added a silent-C to skip over French back to Latin. But English isn't Latin, and isn't even French, tho in French SS is usually given a simple S-sound, not a Z-sound. We don't need two letters to show an S-sound at the beginning of a word, and two S's should be reserved to the S-sound, not a Z. English words should be spelled in consistent and predictable English ways: "sizzers".

Munday, December 6, 2004: "bord" for "board"

This change accords with two of the principles behind spelling reform: (1) to reduce the number of patterns with which a given sound is spelled so people have less to cope with in reading and less to remember in writing, and (2) to reduce the number of letters we have to write or type, and thus save time, paper, and ink. We spend much too much time and mental effort, in English, deciphering when we read and encoding when we write. That effort should go instead to thinking about what we want to say and how we want to say it, not trying to remember 16,000 (or whatever number there might be) different ways of spelling similar words.

You might not think dropping an A from "board" is important. But think about this word as an example of what we go thru hundreds of times a day. "How do I spell [board]? Well, the B, R, and D sounds are easy. But the vowel sound could be spelled O as in or, O/silent-E as in ore, OO as in floor, OA as in oar, AU as in aura, A as in ward, OU as in four — and maybe other ways I haven't thought of. Hmm."

We shouldn't have to go thru that and shouldn't have to clutter our minds with huge word lists. We're not computers with built-in CD-ROMs for permanent storage of uncorruptible data. Our memories are easily corrupted and we can't always retrieve quickly the data we may have stored somewhere, or may not, or may have lost or confused. Even the most careful writer sometimes writes "there" for "their", "phase" for "faze", etc. , whether we catch the error on review or not.

Spelling should convey sound, unambiguously and QUICKLY, with minimal effort on the part of the person writing or reading. We shouldn't have to struggle as hard as we do in English just to communicate in writing what we communicate instantaneously and easily in speech. A single reformed word may not mean much, but multiply that saving by thousands of words a day and you achieve a real simplification in your life.

There's just no reason to use OA when O will do: "bord".

Sunday, December 5, 2004: "blasfeme" for "blaspheme"

Sunday seems an appropriate time to offer reform of a word involving religion. This particular word is one of a great many that were spelled better in Middle English than they are in Modern English. The original English form of this word was blasfemen, from Old French blasfemer ( Scholars later revised the spelling to harken back not to French but to its Latin precursor. I'm not clear as to whether that was to seem more refined or to shake off French for reasons of English nationalism. (Britannia, the Latin origin of our terms "Britain" and "British", was a Roman province a thousand years before the French Conquest, but few Latin words entered English from that time, because the Angles and Saxons weren't in Britain then, but in Germany! — indeed, northern Germany, outside the Roman Empire. So any Latin that entered the language then would have been from Roman influence in Germany, not in Britain.)

No matter the reason that British scholars changed the spelling of "blaspheme" and many other French-derived words with an F to use PH instead, it was a stupid thing to do, and we should now undo it by restoring the original F, in this verb and its derivatives. So today we have a threefer: "blasfeme", "blasfemy", and "blasfemous".

Saturday, December 4, 2004: "blite" for "blight"

-IGH- is a preposterous way to show a long-I, especially inasmuch as that same spelling sometimes is pronounced as it looks: pigheaded. Let's just use the silent-E convention, a much simpler way of showing a long vowel, as to make this word parallel to bite: "blite".

Friday, December 3, 2004: "swomp" for "swamp"

"Swamp" rhymes not with camp, ramp, and stamp but with pomp, romp and stomp, so should be spelled that way:  "swomp".

Wensday and Thursday, December 1 and 2, 2004:
"dubble" for "double"

"trubble" for "trouble"

There is no OU-sound (as in ouch or sound) in either of these words. Nor is there a long-U sound, which is perhaps the second most common sound represented by OU (rouge, through). Instead, these two words rhyme with bubble. Why not spell them like bubble?: "dubble", "trubble".

Tuesday, November 30, 2004: "nural" for "neural"

The E in "neural" serves no purpose. If anything, it should be flipped with the U (nueral) if it's supposed to show that the U takes its long sound. But it would still not be needed, because only one R follows it, so the bulk of readers will see the U as long anyway (on the model of mural). So let's just drop it, okay?: "nural".

