Simpler Spelling
Word of the Day
October-December 2006

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Sunday, December 31, 2006: "carrasell" for "carrousel" / "carousel"

Let's end 2006 with a happy word that relates metaphorically to the merry-go-round of life. We greet each year with hope and expectation, and are glad to say goodbye to that same year when its end has come.

There are two spellings to this word, one with a double-R, one with a single-R. There is in both spellings an OU but no OU-sound.

Taking the easier issue first, we can simply replace the OU with A.

But one R or two? "Car" is a word within both, and contains a broad-A / short-O (same sound). CARR- in the longer spelling is a clearer rendering of the short-A sound this word actually contains, by comparison with carry. Doubling the R is the way we commonly try to show that an A before R is not broad but short (arrow, marry, barren, as distinct from are, mar, and bartender). So let's use a double-R.

Two issues remain. First, some people say the S as Z. We don't have to change the S for them, because if they can see an S and say a Z, they can do so for the reformed spelling as easily as for the old spelling. Most people say an S-sound, so we'll stick with that.

The last issue is whether -EL is an adequate spelling to show a full short-E sound in the last syllable of this word, or whether some people will misread the E as representing a schwa. -ELL is clear: the E is given its full short sound. Double-L also guides people to put the word's primary stress on the last syllable, which is what most people do. Those who put primary stress on the first syllable will see the double-L as being present only to indicate that the E is pronounced as short-E rather than schwa.

Putting this all together, we arrive at: "carrasell".

My thanks to "Clap..." for this suggestion.

Saturday, December 30, 2006: "leggacy" for "legacy"

The deaths this past week of James Brown and Gerald Ford brought today's word to mind. The present spelling is ambiguous, since -ACY is found in words like lacy and racy. If once you double the G, however, readers are cued not just to give the E its short sound but also to put the word's stress on the first syllable, which then signals that the -ACY takes a schwa, not long-A: "leggacy".

Sunday-Friday, December 24-29, 2006:
"rech/id" for "wretch/ed"

"raith" for "wraith"
"rit/ten" for "writ/ten"
"roat" for "wrote"
"roth" for "wroth"
"rass" for "wrasse"

Let's fix some words with a silent-W that I am reminded of by Dickens' A Christmas Carol, plus all the common remaining words of the same type that we can readily revise.

Ebenezer Scrooge was a miserable "wretch", even tho rich. All his money could not keep him from living a "wretched" life, until three "wraiths" came to show him his past, present, and future, whereupon he reformed and his money did him some good in doing good for others.

Dickens "wrote" this work in 1843, and once it was "writ/ten", he had it published privately because he was annoyed with his publisher. "Writ" is an uncommon form of the past and past participle of "write" (which I offered here as "rite" on March 7, 2005). "Writ" is more commonly used as a noun.

If we merely drop the W from "wretch", we get "retch", which is already a word. But if we also drop the T, to make it comparable to rich, we end up with "rech", which is not already a word. So let's do that.

With the adjective "wretched" we can also change the -ED to -ID, because it does not represent a verb form but is merely used to create a noun into an adjective. It is indeed better to alter the -ED to -ID, in this case especially, since "retched" is a verb form, so "reched" might be confused with "retched", whereas "rechid" will not be.

We can simply drop the W from "wraith" and "writ/ten" without causing confusion with existing words. So let's do that too.

There's a minor problem with revising "wrote", because if we merely drop the W, we get "rote", which is already a word. We should ideally avoid creating new homographs, so how else might we write the sounds of "wrote"? "Roet", "roht", "rowt", and "roat" come to mind. Most people would probably think "roet" and "roht" 'funny-looking'. "Rowt" is ambiguous, and could be pronounced like rout, with an OU-sound. "Roat", parallel to oat, goat and float, seems wisest.

"Wroth" is not exactly a common word, but is encountered on occasion, especially in the Bible and other old literature. There is a common surname "Roth", as in a type of IRA retirement account, but surnames aren't exactly words, and the chances of the two being confused are minimal. So simply dropping the silent-W to leave "roth" should work fine.

"Wrasse", for Food Friday, is a type of fish, whose name both starts and ends with a silent letter. We can drop both the W and the E without harm, because there is no preexisting word "rass".

Thus do we arrive at six simplified words of similar original form: "rech/id", "raith", "rit/ten", "roat", "roth", and "rass".**

* The various film versions of that Dickens story used to be shown on television overnite from Christmas Eve into Christmas Day but that seems not to have been done this year.

** There remains but one WR- word in common use, "wrap". Alas, we can't just drop that silent-W because there is a very frequently used word spelled "rap".

My thanks to "Dogs..." for "ritten".

Saturday, December 23, 2006: "lackadazical" for "lackadaisical"

The beginning (LACKA-) and end (-ICAL) of this word are fine, but the mid-portion, -DAIS- is problematic. It is a word in itself, dais, which, however, is ambiguous in itself, having three pronunciations in standard dictionaries: dáe.(y)is, díe.(y)is, and daes (with an S-sound in all three pronunciations, never a Z-sound). None of those pronunciations is valid in the longer word "lackadaisical", which is pronounced làak.a.dáe.zi.kal.

Fortunately, we can make this word clear by dropping one letter, the first-I, and changing the S to a Z. Tho some people might say that -DAZI- could be seen to have a short-A, a reader who sees only a single-Z following will far more likely read the A as long, and would see it as short only if there were a double-Z ("lackadazzical"). So we don't have to put in an I, E, or Y after the A ("lackadaizical", "lackadaezical", or "lackadayzical"), each of which could entail an element of ambiguity for some readers. Here, as often elsewhere, less is more. We get more clarity simply by dropping a needless letter: "lackadazical".

Friday, December 22, 2006: "feffernussa" for "pfeffernüesse" / "pfeffernusse"

It's the last Food Friday before Christmas, so let's deal with a seasonal treat, the sugar-powdered German spice cookies spelled pfeffernüesse. In German, that would be pronounced pféòos.a. Speakers of English would tend to drop the P-sound that Germans do employ, and might even tend to say a short-U rather than short-OO in the fourth syllable, especially since this word is seen in supermarkets and bakeries, but has not yet been entered into English dictionaries. The mere fact that it is not in standard dictionaries does not mean it is not part of the English language we use. So we need to write it as clearly as we can.

The -feffern- and -ss- parts are fine as they are.

But there is no way to show the short-OO sound in this or in many other words, because OO in unfamiliar locations will be read as long-OO (long-U without the Y-glide) by most people. We may know to say short-OO in good and book, but if someone coins a word with OO in it, most new readers will pronounce it long: say, plood or trooky. So we might as well leave the U, but remove the umlaut, since English does not use diacritics.

The final-E is pronounced as a schwa, whereas in English we would expect a final-E to be silent or long-E (as in abalone or recipe). So let's just change it to an A, which people will know to say as a schwa.

