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Simpler Spelling
Word of the Day
Archive of Discussions
January-March 2010

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Wensday, March 31, 2010: "graffite" for "graphite"

PH is a preposterous way to spell the ordinary F-sound, so let's change the PH to F. Since the vowel before the F-sound (the A) is short, we should double that F. Now it's perfect: "graffite".

My thanks to "Dogs..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010: "fuecher" for "future"

Pronouncing -TURE as -cher is bizarre and unjustifiable. If it is said cher (as in archer, cherry, and cherub), let's write -CHER.

Further, the sound of the first-U is also unclear, because it could be pronounced short (as in a cutup), long but without an initial Y-glide (tutu), or long with an initial Y-glide (arbutus).

We could show the correct sound of the first-U in either of two ways, EU as in feud or UE (as in fuel). I think that in today's context, UE looks better: "fuecher".

My thanks to "yaora..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.

Munday, March 29, 2010: "ennemy" for "enemy"

It's rare that a French spelling is better than its English equivalent, but this is one such case. The French word "ennemi" has the two N's the English word needs. We can do without the ambiguous -I, however (alibi, cacti, hippopotami (long-I); basenji, graffiti, teriyaki (long-E). Unfortunately, the English -Y is also ambiguous, but less likely to be read with the long-I sound of the one-syllable word "my" that ends "enemy", since in words of more than one syllable, -Y is mostly (but, alas, not always: qualify, rely, deny) pronounced with the long-E sound.

We could write "ennemee", which would be clear as to the speech sounds of the last syllable, but would make many readers think the last syllable takes the word's stress. "Ennemey" would be read by many people as having a long-A sound at the end (they, hey, survey). And "enneme" would be read én.eem by many people, despite the many words that end in a single-E pronounced long (epitome, psyche, abalone).

At end, there is often no absolutely unambiguous way to write hosts of words in traditional orthography, so we have a choice of merely better or worse spellings. "Enemy", which could be said éen.mie, éen.mee, ee.né, en.é, en.é, ee.né, en.é, éìe, etc., is a worse spelling. This is a better one: "ennemy".

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

Sunday, March 28, 2010: "dialog" for "dialogue"

"Dialog" is a widely but not universally accepted alternative spelling for the longer, misleading "dialogue" — compare rogue, vogue, brogue, all of which have a long-O, whereas "dialogue" has a short-O (or, as some people say it, AU-sound, on the model of dog). The shorter spelling is also the better spelling, so let's banish the longer spelling to etymologies in dictionaries and use the shorter everywhere else: "dialog".

Saturday, March 27, 2010: "cattaclizm" for "cataclysm"

The single-T in today's word renders ambiguous the sound of the first-A (compare ratable, cantata, catarrh, pronounced ráet.a.bòol, kan.tót.a, ka.tór). The Y is misleading, since it is often pronounced as long-I (hybrid, myopia, pyromania) but the sound here is short-I. And the S is pronounced as Z. All unwise, but easily fixed: "cattaclizm".

Friday, March 26, 2010: "braize" for "braise"

This Food Friday, let's fix the name of a cooking technique* that has a Z-sound misspelled as S. Altho "braze" might be the simplest way to respell this, that is already taken for a verb meaning to make of or cover with brass. We could write "braiz", but AI is a bit ambiguous (consider plaid, not just maid). To indicate that the AI takes the long-A sound, adding a "silent-E" (or "magic-E") after the Z seems advisable: "braize".

* "To cook (meat or vegetables) by browning in fat, then simmering in a small quantity of liquid in a covered container." (American Heritage)

Thursday, March 25, 2010: "alkemy" and "alkemist" for "alchemy" and "alchemist"

There is no CH-sound (as in church) in these words, so should be no C-H letter sequence. Both words contain a simple K-sound. So let's write K: "alkemy", "alkemist".

Wensday, March 24, 2010: "wiald" for "wild"

That "wild" should have a short-I is beyond contention. After all, the same letter sequence in the longer word "wilderness" does have a short-I sound. But in the shorter word, it's supposed to be read with a long-I. It's this kind of lunacy that makes English so preposterously hard to learn.