Munday, November 29, 2004: "an/uther" for "an/other"

O is the wrong letter to represent the sound in the first syllable of "other". Compare moth, wroth, betroth, brothel, bother, both, clothe, Goth, hypothesis. "Other" has none of these O-sounds, but a simple short-U sound. So let's use a U in this tightly related twofer: "uther" and "anuther".

Sunday, November 28, 2004: "abuv" for "above"

-OVE- is a very ambiguous spelling (love, clove, move, novel). We are familiar with a- as a prefix added to familiar words (ahead, astern, afield, abuzz), and a case might be made for leaving the second element in "above" as it is, except that "bove" is not a word. Thus there is no reason not to change it to make its pronunciation clear: "abuv".

Saturday, November 27, 2004: "coreografy" for "choreography"

The CH in the traditional spelling of this word does not represent "the CH-sound", as in church. Ideally, all CH's that represent the K sound should simply be replaced by K. That might mollify the people who oppose spelling reform because it sometimes obscures the history of the word, in that the "un-English" look of such new spellings will cue the reader that they had a CH in their language of origin. But it would still achieve simplification in spelling. Koreografy and similar reforms may, however, go a little further than most people would find agreeable, short of a radical and thoroughly systematic spelling reform (like Fanetik) where they would fit right in.

Therefore I propose that where, as here, CH represents a K-sound before A, O, or U, we simply drop the H. The C would automatically assume its "hard" sound, and the consonant sound would be unambiguous, which it often is not now — not to new readers, be they kids or students of English as a Second Language. "Chore" is, after all, a word to itself, and has the typical CH-sound. Why should the same five letters in "choreography" be pronounced differently?

The PH in "choreography" does not represent the two sounds P and H in sequence (as in uphill, chophouse, flophouse, haphazard, and the like) but, rather, one speech sound, F. So let's just represent that F-sound with F.

These two changes would save us two letters. If we do that often enough across the language and across the world, we save a lot of trees, plus something tord the cost of inks.

Today's word, then, with its derivatives (coreografer, coreografic), is "coreografy".

Thursday and Friday, November 25 and 26, 2004:
"cheef" for "chief"

"Crismas" for "Christmas"

Thursday was Thanksgiving Day in the United States, which celebrates a feast shared by Pilgrims and their Indian neighbors, so "chief" seems an apt word to reform today. IE is ordinarily seen as long-I, as in "pie". But the vowel in "chief" is long-E.

The Friday after Thanksgiving (which holiday is always on a Thursday; I don't know why) is "Black Friday",* the first day of the Christmas shopping season, so this seems an auspicious occasion to propose a reform to the word "Christmas". There is no CH-sound in this word, and simply dropping the H would make that plain. Although there is a T-sound in "Christ", for which this feast day is named, there's no such sound in "Christmas", so let's get rid of the T. Note that there are two S's in "mass", the second element of "Christmas", but we dropped one of those, so it's no big deal to drop a couple of more letters to make the sound plain and save some ink and effort at memorizing an irrational spelling by instituting a rational one.

So the words for Thanksgiving and Black Friday are "cheef" and "Crismas".

"The origin of Black Friday comes from the shift to profitability during the holiday season. Black Friday was when retailers went from being unprofitable, or "in the red," to being profitable, or "in the black", at a time when accounting records were kept by hand and red indicated loss and black profit." (From

Wensday, November 24, 2004: "numonia" for "pneumonia"

There are two silent — that is, needless — letters in "pneumonia", the P and the E. In French, a language that is even more stupidly spelled than English, with even more silent letters, the P in "pneu" (a slang term for a pneumatic tire) actually is pronounced. But in English, the P in the pneu- prefix is not, so should be dropped. The E contributes nothing to the U sound, which predominates, so should as well be dropped in this entire class of words, pneumatic, pneumococcus, pneumonic, and today's word: "numonia".