Put this all together and we get: "feffernussa".

Wensday and Thursday, December 20 and 21, 2006:
"creacher" for "creature"

"trechery" for "treachery"

Let's deal with two words with similar problems handled differently by traditional spelling. Both have an ambiguous EA, but it is said differently in the different words, long-E in "creature" (crée.cher), short-E in "treachery" (tré

They both have a CH-sound (as in church), but "creature" spells it with a TU, which makes no sense.

Both have an ER-sound, as in speller, but one spells it with a UR, the other with ER. "Treachery" is parallel in sound to "treasury", but the ER-sound in the latter is spelled with a UR. It is the multiplicity of needless variations that makes the spelling of English so very hard to master. Let's fix that.

EA is most commonly pronounced as tho EE. As long as we reserve it to that sound, we don't have a problem, so can leave the large class of words with EA for the EE-sound as they are, but standardize other elements. So if "creature" is parallel in sound to teacher and preacher, let's spell it like them.

But "treachery" looks as tho its first two syllables should be pronounced parallel to teacher and preacher too. They are not. Rather, "treachery" is parallel to "lechery", so let's spell it that way.

Thus do we arrive at this late-week twofer: "creacher" and "trechery".

Naturally, "treacherous", "treacherously", "treacherousness" all drop the A too: "trecher(o)us/ly", "trecher(o)usness". (The "(o)" indicates that we can drop the O from all -OUS endings, but even if we don't do that, we should certainly drop the A from these related words.)

My thanks to "Red..." for "creacher" and "yaora..." for "trechery".

Tuesday, December 19, 2006: "bunjee" for "bungee"

NG in this word is a very poor choice on the part of whoever brought this word into the language, which was done fairly recently in historic terms, tho none of my sources indicates exactly when. NG typically forms the third nasal sound in English, after M and N, a single sound represented in two letters. There is a second complex sound also associated with NG, a combination of the NG-sound (as in bring) and a hard-G following:  hunger, anger. Neither of those sounds is present in "bungee", which could easily be misread as or bung.gee (with a hard-G). Instead, "bungee" contains a sequence of two separate sounds, first a regular N and then a soft-G, which is just a different way of spelling the J-sound. It would be far better simply to write this unambiguously as "bunjee" or "bunjy". Since -Y can be pronounced as long-I in final position (dry, sly, qualify), the first is the better choice: "bunjee".

Munday, December 18, 2006: "triptick" for "triptych"

In watching a documentary recently, I heard the word for a three-panel hinged work of art that sounds like tríp.tik, but could not be sure how it is spelled. I knew that one syllable had an I and the other a Y, but didn't know which syllable took which: whether it was "triptych" or "tryptich". This is the hear-write test of spelling adequacy, and English fails it badly. We can't really know how things are spelled just from hearing them, so have to guess. And sometimes we guess wrong.

One might think the first syllable takes the I, on the model of tristate, trio, and triplet. But words like tryptophane confuse the issue. Only an expert in word origins would know that the trypt- in tryptophane has nothing to do with "three".* Similarly, only an etymologist would know that the P in "triptych" is not part of the "three" part of the word but actually is part of the Greek -ptych or -ptuch second part of the word! There's no need for this nonsense. Let's just put an I where the short-I sounds occur, in both syllables.

That leaves one issue, CH for the simple K-sound. There's no justification for that nonsense either. Let's just use a K for a K-sound.

Put these solutions together and we get "triptik", which is elegantly simple, but departs from customary spellings for words that end with an IK-sound, which are ordinarily spelled -ICK. Besides, "TripTik" is a registered trademark of the American Automobile Association (AAA) for a turn-by-turn roadmap of an entire road trip. So let's put in what is phonetically a needless C (in that "triptych" is not a verb, so we don't need to worry about suffixes like -ING being seen to alter the sound of the I before a single-K), in order to make the new spelling conform to many old spellings for the same sound (tick, wick, flick, stick, etc.). We won't save a letter (tho won't go longer than the original spelling either), but we will make it easier for people to guess the spelling when they hear the word, which is where we started this discussion: "triptick".

* It actually comes from Greek for "rubbed".

Sunday, December 17, 2006: "niyilism" for "nihilism"

When I encountered this word in reading today, I checked its pronunciation and thought at first it couldn't be changed, because some people say a long-E (EE) in the first syllable but others long-I (IE). But then I realized that that doesn't so much matter, because the worst part of the spelling is the H for what is a Y-glide to separate adjoining vowels. For spelling purposes, then, it is the H that absolutely has to go, because some people will say it if they see it (vée.hi.kool rather than the proper vée.yi.kool). So let's get rid of the H, put Y in its place, and let people assign whatever sound they like to the first-I: "niyilism".

* Naturally, derivatives also change: "niyilist", "niyilistic".

Saturday, December 16, 2006: "diaffanus" and "diafaneeity" for "diaphanous" and "diaphaneity"

Today's twofer is a literary word one encounters from time to time and a derivative that one would rarely see but which should nonetheless be addressed.

"Diaphanous" means:

"1. Of such fine texture as to be transparent or translucent. 2. Characterized by delicacy of form. 3. Vague or insubstantial."*

"Diaphaneity" is a derivative that the American Heritage Dictionary lists but the Random House Unabridged does not. The latter shows only "diaphanousness", which the AHD also shows. You might thus never encounter it, but in case you do, this is how we might better spell it: "diafaneeity". Why two E's rather than one? Because -EITY is ambiguous. Many people, for some reason, see it as being pronounced -áe.i.tee rather than -ée.i.tee (dáe.i.tee, spon.ta.náe.i.tee for "deity" and "spontaneity"). They would not likely see -EEITY as being pronounced other than -ée.i.tee.

So today's twofer is: "diaffanus" and "diafaneeity".

* American Heritage Dictionary.

Friday, December 15, 2006: "kichen" for "kitchen"

One of the problems new readers have in learning to spell is trying to remember which way of writing a given sound applies to which word. Because English has borrowed from so many sources, there are a number of different ways of spelling many sounds. For the CH-sound (as in church) we have at least three, CH, TCH, and, in a few borrowings, TSCH. The two main spellings are utterly inconsistent, and no one can espy any pattern for when you use one rather than the other: rich but itch; which but hitch; sandwich but kitchen. It's time to get rid of the needless-T everywhere and use CH only, everywhere the CH-sound occurs.

This Food Friday, let's get rid of the needless-T in "kitchen", the place where we prepare our foods: "kichen".

Thursday, December 14, 2006: "serkit" for "circuit"

I was typing the word "fluids" today when I noted the UI letter combination that sounds as it looks, two vowels in sequence, whereas it sometimes sounds like a consonant-vowel sequence (WI: acquit, anguish; WE: acquiesce), and sometimes like only one vowel, short-I (biscuit, circuit, build) , long-I (beguile), or long-U (bruise, bouillabaisse). Why do we put up with this?