A long-I cannot really be said before an L in the same syllable. We can say a long-I without more in words like wily, pilot, and bilateral only because the L goes with the following syllable. If there is no other syllable for the L to go with (as is the case with "wild"), we have to insert a schwa sound before the L, ordinarily in the form of an A, as in dial, trial, and vial (which are said the same as tho they were written "dile", "trile", and "vile". So let's use the IA pattern here: "wiald".

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010: "vintij" for "vintage"

-AGE- is ambiguous: page, bagel, wastage, agent provocateur (pronounced paej, bá, wáest.ij, ozh.ónn proe.vòe.ka.tér). Here, the sound is a schwa approaching short-I, plus J. So let's spell it with an IJ: "vintij".
My thanks to "rhode..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.

Munday, March 22, 2010: "tracoma" for "trachoma"*

CH should be reserved to the CH-sound, as in "church", whereas here the sound is that of K, which before A, O, and U is often spelled C. "Trachoma" rhymes with "Tacoma". Let's spell it like that, but with an R: "tracoma".
* "A contagious disease of the conjunctiva and cornea, ... a major cause of blindness in Asia and Africa." (American Heritage)

Sunday, March 21, 2010: "shepperd" for "shepherd"

"Shepherd" means "sheepherd(er)". In "sheepherder", the H is pronounced; in "shepherd", it is not. Why is that? Moreover, new readers of English are taught that PH is pronounced like the letter F, and in fact PH is pronounced like F in the great preponderance of all words; but "shepherd" is not pronounced shéf.erd.

Hm. The PH here is not pronounced like most PH's, as an F; and the H is not pronounced, so the PH is not said like the two ordinary letters' sounds, one after the other, as in uphill, uphold, and upheaval. The PH in "shepherd", in short, is just a plain old P-sound. So let's drop the H altogether.

"Sheperd" would, however, not be clear as to the sound of the first-E, which is supposed to be short, but which could be seen as long if there's only a single-P after it, followed by an E ("shepe" being the crucial group of letters for determining the sound of the first-E). OK, then. Instead of simply dropping the H, let's replace it with a second-P: "shepperd".

Saturday, March 20, 2010: "rennovate" for "renovate"

The prefix RE- is usually pronounced with a long-E (renew, redo, respell). Moreover, there is a famous placename that starts with the same four letters as "renovate" but has a long-E: Reno, Nevada (USA).  In "renovate", the RE- takes the short-E sound, which the reader would not expect. The way we commonly show a short vowel is by doubling the consonant immediately following, which here would be the N. Let's do that: "rennovate".

Friday, March 19, 2010: "parsly" for "parsley"

This Food Friday, let's save a letter in the name of a popular garnish and seasoning. The E adds ambiguity of two types. First, is the EY pronounced as in key or hey (that is, long-E or long-A)? Second, without the Y, the word would be "parsle", two syllables (pór.sool), so with a Y, it might be seen by some new readers as three syllables (pór.sal.èe or pór.sool.èe). If we drop the E, however, everybody is likely to see it as two syllables, the second of which contains a long-E sound: "parsly".

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

Thursday, March 18, 2010: "mellody" for "melody"

A single consonant renders the sound of the preceding consonant unclear. Today's word starts with "me", which is a word, pronounced with a long-E. That is not the sound here. Here, the vowel before the L-sound is short-E. The way we would ordinarily show a short vowel is by doubling the consonant immediately after it. Let's do that here: "mellody".

Wensday, March 17, 2010: "lupe" for "loupe"

This word for a jeweler's magnifying glass has an OU but no OU-sound. Rather, it sounds exactly like "loop". To spell this phonetically but not confuse it with "loop", we can simply drop the O, which will leave: "lupe".

Tuesday, March 16, 2010: "intransijent" for "intransigent"*

As I have pointed out here many times, GE is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced with G's own distinctive sound ("hard"-G: get, gecko, renege), sometimes with J's sound ("soft"-G: gentle, gesture, general), and sometimes with the French-G-sound before E, which in English is regarded as the ZH-sound (genre, collage, montage).

In today's word, the sound is J, so we should simply write a J and have done with it: "intransijent".