Tuesday, November 23, 2004: "tuf", "tuffen" for "tough/en"

The sequence -OUGH- is one of the silliest and most troublesome in all of English spelling. How would a new reader of English cope with "tough"? It's one letter away from "though", so perhaps it rhymes with that and is the way to spell the name of the digits of the foot. No, that's "toe". Hmm. Well, it's two letters from "through" or "thought", so perhaps it has the same vowel sound as one of those. No. And so on. Reading really shouldn't be that hard.

Some people who agree that "tough" should be abolished and something else instituted in its place would prefer "tuff" to "tuf", on the model of "puff" and "fluff". Various corporations that have adopted the distinctive spelling "tuf" (Tuf-Tite Corporation, Tuf-Wear boxing gear, Tuf Work and Safety Wear, Tuf-Tex, etc.) see no need for an extra F. Nor do I. We don't write "iff" , "seriff", "rooff", "reeff" or "cleff". We don't need a second F to end this word either: "tuf", and its verb derivative, "tuffen".

Sunday and Munday, November 21 and 22, 2004:
"herse" for "hearse"

"reherse" for "rehearse"

"Hearse" is another of those many werds that wer spelled better in Middle English (herse), when it entered the language, than in Modern English. Let's go back to the original spelling. "Rehearse" looks to be related to "hearse", tho I couldn't figure out how, but it's not related, it turns out. Since the two words ar now spelled similarly without causing confusion between them, a parallel reform for both is fitting: "herse" and "reherse".

Saturday, November 20, 2004: "carrage" for "carriage"

There are actually two words in this one spelling. By far the more common is pronounced káar.aj, and that's the one that should be respelled to drop the I. There is another word spelled "carriage" but pronounced ká, which means "The cost of or the charge for transporting." That can remain "carriage" or be reformed to "carryage". But the word that most people are familiar with, for the vehicle drawn by horses or the part of a portable typewriter that holds the paper, has no EE sound in it so should hav no I in the middle.

However, the vowel sound in the -AGE ending is a schwa so close to short-I that we might as well write it as I. And the consonant after it is not G, but J, so let's write J in place of the absurd GE: "carrij".

Friday, November 19, 2004: "exaust" for "exhaust"

The end of the workweek (for most of us) seems an apt time to deal with "exhaust" and its derivatives (such as exhausted and exhaustive). There is no H-sound in these words, so there should be no H in the spelling: "exhaust".

Thursday, November 18, 2004: "juce" for "juice"

By today, the fourth workday of the week, a lot of us are running out of 'juice', so this seems a fitting time to address the ambiguous spelling of "juice". UI can be pronounced many ways, e.g., short-I (build), long-I (beguile), long-E (as in the more careful pronunciation of conquistador), long-U (fruit), W&short-I (acquit), UE&W&short-I (accruing), W&long-I (acquire), YUE&short-I (acuity), W&long-E (ennui). Yes, traditional spelling really is that chaotic. Let's simplify things by applying the pattern of puce, Bruce, spruce, and (most aptly for this word) reduce: "juce" (and thus, also, "jucy", "jucier", "juciest").

Wensday, November 17, 2004: "tressle" for "trestle"

Interestingly, this word is related to "transom", in both being descended from Latin "transtrum" (beam). "Transom" lost the T. Trestle didn't — till now: "tressle".

Tuesday, November 16, 2004: "pece" for "piece"

There is no I-sound in "piece". It's not "pie" with an S-sound added. "Piece" (with its derivatives) and "niece" are the only common words in English in which the EE sound is spelled IE. That's two too many. We already have a word "peace", with a quite different meaning, so shouldn't respell "piece" that way. Since we are accustomed to seeing "-ece-" as a way of showing a long-E followed by an S-sound, in words like decent, receive, and precede, we can simply write "pece" — which just happens to be the way the word was spelled when first brought into the language! Here again we have a word that was written better in Middle English than Modern. Let's return to the Middle English spelling: "pece".

Munday, November 15, 2004: "plad" for "plaid"

"Plaid" looks like a rhyme for "laid", which it is not. The similar word "plait" can be pronounced with a long-A, tho some people pronounce it with a short-A, parallel to "plaid".  The word "braid", which means the same thing as "plait", has, however, only one pronunciation, with a long-A, like "laid". Since "plaid" has only one pronunciation, with a short-A, its spelling needs to be reformed:  "plad".