I have already proposed "biskit" for biscuit. Let's deal with the other -CUIT word today, "circuit", and employ the same fix for the -CUIT part: -KIT. The first syllable of "circuit", however, also presents problems. IR is ambiguous, and often sounds like EER: irritable. So ER would be better. The C is also open to discussion. Why use a C for an S-sound? Why not just use an S? And so we end up with: "serkit".

My thanks to "Mario..." for this suggestion.

Tuesday and Wensday, December 12 and 13, 2006:
"crissalis" for "chrysalis"

"crisanthemum" for "chrysanthemum"

These two words have the same two problems, a CH for a simple K-sound, and a Y for a simple short-I sound. Fortunately, they also have the same simple fix for that problem, simply dropping the H. "Chrysalis" has a short-I before the S-sound, in the same syllable as the S-sound, so the S should be doubled to show that. In "chrysanthemum, however, the S goes with the following syllable, so does not need to be doubled: "crissalis" and "crisanthemum".

Munday, December 11, 2006: "yern" for "yearn"

Today's word contains the smaller words year and earn, which are pronounced differently! The pronunciations go from yern to yeer to ern, even tho the spellings are exactly parallel. This is why so many people find English so hard to learn.

Not only do we not need an A in this word, but the A confuses matters. So let's save ourselves a letter and make the pronunciation clear: "yern".

My thanks to "Dogs..." for this suggestion.

Sunday, December 10, 2006: "arkipellago" for "archipelago"

I was called by a market-research company last nite, and the interviewer had what sounded to me like a Filipino accent. A couple of other things have reminded me of the Philippines recently, so let's deal with the word for what the Philippines is: an "archipelago", or large group of islands (over 7,000 in the case of the Philippines). The Manila Standard reports that "Six out of 10 Filipinos speak English . . . With its large pool of English-speaking graduates, the Philippines is a hub for call center operations in the world." So maybe I was called directly from the Philippines! It is to ease the learning of English especially in places where it is not the native language, that I am a spelling reformer.

Today's word is an example of the difficulties that current spelling presents to learners. There is a CH in this word, but it does not represent the CH-sound (as in church). Rather, it stands in for K. The word has five syllables, but there's nothing to suggest where the stress falls.

We can fix both these things easily, first by changing the CH to K and second by doubling the L, as at once shows that the E is short and the word's stress falls on the third syllable: "arkipellago".

Saturday, December 9, 2006: "stammina" for "stamina"

Today's word is actually spelled correctly in itself, but is of a pattern that much more commonly takes a very different pronunciation, from cantina and ballerina to pastina, marina, Latina, farina, and semolina.  The familiar word "patina" takes both pronunciations.

Apparently the original pronunciation was to be pá, which is the only pronuncation recognized by my American Heritage Dictionary, but so many people see it and say it pa.té that that pronunciation has been admitted to the Random House Unabridged Electronic Dictionary. And now we can't show people that it is parallel to lumina and retina in taking stress on the first syllable (by spelling it "pattina") because so many people have modeled it on Latina that it's too late to change the spelling.

Let's not let that happen with "stamina" but enable new readers on every continent to understand on sight that the word's stress falls on the first syllable, by simply doubling the M: "stammina".

Wensday-Friday, December 6-8, 2006:
"sheenyon" for "chignon"

"poinyant" for "poignant"
"filay minyon/s" for "filet/s mignon/s"

I have grouped three words of similar type to save repeat argumentation. These three have in common a GN pronounced NY, because that's the way French, the language from which all three derive, spells that sound. English, however, does not. We generally spell it NY (canyon) or NI (onion). NY is plainly the better spelling.

"Chignon" has the additional problems that the CH and I are also said in the French manner, as SH and EE, respectively. So we need to respell those sounds too.

"Filet mignon" (for Food Friday) has the additional problem of a silent-T and an E pronounced long-A. The formal plural also has a silent-S! ("filets mignons"). Preposterous. "Filet mignon" is thus a twofer, which deals with the silly spellings "filet" and "fillet", both of which have a silent-T and E pronounced A. "Fillet", with two T's, is also a homograph for a word with a sounded-T; and the double-L suggests that the stress falls on the first syllable, whereas it actually falls on the second.

Fortunately, all these problems are easily solved: "sheenyon", "poinyant", "filay minyon/s".

Tuesday, December 5, 2006: "truso/es" for "trousseau/x" (or "trousseaus")

One of the good things about spelling simplification is that we can often (tho not always) save letters, and thus effort in writing and typing, toner or ink in printing, and paper (and thus trees) in publishing. Today's word is a good example. We can go from nine letters in the singular and ten in the plural to five in the singular and seven in the plural.

That the current spelling is grotesque should not require discussion. OU for a long-U? Double-S where one will do? EAU for a simple long-O sound? X for a simple plural? That's just nuts! All of these absurdities have quick fixes: "truso/es" .

Munday, December 4, 2006: "impass" for "impasse"

The traditional spelling of this word contains a final-E that is, as most people see things, entirely superfluous, because it changes nothing. They pronounce the word ím.paas, as do most of us. That is the only pronunciation shown in my electronic American Heritage Dictionary.

My Random House Unabridged Electronic Dictionary, however, allows of a second pronunciation, one with syllabic stress shifted backward: im.páas. One could justify retaining a final-E, to show that the stress falls on the second syllable, except that it does not fall on that syllable for the great preponderance of us, and to suggest it does insults the great majority for whom it does not.

No matter. English spelling does not, and need not, indicate syllabic stress, as is shown plainly by the fact that there are many paired noun/verb words spelled exactly the same, even tho the syllabic stress differs, for instance "permit" (péít), "transfer" (tráans.fer/traans.fér), and "research "(rée.serch/ri.sérch). So we don't need even to attempt to guide people as to syllabic stress with today's word.

The absence in ordinary English of a written accent permits people to put the stress on whichever syllable they please. Thus, we can get rid of a needless final-E in today's word and save ourselves a letter, without in any way making the pronunciation less clear: "impass" .

Sunday, December 3, 2006: "eery" for "eerie"

It's odd to see EE in the first syllable but -IE rather than the more familiar -Y in the second, when the two sound alike but IE powerfully suggests the sound in "die". But, then, so could a -Y be read as long-I (dry, shy), even in a word of more than one syllable (qualify, deny). That would argue for "eeree", which is a decidedly odd spelling. Still, "eerie" is an odd word for odd things, so perhaps an odd spelling that is unambiguous as to sound suits it.

"Eeree" might, however, be perceived as too different from this word's derivatives, such as "eerily" and "eeriness", since we don't have a familiar spelling rule for changing -EE to -I before adding suffixes, whereas we do have such a rule for changing -Y to -I before adding suffixes. And we are accustomed to seeing a final -Y as a long-E sound of short duration. So let's go with that, especially inasmuch as it is an accepted variant spelling.