* "Intransigent" means "militant, uncompromising". On April 1, 1969, I established a gay men's organization at City College/CUNY called "Homosexuals Intransigent!", and love the word and concept "intransigent".

Munday, March 15, 2010: "hydrommeter" for "hydrometer"

One M leaves the pronunciation of "hydrometer" unclear. It looks as tho it should be pronounced like the two words "hydro" and "meter" in sequence (híe.droe mée.ter), but it's actually pronounced hie.dróm.a.ter. We need only to double the M to show that: "hydrommeter".

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

Sunday, March 14, 2010: "gaibeon" for "gabion"

Today's word is twice misleading. The familiar short word "gab", with a short-A, starts it off, and the scientific word "ion", parallel in spelling to "lion", ends it. The A, however, is long, and the I is pronounced as a long-E.

If we change the I to E, the latter part of the word will be clearer, tho not perfectly clear, because it could have a full short-O as in "ion" (as many people pronounce it), whereas the O in "gabion" is supposed to be pronounced as a schwa, as in "ionize" (or "lionize").

To show the long-A of the first syllable, we cannot assume that an E after the B ("gabeon") will suffice, because "gab" still starts the word, and "gab" has a short-A, as could, thus, the longer word. No, we need to add a vowel letter before the B. We could use E ("gaebeon"), I ("gaibeon"), or Y ("gaybeon"). "Gaybeon" would be very clear as to sound, but not as to meaning,* since people would be inclined to see some sense or other of the word "gay" in the longer word, which would be entirely misleading. I think that, mid-word, I is the better of the two remaining choices: "gaibeon".

* "Gabion" means "A cylindrical wicker basket filled with earth and stones, formerly used in building fortifications." (American Heritage)

Saturday, March 13, 2010: "ferm" for "firm"

IR is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced with a long-E sound, as in irritate. That's not the sound here, which is actually the sound most commonly written ER (term, berm, perm). So let's use ER: "ferm".

My thanks to "GreenD..." for this suggestion.  Naturally, all derivatives take the same change: "conferm", "aferm", "inferm", "terra ferma", etc.

Friday, March 12, 2010: "enshure" for "ensure"

Pronouncing S as SH is absurd. If there's an SH-sound, let's just write SH. Why does traditional spelling have to make everything so difficult?: "enshure".

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

Thursday, March 11, 2010: "dileereum" and "dileereus" for "delirium" and "delirious"

The E's and I's in today's words are backwards. The E is pronounced like a short-I, and the two I's in each word are pronounced as long-E's. So let's replace the E with an I and the two I's with E's. We need two E's for the first I, because -LER- could be read with a short-E.

In "delirious", there is an OU but no OU-sound. OU is thus not just needlessly longer than U-alone, but is actually misleading.

The second-I in each of today's words can be replaced by a single-E, because -EUM and -EUS will be read with a long-E just fine: "dileereum" and "dileereus".

Wensday, March 10, 2010: "cauk" for "caulk" and "calk"

A silent-L is ridicuous.

"Calk" is presumably intended to be parallel to walk, talk, and chalk. Instead, it's just a dop(e)y, only slightly less absurd, spelling for what should be: "cauk".

Tuesday, March 9, 2010: "blarny" for "blarney"

St. Patrick's Day is coming up, so this is as good a time as any, and better than most, to reform the word "blarney".

EY is ambiguous: key, they, eye (pronounced kee, thae, ie). Indeed, employs EY to represent the long-A sound (as in hey, whey, and grey) in its pronunciation key. Bizarre.

In any case, if we simply drop the E, we get a shorter and clearer spelling: "blarny".

Munday, March 8, 2010: "aknollij" for "acknowledge"

CK is an inefficient way to show a simple K-sound, DGE is a preposterously inefficient way to show a simple J-sound, and the shorter word know within the longer word is pronounced with a long-O, whereas the sound in the longer word is short-O. Moreover, the first-E in the traditional spelling is pronounced more like short-I. So let's drop the C and W; change the DGE to J; double the L to try to indicate a short-O;* and change the remaining E to I: "aknollij".