Friday, Saturday, Sunday, November 12, 13, and 14, 2004:
"nee" for "knee"
(revised February 26, 2006, which see)
"brest" for "breast" (and "abrest" for "abreast")
"elbo" for "elbow"

These three body parts are spelled badly. There's a silent-K we don't need in "knee", an EA that one could read wrong in "breast", and a W in "elbow" that could lead new readers to think the word parallel to "endow".

There is a hifalutin word "nee", for "born as" (meaning, "maiden name"), but that usually takes an accent: "née". So that's insufficient reason to retain a silent-K. I see no reasonable objections for the other proposed reforms, so let's write "nee", "brest", and "elbo". And while we're at it, we might as well change "abreast" to conform: "abrest".

Thursday, November 11, 2004: "suttle" for "subtle"

There is no B-sound in "subtle", so should be no B written. There is a variant of this word spelled "subtile" in which the B is pronounced by many people. Anyone who prefers that pronunciation should use that spelling. But for the word most people use, which has no B-sound, we should simply write "suttle".

Wensday, November 10, 2004: "nessle" for "nestle"

There is no T-sound in "nestle", so should be no T written. Besides, "nestle" looks like the Swiss food conglomerate, "Nestlé", which is pronounced very differently. Let's make the sound of the standard English word clear and phonetic: "nessle".

Tuesday, November 9, 2004: "exort" for "exhort"

There is no H-sound in this word, so should be no H in the spelling. We have here, again, the phenomenon of bad spelling driving out good. The silent-H in "exhort" confuses many people as to whether a vaguely similar word, "exorbitant" should as well have an H (exhorbitant). It should not. But neither should "exhort" and its derivatives: "exort", "exortation".

Munday, November 8, 2004: "nauty" for "naughty"

There is no G-sound in this word, nor an H-sound, so should be no G nor H in the spelling. "Naughty" is nauty. "Nauty" is nice:  "nauty".

Sunday, November 7, 2004: "nash" for "gnash"

There is no G-sound in this word, so should be no G. It's really that simple: "nash".

Saturday, November 6, 2004: "shwa" for "schwa"

"Schwa" is the term linguists give the short, neutral vowel sound so often heard in unstressed syllables in English. Every vowel  but I is sounded schwa in some word (about, telephone, monastic, circus). Tho the phenomenon is very English, the spelling is German. It is no more reasonable to spell the SH-sound S-C-H just because that's the way the word came into English because that's the way German spells that sound, than it would be to spell the CH-sound T-S-C-H, as German does. English is English, and we should respect our own spelling conventions (just apply them consistently, which is what this site is all about): "shwa".

Friday, November 5, 2004: "yung" for "young"

OU is an ambiguous spelling that usually expresses the vowel sound in sound and ouch! The sound in "young" is short-U, so a simple U will do: "yung".

Wensday and Thursday, November 3 and 4, 2004:
"vissera/l" for "viscera/l"
"evisserate" for "eviscerate"

National elections in the United States have become quite divisive and emotional, so naturally tens of millions of people have visceral reactions to them. This particular election devastated one of the major parties, effectively eviscerating the Democratic Party as a national force. It can now block only such measures as Republicans are divided on.

"Viscera" (internal organs: heart, and especially intestines or "guts"), from which both "visceral" (emotional, gut-wrenching) and "eviscerate" (disembowel, rip away a vital force) derive, has no K sound. Compare abscond, miscreant, episcopal. Thus it should have no C in it. SS is a far better spelling here: "vissera", "visseral", "evisserate".

Tuesday, November 2, 2004: "guvvern" for "govern"

This is Election Day in the United States (and Puerto Rico), an appropriate time to throw out the incorrect vowel in "govern". There is no O-sound in "govern" or any of its derivatives (e.g., governor, government, governmental). Rather, the vowel sound is short-U, so should be written U. This is the first proposed reform on this site that would require an alteration to the Internet, since the domain-name ending "gov" (which many people aren't sure how to pronounce, .gov (gahv) or guv), would have to change to "guv" (which everyone would know how to pronounce). The Internet is so flexible, however, that that should not cause a problem. So let's put the right vowel, U, into this cluster of words.