It all too often happens in English that a superior alternate spelling is pushed aside for an inferior standard (controller shunted aside for comptroller; gage for gauge; recision for rescission). Let's stop doing that and start using the more sensible of alternatives: "eery".

Saturday, December 2, 2006: "nock" for "knock"

I was a little surprised to find, on checking, that I had not yet addressed this obvious candidate for simplification. Perhaps it's because once you knock off the initial-K (to produce "nock"), one issue remains, whether to eliminate the C as well ("nok").

I suspect the second spelling is a step too far for most people, especially since "knock", being a verb as well as noun, takes endings like -ED and -ING. If the form is "nock", you can just add suffixes without more. If the form is "nok", you'd have to double the K before adding some endings ("nokked", "nokking"). Tho there is no logical reason you can't treat K like any other final consonant, and double it when necessary to keep clear that the vowel before it short (bed, bedding; hum, hummed), double-K's are, as a practical matter, very rare (trekked, yakked, and not much more), so the "looks funny" objection comes to the fore. Let's not tackle that right now but content ourselves with getting rid of the most objectionable feature of the traditional spelling: "nock" .

Naturally, all derivatives should also change; for instance, nockout, nockoff, nockdown, antinock, and nockers.

Friday, December 1, 2006: "hyjene" for "hygiene"

The traditional spelling of this word is odd. On the one hand, it intelligently employs Y for the long-I sound. On the other hand, however, it uses IE where E-alone would do, and a G for the J-sound. Easily fixed: "hyjene", "hyjenic/s", "hyjenist" .

Thursday, November 30, 2006: "cremdalacrem " for "crème de la crème"

This originally French phrase (for "the best of the best") is never used in English as anything but its entirety, so it is more a long word than a phrase and should be treated that way.

The subelement "crème" is an English word to itself, but cannot be reformed because it takes two pronunciations (kreem and krem) that a single spelling cannot accommodate.

The phrase, however, does lend itself to phoneticization, in which, first, we drop the accents, since English does not employ accents; second, we push the elements up against each other to make one word from a needless phrase; third, we drop the misleading final-E from "crème", twice; and fourth, we change the E in "de" to A, because it doesn't take an E-sound but a schwa-sound, and A is clearer for that: "cremdalacrem".

Wensday, November 29, 2006: "stanchon" for "stanchion"

I had occasion to use this word in my Newark (NJ) fotoblog today and was surprised to find that I hadn't already used it here. So today's the day.

The I adds nothing but length and difficulty in remembering how to spell this word. So let's just drop it, OK?: "stanchon".

Tuesday, November 28, 2006: "maylay" for "melee" / "mêlée"

This is another weird French spelling (of so many) that we need to get rid of. For one thing, the formal spelling has two — count 'em, two — accents, whereas English employs none. So the accents have to go. The unadorned spelling "melee" looks nothing like its pronunciation, which parallels waylay. Since that is how it sounds, that is how it should be spelled: "maylay".

Munday, November 27, 2006: "swich" for "switch"

In looking for a word for today, I checked my email under several screennames and realized as I was about to choose the "Switch Screen Name" option in my AOL software that I hadn't yet used "switch". We don't need a T in that word. We don't write a T in which or rich. We don't need it in "switch". So let's switch to the pattern of ostrich and sandwich, and save ourselves a letter: "swich".

Sunday, November 26, 2006: "abiss" for "abyss"

There's no reason a short-I sound should be represented by a Y: "abiss".

Friday and Saturday, November 24tand 25, 2006:
"cappeleeny" for "capellini"

"cappilerry" / "cappilarrity" for "capillary" / "capillarity"

A lot of English words have double consonants for no good reason and single consonants where double would be better. The words above are among them. Where there should be a double consonant, there's a single; where there should be a single, there's a double. Let's flip them.

Doubling a consonant accomplishes one or two things. First, it signals that the vowel before the doubled consonant is short. Second, it suggests that the syllable before the doubled consonant is stressed. Useful things, both. But in "capellini", "capillary" and "capillarity", neither of those useful things is accomplished by the double-L, which has no reason to be there. Quite the contrary, the reader is misled as to where the stress goes.

The A in the first syllable is short, and stressed, but you wouldn't know that from the present spelling. For one thing, the familiar word "cape" within "capellini" might lead new readers to think the A is long. They might also think the E in the second syllable is stressed, because the L beyond it is doubled. Not so.

With "capellini"* there is another issue: the INI is utterly wrong in English. To show its pronunciation, we can simply write -EENY, as in teeny.

With "capillary", the other issue than the reversed double/single- consonant problem, is that the AR is wrong. It's not pronounced as in bar nor war nor wary — the last of which is exactly parallel in spelling to "capillary". It's not a schwa, because it takes secondary stress, and schwa is never stressed. Its sound is that of the E in the ER or ERR combo found in thousands of words in English, from ever and better to erroneous and jerrybuilt. If that's the way it sounds, that's the way it should be spelled.

With "capillarity", we have a slightly different problem with the AR. Here, the A is short, and it is difficult or impossible to make that completely clear before R. A double-R is one common attempt to clarify the sound: arrow, barren, arrogant. That's not foolproof, of course, and we do have words like warranty and quarrel, but they are the oddballs, the exceptions to the 'rule' (to the extent one could say traditional English spelling has rules).

Some opponents of spelling reform will protest that spelling "cappilerry" and "cappilarrity" 'so differently' will break the obvious tie between the words. Rubbish. The words remain very similar in appearance, but the spelling will now reflect the actual sounds. The sounds already differ, but people know the words are related when they hear them. People aren't morons — well, blanket opponents of spelling reform might be, but people in general are perfectly capable of linking related words even if they are spelled slightly differently.

Putting this all together, then, we arrive at: "cappeleeny", "cappilerry", and "cappilarrity".

"Capellini" (meaning "small hairs" / "fine hairs") is the original Italian name for angel hair pasta, this week's "Food Friday" selection. It also happens to be my favorite pasta, with meat sauce or clam sauce, or with butter as a side dish.

Thursday, November 23, 2006: "baest" for "baste"

There's been a lot of basting, of turkeys, all across the United States today, Thanksgiving Day, so let's address the word "baste".

It really is pushing the silent-E concept to put it TWO consonants away from the vowel it makes long. There are at least three ways we could respell this to make plain (1) that the A is long and (2) that the E at the end does not signal a second syllable to this one-syllable word: "bayst", "baist", and "baest".

None is a common pattern, tho -AIST is found in one common word, waist. However, that sequence occurs in words like algebraist, archaist, and tubaist, where it represents two syllables.