* There are some sounds that cannot be made clear in traditional spelling. Short-O before an L-sound is one.  Whether we use one L or two, the O could be long or short; makes no difference: folderol but colderhollow but knoll.

Sunday, March 7, 2010: "waest" for "waste"

We have, in today's word, a peculiarity of traditional spelling, a word in which there are two consonants before a "silent-E" that marks the preceding vowel long. There are at least three patterns in which this happens, with ST, NG, and TH (paste, strange, lithe). It should never happen. The reader should be able to trust that if a vowel is followed by more than one consonant, it is to be pronounced short.

Ordinarily, with a long-A mid-word, we could write AI, but "waist" is already taken. The pronunciation of "wayst" would certainly be understood, but AY is more common for long-A in final position. So let's move the E that marks the A long, from the end of the word, two consonants away, to immediately after the A it alters: "waest".

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

Saturday, March 6, 2010: "vejjetation" for "vegetation"

There are two things wrong with today's word. First, G is ambiguous, and could be pronounced with G's own distinct sound (get, gear, renege) or J's distinctive sound. Here, the sound is J, so let's write J.

Second, -EGE- is ambiguous, because in many words, vowel-consonant-E is pronounced with a long vowel before the consonant, whether the E is silent or sounded (regent, regenerate, timeline). One common way we show that a vowel mid-word is short, is by doubling the consonant after it.

Putting these two little changes together, we get: "vejjetation".

My thanks to "FireW..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.

Friday, March 5, 2010: "tetrazeeny" for "tetrazzini"

This Food Friday, let's fix a term from Italian cookery named for an Italian operatic soprano for whom it was first prepared.* People who have never studied Italian don't know when to double a Z and when not. People who have studied Italian are tempted to give terms from Italian cuisine an Italianized pronunciation, but "tetrazzini" is completely anglicized. Since the pronunciation is anglicized, let's anglicize the spelling too: "tetrazeeny".

* And which means "served over pasta with a cream sauce, often flavored with sherry, sprinkled with cheese, and browned in the oven: [e.g.,] chicken tetrazzini". ( Unabridged) Or "Made with noodles, mushrooms, and almonds in a cream sauce topped with cheese: turkey tetrazzini." (American Heritage)

Thursday, March 4, 2010: "sheotsu" for "shiatsu" and "shiatzu"

IA is ambiguous, often being pronounced with a long-I and schwa (dialect, jeremiad, diaphragm). Here, the IA is pronounced as long-E and broad-A or short-O (the same sound). Why use an I for an E-sound, and A for an O-sound? That cannot be justified in terms of the original Japanese spelling, because Japanese doesn't use the Roman alphabet, so there is no original Japanese spelling with an IA: "sheotsu".

Wensday, March 3, 2010: "rejjister" and "rejjistration" for "register" and "registration"

RE- is ambiguous, and is usually pronounced with a long-E. Because that is so, we need to indicate when RE does not represent a long-E, as here. The way we would ordinarily do that is by doubling the consonant that follows the RE, which, here, is G.

Doing that ("reggister", "reggistration") would, however, point out the absurdity of using a G — or two G's, in that the preceding vowel is short  — for what is undeniably a J-sound. Using G for the J-sound is, as a General rule, inexcusably absurd. So let's use two J's to represent a J-sound after a short-E: "rejjister" and "rejjistration".

Tuesday, March 2, 2010: "prizzon" for "prison"

The current spelling is parallel to bison, in which the I is long, as one would assume from the absence of a double consonant after it, and the S takes its own sound, not Z's. Here, the I is short, and the sound of the consonant after it is Z, not S. To show that sequence of sounds, we need merely change the S to Z, and double it: "prizzon".
My thanks to "Starry..." for this suggestion.

Munday, March 1, 2010: "outdor/s" for "outdoor/s"

OO is ambiguous, and is most often pronounced either long as in too, food, and boot, or short as in took, good, and foot. But there are a few other sounds assigned to it: the AU-sound as in floor and door (and not much more); and short-U as in flood and blood (and, again, not much more). If we drop one O from today's words, the sound is clear, and we save a letter: "outdor" and "outdors".
My thanks to "GreenD..." for this suggestion. "Door" was offered here, as "dor", on June 14, 2004.