To show that the U is short, however, we need to double the following-V.

Out with the old, in with the new!: "guvvern", "guvvernor" (or, better, "guvverner"), "guvvernment" and "guvvernmental".

Munday, November 1, 2004: "rithm" for "rhythm"

"Rhythm" has a silent-H, which it doesn't need, and a Y for the short-I sound, which is a poor choice. The sequence -rithm in algorithm and logarithm causes us no problem, so should be adopted for the same sound in this word: "rithm".

Saturday and Sunday, October 30 and 31, 2004:
"leag" for "league"

"colleag" for "colleague"

A number of words ending in -ue have been reformed to drop that needless pair of letters, and those forms (e.g., catalog, monolog, dialog) are widely accepted even in formal writing. It's time to drop the -ue from these words too: "leag" and "colleag".

Friday, October 29, 2004: "werth" for "worth"

Today is Friday, payday for most Americans, the day they find out what they ar worth to their employer, so reforming this werd, which has the wrong vowel, seems apt. Worth is parallel in form but not in sound to north. North has the right vowel. Worth has a wrong one. We can fix that: "werth".

Thursday, October 28, 2004: "cluch" for "clutch"

There is no need for a T in "clutch", inasmuch as we have no trouble with other words ending in -UCH, like much, such, touch, and pouch. So let's just drop it: "cluch".

Wensday, October 27, 2004: "mettafor" for "metaphor"

The spelling PH for the F-sound is unjustifiably absurd — nay, stupid. It’s meant to show that the word originated in Greek, but what is Greek to us? Who cares where the word came from? We simply want to be able to spell things easily and unambiguously. In Greek, the F-sound is represented not by two letters but by one, just as it usually is in English. The Greek letter is called "phi" (pronounced, however, "fie"); our pronunciation of that PH being "ef". Alas, bad spelling sometimes drives out good, so that foolish scribes in the Middle Ages sometimes used PH for the F sound even in words that didn’t come from Greek, because they thought it looked more Latin, and therefore more learnèd!. It's not. There is no reason whatsoever for us to be bound by pretentious conventions from hundreds of years ago. So today’s word, with its derivatives, is "mettafor".

Tuesday, October 26, 2004: "nostic" for "gnostic"

You may wonder why I'd bother with this arcane word from the study of religion and philosophy. Tho the main word, "gnostic", is unusual, its antonym, "agnostic" is well known; but whereas the G in "gnostic" is silent, the G in "agnostic" is sounded! That makes no sense. So let's get rid of the G in the first and leave it in the second: "nostic", "agnostic".

Munday, October 25, 2004: "lacross" for "lacrosse"

There is no need for a silent-E at the end of "lacrosse". It doesn't signal a long-O before the S's. It's just there because the word came from (Quebec) French. But the French word "crosse" itself came from a Germanic language; English is a Germanic language; so it makes very good sense indeed to drop the silent-E to conform to the standard spelling of "cross" in English: "lacross".

Sunday, October 24, 2004: "simfony" for "symphony"

This is one of the few days I have for "culture", since I work an unusual schedule that precludes most events. Now and then I get out to the Newark Museum or NJPAC (the New Jersey Performing Arts Center here in Newark) on a Sunday (I'm a member of both). Reform of the spelling of "symphony" thus seems appropriate for Sunday.

PH is a preposterous spelling for F, as is Y for the short-I sound. Let's get rid of them both: "simfony".

Saturday, October 23, 2004: "morf" for "morph"

"Morph" (with its derivatives) is the only word in English that ends in "orph". That's one too many. It is very appropriate for this word to change from an old spelling to a new one: "morf".

Friday, October 22, 2004: "haf" for "half"

The L in "half" is not pronounced, so should not be written. The word half has three phonemes (individual speech sounds), and needs only three letters to express those sounds unambiguously. Half has an irregular plural, halves, which has four phonemes but is presently spelled with six letters, which means that two of them (L and E) are silent. That's two more letters (a full third more) than it needs. So today's word is a twofer: "haf" and "havs".