Neither -AEST nor -AYST occurs in any current English word. That is not necessarily a bar, but it would be better to choose a familiar pattern than an unfamiliar one, as long as it is unambiguous. The one familiar pattern, -AIST, however, is ambiguous.

An AY in the middle of a word of one syllable looks, to me at least, odder than an AE there. So, by process of elimination, the third solution seems best: "baest".

My thanks to "John..." for this suggestion.

Wensday, November 22, 2006: "splurj" for "splurge"

The Christmas shopping season officially begins this week, on "Black Friday", traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year. So this seems an apt time to reform "splurge". There's no reason to use two letters where one will do. Nor is there any reason to use G to represent the J-sound. There is indeed reason not to use G, since G has its own sound, even before E, in words with the same -URGE- pattern found here, such as burger, hamburger, cheeseburger, and Limburger. Let's reserve G for the G-sound: "splurj".

Sunday, Munday, and Tuesday, November 19-21, 2006:
"triticaily" for "triticale"

"troky" for "troche"
"trokee" for "trochee"

Let's reform two of the many words that end in what looks like but is not a silent-E. These two are on the same page of my dictionary, so let's get rid of both on successive days. While we're at it, let's also reform a word very similar to our second word, "trochee", that is very similar in form but completely different in meaning.

I was reminded of "triticale" in watching the classic episode of Star Trek (the original series), "The Trouble with Tribbles", in a marathon over the weekend on cable channel TV Land. In that episode, the fluffy little critters get into a bin of "quadrotriticale", a future version of the present hybrid of wheat and rye known as triticale.

The final-E of this word is pronounced long-E, but you just have to know that, because it is not plain from the spelling, which suggests a silent-E. If we simply replace the final-E with Y, we get "triticaly", which looks like an adverb from a (nonexistent) adjective "tritical", parallel to critical. Let's not do that, but clarify that the A is a full vowel, long- or flat-A, like the AI in daily, by adding an I to make the grain's name parallel in form to daily.

The final-E in "troche" (a medicinal lozenge) is likewise sounded as long-E — except in Britain, where the word is entirely differently conceived, as tho still French, and pronounced troesh. This is a case when the two pronunciations are so hugely different that there is no point to retaining a single spelling that is unclear to everyone. Let Brits continue to say troesh, if they like, and spell it as they may, "troesh", "troash", or its present French form, "troche". People who want to know to say the radically different tróe.kee should be guided to that pronunciation by an unambiguous spelling.

"Trochee", a metrical foot, as in poetry, is distinct in spelling and meaning, but not in sound, from troche. Both words employ CH to represent the K-sound. There's no reason for that. CH represents the CH-sound (as in church). Let K represent the K-sound.

There are two common ways of showing a long-E sound at the end of a word, -Y and -EE. If we use one for one of the pair troche/trochee and the other for the other, we retain a spelling distinction while making both phonetic.

So this trio is: "triticaily", "troky", and "trokee".

Saturday, November 18, 2006: "urj" for "urge"

How should we reform this word (and its derivatives, such as urgent, urgency, and urgent/ly)? The most obvious problem is the ambiguous and pointlessly overlong GE to express the simple J-sound. Should we content ourselves with "urj" or go the further step of changing the U to E, to conform to words like emerge and emergency (offered here November 2nd as "emerj" and "emerjency")?

Simpler spelling does not have to be drastic spelling reform, insisting on a radical substitution of one spelling for one sound. I have a system of radical spelling reform, but a lot of people are uncomfortable with the prospect of making so thoro a change. For them, and for the purposes of this project, it is enuf to get rid of the most striking absurdities and leave relatively unobjectionable features alone. The more you change, the more feathers you ruffle on the part of those odd birds who oppose all spelling reform. So let's accept that UR is fine here,* and change only the GE: "urj", "urjency", "urjent", and "urjently".

* There are, indeed, some people who object — strenuously — that ER is not the same sound as UR but can be read as approaching AIR in words like "merry". Let's not ruffle their feathers either, at least not on this word.

Friday, November 17, 2006: "anniss" for "anise"

The traditional spelling of this word makes absolutely no sense. There is a short-A followed by a single-N, and an -ISE at the end, which looks as tho the I should be long (concise, vise) and as tho the word is a verb, like advertise, improvise, or a host of verbs that contain a Z-sound and in the U.S. are spelled with -IZE but  in Britain are spelled with -ISE. To me, it looks as tho it should be pronounced parallel to valise or cerise: a.nées.

Fortunately, we can easily make the actual pronunciation clear with absolutely ordinary spelling conventions, by doubling the N and replacing the -SE with SS: "anniss".

Thursday, November 16, 2006: "fasset" for "facet"

The word face is the largest part of "facet", but "facet" is not pronounced like face or faced (which has a T-sound at its end). This is one of the many, many words in which an E following a single consonant is not to be interpreted as the silent-E that shows the prior vowel to be long, and the prior vowel is actually short. We can't simply double the C to show the A to be short, however, because "faccet" would be read as having a sound sequence of K-S (accent, success). Since the C merely represents an S-sound, we can simply replace it with S, and we can then double the S to show that the A is short: "fasset".

Wensday, November 15, 2006: "dain" for "deign"

D-E-I-G-N is a preposterous way to spell something that sounds like "Dane" (daen). The simpler spelling D-A-N-E is already taken, but a spelling parallel to gain, pain, and rain is available: "dain".

Tuesday, November 14, 2006: "mycro/feesh" for "micro/fiche"

Fiche is parallel in spelling but not pronunciation to niche, which rhymes with rich. Fiche rhymes with nouveau riche, baksheesh, and hashish. There are actually opponents of spelling reform who think this kind of insane and confusing variation is just fine. I'm not among them. If it sounds like it should be spelled -eesh, it should be spelled -eesh.

Moreover, the two-letter consonant cluster CR in the prefix "micro-" can well be seen as mandating a short-I before it, whereas the I is actually long. We have a spelling for a long-I sound midword, Y ("hydro", "dynamic", "cryogenics"). Let's use it here: "mycro-" and "mycrofeesh".*

* "Fiche" can be used without "micro", but generally is not.

My thanks to "Firewall..." for this suggestion, and to "Cargo..." for suggesting reform of this word, tho I went with a slitely different solution.

Munday, November 13, 2006: "jerm" for "germ"

When is G said "hard" (its own, G-sound, which no other letter carries) and when "soft", the J-sound? Tho opponents of spelling reform would like to pretend that it's clear enuf, so no general substitution of J for "soft"-G's is needed, the fact is that very early in learning to read, we encounter the very frequently used words "get" and "girl", which pretty much throws out, right away, the "G before I and E is soft" rule. We later encounter the personal name Gertrude, and many surnames like Geffen, Gelb, Gelblatt, Rheingelt, Gephardt, and other exceptions to the soft-G 'rule' like "gelding". This is why English is so hard to spell, because people in the spelling Establishment insist that it's not so hard! Yes, it is. But need not be.