Sunday, February 28, 2010: "majenta" for "magenta"

The G in the traditional spelling represents not G's own distinctive sound (as in get, gear, and gecko), but J's distinctive sound. Let's write J: "majenta".

Saturday, February 27, 2010: "longger" and "longgest" for "longer" and "longest"

The presence or absence of a ("hard"-)G sound in words like this is not self-evident, and readers should be clear as to when such a G sound in addition to the NG-sound needs to be said: "longger", "longgest".

My thanks to "Firewall..." for this suggestion. The better spelling is a bit longer, but isn't that appropriate?

Friday, February 26, 2010: "impinj" for "impinge"

GE is bad enuf when it stands without a prior-N, since it could be pronounced with either "hard"- or "soft"-G (renege, college). But when an N precedes the G, a third possibility arises, that the G merges with the N to form the sound in flinging, singer, or bringing. Here,the sound is the "soft"-G or, more properly, J-sound. So let's just drop the -E and write a J. We'll save a letter and add clarity: "impinj".

Thursday, February 25, 2010: "homofobe" and "homofobea" for "homophobe" and "homophobia"

We have again here the ridiculous spelling PH for a simple F-sound. It's got to go.

While we're at it, we might as well change the I in the ending of "homophobia" to E, because that's the sound it represents: "homofobe" and "homofobea".

Wensday, February 24, 2010: "grafeety" and "grafeeto" for "graffiti" and "graffito"

A great many people have trouble remembering if it is the F or the T that is doubled in these words. It's the F, but in English, should not be, because that ordinarily signals (a) that the vowel before the doubled consonant takes its short sound, whereas here the vowel represents a schwa sound, (b) that the word's stress falls before the doubled consonant, whereas here it falls after it, or (c) both (a) and (b), whereas here it is neither.

Further, the I's represent the long-E sound, and there's no reason to use an I to represent an E-sound. If the sound is long-E, why not write EE? — which is perhaps the only unambiguous way to write that sound mid-word.

At the end of a word, -Y is a better spelling than -EE, since -EE at the end of a word tends to be stressed, which is not right here.

"Graffito", the singular of "graffiti", is rarely used for contemporary wallscrawls, but "is found mostly in archaeological and other technical writing." Still, it has some of the same problems as the plural (or "mass noun") "graffiti", so needs the same kinds of change: "grafeety" and "grafeeto".

Tuesday, February 23, 2010: "forgiv" and "forgivven" for "forgive" and "forgiven"

The pattern vowel-consonant-E ordinarily signals that the vowel before the consonant is to be given its long sound (save, eve, cove, juvenile, and, most relevant here, hive, live, jive). So the E at the end of "forgive" should be dropped.

In the inflected form "forgiven", we need to double the V before adding the -EN, to show plainly that the I is still short, no matter what follows: "forgiv" and "forgivven".

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

Munday, February 22, 2010: "ennervate" for "enervate"

A single-N leaves the sound of the initial-E unclear. Is it long? Is it short? It's short, and the way we often indicate that a vowel is short is by doubling the consonant after it. Let's do that here: "ennervate".

There is a rarely used adjective derived from this verb, of the same spelling as the verb but pronounced in.ér.vit. It can be spelled "inervit", or perhaps "inerrvit", but it's so very, very rare that we really don't need to address it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010: "diasis" and "diasisses" for "diocese" and "dioceses"

A diocese is the area under the jurisdiction of a bishop. Another word for the same thing, and simpler to pronounce, is "bishopric", but that is often avoided because of the unfortunate sound at its end. So we are stuck with "diocese", which isn't so bad, but also its atrocious plural, "dioceses".

The spelling has produced unfortunate spelling-pronunciations (díe.ya.sees and díe.ya.seez for the singular, and worse for the plural, or a confusion that the singular is also the plural) that are shown in print in some online dictionaries. But the only recorded pronunciations are díe.ya.sis for the singular, díe.ya.sìs.iz for the plural. So let's spell those pronunciations clearly, and drive out the others: "diasis" and "diasisses".