Wensday, October 20 and Thursday, October 21, 2004:
"ded" for "dead"

"hed" for "head"

EA is often pronounced the same as EE (long-E), so "dead" and "head" are ambiguous. E followed immediately by a consonant, however, is unambiguous, so let's just drop the needless A and write "ded" and "hed".

Munday, October 18 and Tuesday, October 19, 2004:
"wauk" for "walk"

"chauk" for "chalk"

There is no L-sound in either "walk" or "chalk", so there should be no L written.

Simply removing the L would leave "wak" and "chak", which wouldn't work. However, changing the L to a U, on the pattern of "auk", would work perfectly well, inasmuch as AU is of course an utterly unambiguous representation of the AU-sound! So let's wauk the walk and chauk the chalk.

Sunday, October 17, 2004: "rak" for "wrack"

Wrapping up this week's WR words, I offer one that I mentioned yesterday as presenting problems in simplification because just dropping the W would create a new homonym: "wrack" to "rack". This unusual word is generally used only in the phrase "wrack and ruin", and "rack" is actually accepted as a variant spelling. The two words are often confused, producing no harm. When the confusion occurs, it is the worse spelling, with the silent-W, that sneaks in to corrupt the better spelling. We may think "wrack one's brains", when it's actually "rack one's brains", as in put them on the rack to extract information. Still, if we want to retain a distinction, we can adopt an alternative spelling for "wrack" on the model of flak, yak, kayak, and anorak: "rak".

Wensday, October 13 thru Saturday, October 16, 2004:
"rinkle" for "wrinkle"

"reak" for "wreak"
"riggle" for "wriggle"
"ry" for "wry"

There are some 28 base words (not counting derivatives) in English with a silent-W before R. Some present problems in simplification, because just dropping the W would create a new homonym (e.g., wrack, wrest, wrap). On various earlier days, this page has already suggested dropping the silent-W in six words (wrought [raut], wrench [rench], wrath [rath], wrangle/r [rangle/r], wrestle/r [ressle/r], and wrist [rist]). This week I propose four more cures for common WR words: "rinkle", "reak", "riggle", and "ry".

Tuesday, October 12, 2004: "aet" for "eight"

Yesterday's word, "one" (to wun) is wun of four problem words among the numbers in English. The others are "two" (with its silent-W, and O to represent the long-U sound), "four" (which looks as tho it should rhyme with "our"), and today's word, "eight", which is one of the silliest and most troublesome words in the English language, especially in its ordinal form, "eighth".

There's not much we can do about "two", since we already have "to" and "too". Likewise, we already have "for" and "fore". Were we to reform "eight" to "ate", it would become a homograph for the simple-past of "eat". But we can surely change it to "aet", and its ordinal form to "aeth".

Munday, October 11, 2004: "wun" for "one"

O-N-E is a preposterous way to spell something that sounds like wun, and "one" is the only word (with its derivatives) or indeed place in the entire English language where that letter sequence takes that pronunciation. That's one too many. Plainly "one" should rhyme with bone, cone, hone, Jones, lone, [corn]pone, tone, and zone. It doesn't, but with bun, dun, fun, gun, nun, pun, run, and sun. So let's make it's spelling match its pronunciation: "wun".

Sunday, October 10, 2004: "hippacrit" for "hypocrite"

"Hypocrite" is a sensationally stupid spelling, vivid proof, for the spelling reformer, of the absurdity of traditional orthography. It consists of the familiar word "hypo" (pronounced HIE-poe) and an unfamiliar element, "crite" — whatever that's supposed to mean (as most people would see things) — but which, whatever it might mean, presumably rhymes with "white". Guess again. And yes, that is what we have to do with English, over and over endlessly thru our entire lives: guess at the pronunciation of an unfamiliar word we see, or at the spelling of an unfamiliar word we hear. We can't even look up a word like "hypocrite", because it starts out so unfonetically that many people would have a hard time finding it in the dictionary. We can fix that, simply by spelling it the way it sounds: "hippacrit".