We have a letter that adequately represents the J-sound. It's called "J" and looks like this: J, j. This letter — G, g — represents its own sound, which is very different from J's sound. There is no need to use G for a J, and risk confusing people. When we hear a J-sound, we should be able simply to write J, always: "jerm". *

* Naturally all derivatives should as well be reformed, from "germicide" and "germane" to "germinate" and "germinal" (jermicide, jermane, jerminate, jerminal). And yes, "germane" does derive from the same Latin word as "germ".

My thanks to "Cargo..." for jerm and to "Fishin..." for jerminate.

Sunday, November 12, 2006: "reck" for "wreck"

We don't need silent consonants, so the W has got to go: "reck".*

* And derivatives, of course, like "shipreck" and "trainreck".

Friday, November 10, 2006: "mayonaze" for "mayonnaise"

This Food Friday, let's deal with "mayonnaise". Given this word's needlessly long, complicated, and misleading traditional spelling, it's little wonder that this condiment so important to sandwiches is often abbreviated to "mayo". Let's get rid of the needless double-N and I, and change the S to the Z it sounds like: "mayonaze".

My thanks to "Fisherman..." for this suggestion.

Thursday, November 9, 2006: "eppitaf" for "epitaph"

The thing that jumps out at you about the traditional spelling "epitaph" is the silly PH for a simple F-sound. If we simply change that, we get "epitaf" (we don't need a double-F; one will do nicely). That's not so bad, but a single consonant (P) between the first and second syllables permits confusion about whether the E is pronounced short (as in edit), long (as in the more common pronunciation of evangelical), or even as a short-I (epistle). If we double the P, we make plain that the E takes its short sound. So let's do that: "eppitaf".

Wensday, November 8, 2006: "rapsody / rapsoddic" for "rhapsody / rhapsodic"

I was talking with a co-worker today about where I might find things to listen to on my long commute if I were to buy an mp3 player (he seems to have a great one, which plays sound and video). He said that for spoken word there are iPod downloads available from various broadcasters, like the BBC and perhaps shortened versions of longer shows from Comedy Central, and for music there are paid subscription services like I latched onto the word “rhapsody”, because I realized it has a silent-H, but shouldn’t.

In the noun form, we can simply delete the H with no loss in comprehension. With the adjective, once you eliminate the H, one problem remains: a single-D might lead some readers to think the O before it is long. It is not. One way we commonly show that a vowel is short is to double the consonant after it. Double consonants also often indicate that the word’s syllabic stress falls before the double consonant, which it does here. So let’s do both, get rid of the needless H, which serves no function, and double the D, which would serve two functions, showing the quality of the preceding vowel and indicating syllabic stress: "rapsody" and "rapsoddic".

My thanks to "Tom..." for "rapsody".

Tuesday, November 7, 2006: "sangwin" for "sanguine"

Jon Stewart on Comedy Central's Daily Show last nite mispronounced this word, saang.gwéen and was reproached for it by his guest, Jerry Seinfeld, who remarked, 'This is the most intelligent show on television. You can't mispronounce words!' I agree. That's why I'm a spelling reformer, because even intelligent people can be easily misled into embarrassing errors by our present, nonphonetic orthography.

Perhaps Stewart saw -GUINE as being something like the same combination in "linguine", tho without the final long-E sound. Or perhaps like "beguine", tho with a W-sound. No matter, he was misled by the present spelling. We can clarify that by dropping the final-E.

That would still leave unclear whether there is a hard-G sound in the word, or only an NG-sound. There is no way to clarify that without writing two G's: "sanggwin", and there is no present word that has the combination NGG but "mahjongg" — and that doesn't have a hard-G sound! We might just trust people to understand that what they see has a hard-G, since if they know the word from its sound, they will recognize it when they see it written more simply, and say it right. But that's no way to deal with spelling reform. If the word has an NG-sound followed by a (hard-)G sound, we should indeed show both sounds: "sanggwin".

Friday-Munday, November 3-6, 2006:
"pleez" for "please"

"displeez" for "displease"
"apeez" for "appease"
"unneez" for "unease"

Let's deal with the conflict between two different pronunciations of one spelling pattern that readers might use to determine how to pronounce a word: -EASE. I have already dealt here with three of the small group (7 common words) in which -EASE takes a Z-sound for the S: ease, disease, and tease. This pattern in 7 words contrasts with a group of 9 words in which the S takes its usual, S-sound (cease, crease, decease, decrease, grease, increase, lease, release, and surcease). How is a reader to know which of two pronunciations to apply to words of one pattern? This is why we need to reform spelling, because one pattern should take one pronunciation. Ideally, one pronunciation should also take only one pattern, but that is a bit more debatable.

In reforming "tease" (one of the 7 words that take a Z-sound) last July 13th, I thought it might be good enuf to change only the Z, and not also the EA. I have reconsidered. Why not change the A to E as well and have done with it, eliminating any possible confusion with the two-syllable pronunciation of -TEASE in the scientific term protease (which is pronounced próe.tee.àes or próe.tee.àez)? Missteps are easy to take when you try to reform spelling in piecemeal fashion, compromising with existing oddities rather than imposing a rigid and utterly consistent phonetic scheme on everything.  In any case, I recant my earlier error and urge "teez" for tease, consistent with "eez" and "dizeez", already suggested, and the pattern for today's words.* If we write -EEZ, we don't need yet another E at the end.  EEZ will do just fine.

The last two words of this little Gang of Four present questions of the pronunciation of the first syllable, which I have resolved differently. In the case of "appease", I think it most unlikely that the ordinary reader will see the A as long, so suggest we eliminate the double-P of the original, since a double-P implies a short-A (as in apple and applicant) rather than a schwa, whereas there are lots of words in which A followed by a single consonant and then an E is nonetheless understood to take the sound of schwa: abed, abet, acerbic, acetylene, adept (the adjective), agenda, ahem, alert, and on and on.

By contrast, there are a lot of words starting in UN in which the U is long, even without a silent-E following, for instance unique, unit/y, universal, uniform, union, and the recent borrowing uno (as in "He's numero uno" and the name of a card game). So it seems wise, if not absolutely necessary, to double the N after a short-U here. If that's inconsistent, well, so is the spelling of English generally. The first object of spelling reform must be to clarify pronunciation. Absent rigorous phoneticity as the standard for change, spelling simplification must rely upon frequency of spellings (that do not mislead as regards sound) to determine which are better and which worse.

So this little group resolves to: "pleez", "displeez", "apeez" and "unneez".