Saturday, February 20, 2010: "chello" and "violonchello" for "cello" and "violoncello"

Today's words are pronounced in the fashion of their Italian origins, even tho the longer form has been in English since 1724 and the shorter, since 1876. It's time to spell them in English fashion, with CH for the CH-sound.

There is actually a little-used word spelled the same as the short form, "cello", but pronounced sél.oe, for "cellophane". We can leave that, and the two will no longer be confusable, since the musical instrument will have a CH rather than just C.

The longer form has two pronunciations of the first syllable, one with long-E, the other with long-I. That part of that word thus cannot be changed: "chello", "violonchello".

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

Friday, February 19, 2010: "borsht" for "borscht", "borsch" and "borsht"

This Food Friday, let's settle on only one of the three variant spellings for beet soup, the one with the best spelling, and outlaw the others: "borsht".

Thursday, February 18, 2010: "adreenal" and "adrennalin" for "adrenal" and "adrenaline"

I mentioned yesterday that the -INE of "adrenaline" has a short-I sound. So let's fix the spelling of "adrenaline" and, while we're at it, the spelling of "adrenal" as well.

In "adrenaline", or "Adrenalin", a trademarked short form, the E before the N is short, even tho there's only a single-N, not double, as we might expect to see after a short-E.

But in "adrenal", the E is long. This is yet another example of why it is so extremely difficult for anyone, even native speakers, to master the spelling and pronunciation of English.

Since we cannot realistically (which really should be "realisticly") expect people to know that "adrenal" takes a long-E even tho a longer word, "adrenaline", which also has a single-N, takes a short-E, we need to double the E in "adrenal". To play safe, we should also double the N in "adrenaline".

And since we cannot reasonably expect anyone to know that -INE has a short-I, we need as well to drop the final-E from "adrenaline".

Putting this all together, we get: "adreenal" and "adrennalin".

Wensday, February 17, 2010: "woolvereen" for "wolverine"

There are two things wrong with today's word.

First, OL is ambiguous, and does not properly show the sound here, which is short-OO. Compare hold, revolver and alcohol, not just wolf. (Pronounced hoeld, ree.vól.ver, áal.ka.hàul, woolf).

Second, -INE is ambiguous, and can be pronounced with a long-I (alpine), short-I (adrenaline), long-E (marine), or even, in at least one word, as two syllables, with a short-I in the first and long-E in the second (aborigine).

To make the sound clear, we need to show an OO and an EE: "woolvereen".

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2010: "vwahlah" for "voilà" and "voila"

There are a couple of things wrong with the traditional spelling of today's word. The accent in the puristic spelling is a problem, because (1) most people in English-speaking countries have no idea how to put an accent over a vowel in typing, (2) even if someone does know how to type in an accent, s/he may not remember which accent is supposed to go there, since (3) English doesn't use accents. So the accent has to go.

The second issue is that the OI-sound in English is a combination of the AU-sound and a closing Y-glide, or brief long-E sound. This sound is spelled OY as well, and occurs in words like joist, point, and boy. That is not the sound in today's word.

This word has been in English since, at latest, 1835, and possibly as early as 1739, but still takes a French pronunciation, which says the OI as a W + broad-A or short-O as in father or bother. The full word exactly rhymes with aha!, even as to syllabic stress. But respelling it "vwala" will probably not do to convey the sound, given that the parallel spelling gala has three pronunciations (gá, gáal.a, gól.a), none of which has stress on the second syllable. "Vwalah" might cue the syllabic stress, but the sound of the vowel in the first syllable could be long-A, short-A, broad-A, or even schwa!

If, however, we put an H after each A, we have a good chance of conveying the proper pronunciation to people who know English but not French (which is the great preponderance of all speakers of English). Tho some opponents of spelling reform will suggest that AH is "un-English", there are dozens of words that include AH, at the end (shah, pariah, hallelujah) or elsewhere (autobahn, Brahma [bull], brouhaha): "vwahlah".