Saturday, October 9, 2004: "duz" for "does"

Yesterday's word, "was" (to wuz) is parallel in sound but not spelling to today's word, "does". Why is that? It is that kind of insane confusion in even the littlest words that makes English so very hard to read and write. People who pretend that "phonics" can solve the problem ar kidding themselves. There's no "phonic" solution to recognizing "was" and "does", nor coping with the underlined letters in today's discussion. (For this purpose, I'll even pass over PH for the F-sound, and TI for the SH-sound in –tion endings. Kids and foran lerners of English may object to such spellings as silly and needless, but they're fairly consistent — idiotic, but consistent.)

Aside from the fact that "does" and its derivative "doesn't" ar the only two words in all of English in which OE is pronounced short-U,* "does" is also a homonym with the plural of the word for female deer, doe. It is as well parallel to another word kids lern young, "goes", but doesn't sound like that either. Since it doesn't sound like "does" or "goes", however, it shouldn't be spelled like them.

It's pronounced duz, so should be spelled "duz".


* The third pronunciation given by the American Heritage Dictionary for the geological term "loess" is "lus", but that is both a very uncommon word and an infrequent pronunciation of that unusual word.

Friday, October 8, 2004: "wuz" for "was"

This simple-past tense form of the extremely irregular verb "to be" looks as tho it should be pronounced like "has". But it isn't. Nor is it pronounced like "gas". It's pronounced wuz, so should be spelled "wuz".

Wensday and Thursday, October 6 and 7, 2004:
"frend" for "friend"
"feend" for "fiend"

Kids and other new learners of English note the confusing inconsistency of "friend", "fiend", "fried", and the surnames "Fried" and "Friedman", and are not amused. In one-syllable words, IE is generally pronounced long-I (die, fie, hie, lie, pie, tie, vie). "Friend" may be the only one-syllable word in English in which the I plays no role in the sound, so is effectively silent. Let us therefore delete it, as we should delete all silent letters.

As for "fiend", it is "fie" with N and D added. Why should that change the vowel sound? In the verb form "fried" (fried foods), the IE is read long-I. In "fiend", long-E. It's needlessly puzzling for kids. There are many words in which a long-E before an N is written EE (green, keen, teen, queen, seen). So let's just adopt that convention in respelling "fiend".

So we have here an apparent pair that can be easily differentiated via spelling reform: "frend" and "feend".

Munday and Tuesday, October 4 and 5, 2004:
"skool" for "school"
"skooner" for "schooner"

CH should, ideally, be reserved to "the CH-sound" as in church. A manufacturer of children's educational toys, Playskool, intelligently uses a K for the K-sound in its own name. Kids who learn that spelling might be a bit puzzled when they get to kindergarten or first grade and find out that the "correct" spelling has a CH in it. Let's not puzzle them, but use a K in the correct spelling for the name of an educational institution and for the vaguely familiar word kids learn around the same time, for a sailing vessel: "skool" and "skooner".

Saturday and Sunday, October 2 and 3, 2004:
"sintilla/te" for "scintilla/te"
"fassinate" for "fascinate"

Both these words have a silent-C. Why? Plainly a silent letter is a needless letter, but traditional spelling litters the language with thousands of silent letters that people have to try to memorize, since there's no way to figure out what letter must be silent or even if there is a silent letter in a given word. There are better uses for memory. Let's free up some memory for important things by getting rid of these silent-C's: "sintilla" / "sintillate"; "fassinate".

Friday, October 1, 2004: "wer" for "were"

"Were" and "we're" are often confused in handwriting, because some people are careless about apostrophes. Even without that confusion, "were" looks as tho it should rhyme with "we're" and "here", not to mention "cashmere" and "atmosphere". There's no reason for a silent-E to be at the end of this werd, since a silent-E ordinarily signals a long vowel, but the vowel in "were" is short. Let's save a letter and some confusion: "wer".

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SSWD is a project of L. Craig Schoonmaker , Newark, New Jersey, United States, creator of Fanetik: Reformed (Phonetic) Spelling — at Least for Teaching. For information about other ways to change irrational spellings, search the Internet for "spelling reform".

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