* There are other words that rhyme with these words, that is, that have the same pronunciation pattern, which we should ultimately deal with: seize, frieze, squeeze, sneeze, etc. Should they all be conformed to -EEZ? Well, we'd have a problem with frieze/freeze. We could distinguish them by writing "frieze" as "freze" — which conforms to a very common pattern for showing a long vowel — and "freeze" as "freez". Or we could just apply the same spelling to the same sound and let context show sense. We do not, however, need to resolve that, this week. This week, let's just get rid of the remaining -EASE words where S represents the sound of Z.

Thursday, November 2, 2006: "emerj/ency" for "emerge/ncy"

GE is a clumsy, ambiguous way of showing the J-sound. GE also has the "hard-G" sound in words like get, which we learn very early, gecko, together, and a lot of names, from Gertrude to Geffen, Gelbart, and Gephardt. Why not just use J and avoid any possible confusion?: "emerj/ency".

Wensday, November 1, 2006: "karreoky" for "karaoke"

Somehow this borrowing from Japanese sounds very little like the original (kòr.a.óe.kae, where O without E represents short-O, as in obtuse, which is also broad-A, as in father), but more like the Brazilian word for a resident of Rio de Janeiro, "carioca". Since, however, it has nothing to do with Rio, it's better not to emulate that pattern, which in any case has an ambiguous IO (Iowa, Kiowa, diode).

We could write "kareoky", but the sound of the A would be ambiguous, given that it precedes R, so will always be a little unclear, but also that an E appears in a location that some might see as marking the A as long. If we double the R, we at once break the link to E, as to show it is not the silent-E that makes a preceding vowel long but just a regular, sounded-E, in its own syllable, and suggest that the A is short (as in arrow, narrow, carriage, marriage, arrogance, and barracuda) rather than broad  (as in bar, far, marlin, and garden): "karreoky".

Tuesday, October 31, 2006: "soe" and "soen" for "sew" and "sewn"

Yesterday we dealt with the silliness of EW representing the long-U sound. Today we deal with the one bizarre exception* to that peculiar rule, "sew" for a word that sounds like "so". Since the simplest spelling, "so", is already taken, we can just add a silent-E to make a word parallel to "toe".

The past participle "sewn" adds an N to the base word. We can do that with the respelling too: "soe" and "soen".

There is, actually, at least one other exception, the historical or dialectal pronunciation of the placename, in Britain, "Shrewsbury" as "Shrovesbury".

My thanks to "Clap..." for this suggestion.

Munday, October 30, 2006: "fue" for "few"

EW is a peculiar way to spell the long-U sound, much less the Y-glide-plus-long-U sound combination. We generally show the long sound of a vowel with a silent-E nearby, either after an intervening consonant (tune, fluke) or immediately following (hue, clue). That is a much more sensible way to write this word as well: "fue".

My thanks to "Fishin..." for this suggestion.

Munday, October 29, 2006: "beleev" and "beleef" for "believe" and "belief"

IE should spell long-I, not long-E. EE is the simplest, clearest way to show the long-E sound, so let's use that. We most especially don't need to write IE_E to show a long-E! So today's twofer is: "beleev" and "beleef".

Note: An alternative spelling reform here would be "beleeve", and I have suggested -EEVE for other words of this pattern. Those, however, are all but the first step in a two-step reform to get rid of needless silent-E's. They should all, ideally, be simplified to -EEV. So consider this a more ambitious reform than those other proposed changes that should eventually apply to all words of the same pattern.

My thanks to "Monsters..." for this suggestion.

Saturday, October 28, 2006: "chaember" for "chamber"

"Chamber" is parallel in spelling but not in sound to "amber" and "chamfer". There is no way in the world that a new reader of English could be expected to understand that -AMB- contains anything but a short-A. Let's just copy the silent-E that marks a long vowel from the second syllable of this word — where the E already represents an actual sound of its own, in the syllable -ER — to immediately following the A of the prior syllable, to show that the A is to be pronounced long: "chaember".

My thanks to "Shoe..." for this suggestion.

Wensday-Friday, October 25-27, 2006:
"receev" for "receive"

"deceev" for "deceive"
"perceev" for "perceive"

"I before E except after C" is one of those 'rules' we use to try to teach traditional spelling, but there are so many exceptions that it's pointless even to try to teach by means of such a 'rule'. Let's just reform all the words where there would be confusion. In the case of words ending in -EVE, there aren't many to begin with, so there's no reason to conform to -EEVE. The real issue is whether -EVE (receve, deceve, perceve) looks any better or is any more logical than -EEV (receev, deceev, perceev). Tho -EVE is marginally more typical of the way traditional spelling handles things, traditional spelling is the problem, not the model we should be using. Why separate into what appear to be two syllables — and sometimes are — the two E's that show the long-E sound? Why not just put them together so there's no confusion?: "receev", "deceev", "perceev".

Tuesday, October 24, 2006: "zellus" and "zellot/ry" for "zealous" and "zealot/ry"

EA in the base word from which today's forms derive is pronounced as tho EE, so it is misleading to leave EA in the derived forms: "zellus" and "zellot/ry".

My thanks to "yaora..." for "zellot".

Munday, October 23, 2006: "aleet" for "elite" / "élite"

The present spelling of today's word suggests it should be pronounced ee.liet, whereas it is actually pronounced ae.léet. If we write it "aleet", many readers will see the A as long because there is only a single consonant (L) before an E, and so give the A a full long sound. People inclined to say a schwa in the first syllable will see themselves partially justified by the spelling "aleet". People inclined to say a short-I in the first syllable will not find any warrant for that pronunciation in either the current spelling or any other spelling but "illeet", and we are not about to spell this word that way.

Were we to be prescriptivist, we would write "ayleet" to force a long-A in the first syllable. The spelling "aleet" is permissive rather than prescriptive, as permits people to use less than a full long-A in the first syllable. The rest of us, however, will know to use that long-A: "aleet".

Sunday, October 22, 2006: "dissern" for "discern"

The Spelling Establishment relies on all kinds of specious arguments to oppose making it easier to read and write English, one of the most pernicious, and silly, of which is that phoneticization would obliterate etymologies, word origins that (supposedly) tell people something of value that helps them understand what the word means even if they've never seen it before. Oh? What does "-cern" mean?

There's not one, in a thousand readers of English, who knows that "-cern" comes from the Latin cernere, "to separate". Tho you might think that makes some sense with "discern", there is one other common English word with -cern in it, "concern", and "separate" is the opposite of "to concern yourself with". So the Latin is not just irrelevant but also misleading.

It may be useful to teach etymologies as part of teaching word meanings, as by showing families of words all of which come from the same Latin root. But we don't need to make our spellings hard to use just to freeze Latin, Greek, or French origins into them. Words mean what they mean, not what the words they came from meant — just look at -cern! So today's word eliminates the unexpected -SC-, to replace it with the regular, guessable -SS-: "dissern". ____________________

The dictionary shows a second pronunciation for this word, with a Z-sound rather than S. I have never heard such a pronunciation, and it doesn't make sense. You cannot phonetically get a Z-sound from "discern", so anyone who wants to use that pronunciation will attach it as (il)logically to "dissern" as to "discern". After all, we say "Missouri" with a Z-sound even tho it has a double-S.

Saturday, October 21, 2006: "tope" for "taupe"

"Taupe" is the name for a highly variable, and thus poorly understood color, defined by Random House as "a moderate to dark brownish gray, sometimes slightly tinged with purple, yellow, or green". Huh?

While we might not be able readily to visualize the color, we might at least easily visualize the spelling. "Taupe" looks as tho it should be pronounced like "gawp" (which is also spelled "gaup") or "pauper"; or perhaps as two syllables, since it has a vaguely French look about it: gau.páe or goe.páe. Nope. (Noe.páe?) It's pronounced like cope, hope, and slope, so should be spelled that way: "tope".

Thursday-Friday, October 12-20, 2006:
"evver" for "ever"

"livver" for "liver"
"clevver" for "clever"
"nevver" for "never"
"quivver" for "quiver"

"rivver" for "river"
"sevver" for "sever"
"shivver" for "never"
"slivver" for "never"

-IVER and -EVER are ambiguous. In that they have a single consonant before an E, a new reader is entitled to expect the vowel of the first syllable to be long, and it is long in many such words, from fiver and fever to diver and lever (as some people say it). The way unambiguously to show that a vowel in a syllable preceding an E is short is to double the consonant. Altho some people find a double-V odd-looking, we do have some words with double-V, such as savvy, divvy, civvy, skivvies, flivver, revved, etc.

Since the number of common words of these patterns that take a short vowel is small, let's deal with all of them at once: "evver", "liver" (for Food Friday), "clevver", "nevver", "quivver", "rivver", "sevver", "shivver", and "slivver".

My thanks to "Bookk..." for "clevver", "Doghouse..." for "evver", "Jacke..." for "nevver",  and "Shoe..." for "livver".

Naturally, all derivatives would be affected by such changes (e.g., (n)evvermor ("Cal..."), "forevver" ("Table..."), "forevvermor", "sevverance", etc.

Wensday, October 11, 2006: "distraut" for "distraught"

This is simple. The G and H in the traditional spelling of this word are silent, so do not need to be there. Let's just drop them, okay?:  "distraut".

Tuesday, October 10, 2006: "pursute" for "pursuit"

UI is ambiguous. Compare fruit and intuit. I have already proposed "sute" for suit, and "pursute" for pursuit fits neatly with that. Moreover, we have a familiar word, hirsute, that shows this to be a perfectly reasonable reform: "pursute".

Munday, October 9, 2006:
"slite" for "slight"

"slyte" for "sleight"

Yesterday we dealt with one member of a small family of oddly spelled words that departed from the majority pronunciation, height.* Let us today deal with the last exception within that tiny family, "sleight". All the others are pronounced with a long-A, not long-I.

There already is, however, a word of this sort that has a long-I: "slight". That word is fairly commonly heard, so deserves the simpler spelling: "slite".

What respelling, then, should we give to "sleight"? How about "slyte"? It accords with the familiar computer word "byte" and older words like "acolyte" and "lymphocyte".

So, today's twofer is: "slite" and "slyte".

* Most members of this word group are pronounced with a long-A:  "eight", "freight", and, especially, "weight" (which has a significant number of frequently heard derivatives).

Sunday, October 8, 2006: "hite" for "height"

Not only does the traditional spelling of this word have needless silent letters, but its pattern is also sometimes pronounced with a long-A rather than long-I: eight, freight, weight. There is a quick and obvious fix for this, to apply the pattern of bite, mite, site, and contrite: "hite".

Saturday, October 7, 2006: "cata/coam/s" for "cata/comb/s"

Plainly the silent-B in this pair of words has to go. There is no reason for letters that aren't said, to be written. "Comb", however, presents a unique problem, because we can't just replace the B with a silent-E, because there is a very frequently used word we learn early, "come", that isn't said with a long-O but with a short-U. So we can't just write "cata/come".

How else can we show long-O? We could write OE: "cata/coem". But OE is sometimes pronounced long-E, as in coelom, and sometimes as two syllables, long-O and short-E (coerce). So that is a less than ideal solution.

We could instead use OA, which occasionally represents two syllables (boa, coalesce) but in the pattern -oam as in foam, loam, and roam represents the right combination of sounds. So let's use that: "cata/coam/s".

My thanks to "Clap..." for "coam".

Friday, October 6, 2006: "arteezhan" for "artesian"

Every now and then you chance across a spelling that no sane person can defend. This is one of those.

Whether you look to etymology (Artois) or British dialect, you find no warrant for spelling this word in its traditional ridiculous fashion. Is it "artes" -ian? Is the E long or short? Is the S pronounced S, or Z? There is just no sense in any of it.

Let's just write it as it sounds and have done with it: "arteezhan".

Thursday, October 5, 2006: "nack" for "knack"

Plainly the initial-K in this word has to go, since it is silent. The question is how much more to drop. Should we leave all the rest, including the redundant CK? Or would either a C or a K, but not both, suffice?

Inasmuch as there are a great many words that end in CK but only a few common words with only-K (flak, yak, kayak, anorak, kulak — and flak has an alternative spelling with CK), for purposes of making the spelling guessable on hearing, let's preserve the CK. Altering all -CK words to -K only is a second-stage, more radical reform we need not consider now: "nack".

Wensday, October 4, 2006: "malarky" for "malarkey"

Today, let's just get rid of a superfluous-E in the preferred spelling of this word and make the alternative spelling that is out there into the new preferred spelling. We've already done something like that with a synonym for today's word, "bumcombe", which is now so regularly spelled "bunkum" that the original spelling isn't even recognized by some dictionaries: "malarky".

Tuesday, October 3, 2006: "orkestra" for "orchestra"

There is no CH-sound (as in church) in this word. Rather, the sound is that of K, so why not just write K?: "orkestra".

Munday, October 2, 2006: "jem" for "gem"

This word is written much like the familiar word "get" but has a J-sound rather than ("hard") G-sound. Let's just use a J for the J-sound: "jem".

My thanks to "Dogs..." for this suggestion.

Sunday, October 1, 2006: "sattelite" for "satellite"

Let's begin the month, and a new quarter year, with a word that gained urgency in October 1957, when the Soviet Union launched the first manmade, artificial satellite, Sputnik.

The double and single consonants of this letter are logically reversed. Where we need a double consonant, to show at once that the A is short and the word's stress falls on the first syllable, we have only a single-T. Where a double-L falls, we don't need it, and in fact it misleads new readers into thinking the word's stress falls on the second syllable.

Let's just flip the single/double consonants: "sattelite".

My thanks to "GreenD..." for this suggestion.

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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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