Munday, February 15, 2010: "toak" for "toque"

Today's word is the name of a type of brimless, close-fitting women's hat. QU typically represents a combination of the K and W sounds, which is not its sound here. The actual sound is a simple K, so let's use K. Unfortunately, there is another word with what would be a good spelling, "toke", meaning a puff of a marijuana cigaret. We certainly don't want to use that spelling for a woman's hat. Fortuitously, there is another common spelling pattern for a long-O, especially before a K-sound:  OA (oak, cloak, soak). It's available with T, so let's use that: "toak".

Sunday, February 14, 2010: "sayonss" for "séance" and "seance"

English does not use accents, so the accented version of today's word has got to go. Speakers of English (as first or second language) who are not familiar with French will not know what the accent is intended to do, in any case. Without the accent, the pronunciation is completely unclear. Is the -EA- said as a simple long-E, as in bean, dean, and clean? In that case, seance should be pronounced seens, with an S-sound at both ends. Or perhaps the -EA- is as in protean, European, and subterranean (pro.tée.yan, Yuer.a.pée.yan, sub.ter.áe.nee.yan)? Or as in bear, steak, or the name Sean? (Pronounced bair, staek, shaun.) Actually, the sound is like none of those, but two syllables, long-A + short-O.

If we try to replace only the first-E, with the unambiguous AY, we get "sayonce". In that formulation, the long-A will be clear, but not the short-O, because of the odd but familiar word once, which is pronounced wuns. This happens in English often, that one bizarre spelling makes such an impression that its oddness is carried over into every other occurrence of that letter sequence, so you can't use that spelling for anything but the odd pronunciation (compare iron, which leads some readers to say íe.yern everywhere -IRON- occurs). So we can't write "sayonce".

We can, however, write either "sayonse" or "sayonss". I suspect that once will taint even "sayonse", so the better choice is: "sayonss".

Saturday, February 13, 2010: "remition" for "remission"

Today's word means an "act of remitting". Why would we turn the T of "remit" into two S's, when we have a noun suffix that employs a T, and which, as -TION, is the most common way that that suffix is spelled (ambition, cognition, definition)? A large part of spelling simplification is making it easier to spell words you hear, without having to memorize several different ways of spelling the same sound, then having to remember which applies to which word. Let's get rid of the SS and substitute a T: "remition".

Friday, February 11, 2010: "pasteena" for "pastina"

This Food Friday, let's deal with an ambiguous I (alumina, angina, concertina, which are commonly pronounced a.lúe.min.a, aan.jí, and kòn.ser.té "pasteena".

Thursday, February 11, 2010: "ontu" for "onto"

O for the long-U sound is one of the very stupidest spellings in all of English, and that is saying a lot. It occurs mainly (solely?) in to, do, and their derivatives. One of the derivatives of to is today's word, whose O needs to be changed to either U or OO.  OO would yield "ontoo", which suggests a sense of "also", and would thus be misleading. So let's use U: "ontu".

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

Wensday, February 10, 2010: "mardygrah" for "mardi gras"

Next week New Orleans celebrates Fat Tuesday with a giant revel known around the world as Mardi Gras. Unfortunately, the spelling of that celebration is French, not English, even tho the term is now English.

There are three problems with the current spelling. First, DI is ambiguous, and often takes a long-I (diagram, diaphragm, the placename Lodi (in New Jersey and California), but here it takes a long-E. That sound at the end of a word is commonly written Y.

Second, there is a silent-S, which should never be. The sound is broad-A, which can be shown by AH (ah, hah, bah). Let's do that here.

Third, this phrase is never separated. One never speaks of either "mardi" or "gras" by itself. So the two words should be closed up or hyphenated. Hyphens tend to disappear over time, and the words joined by hyphens closed up. Why wait? Let's just close these two elements up now.

Putting this all together, we get: "mardygrah".

My thanks to "Peace..." for this suggestion (less the space).

Tuesday, February 9, 2010: "leter" for "liter"

"Lite" is an intelligent simplified spelling that has become recognized by some, but not all, dictionaries. The comparative of the adjective, which would ordinarily be made by means of the suffix -ER, is not, however, in general use because of the idiotic misspelling "liter" for a basic unit of volume (mainly, but not solely, used for liquids) in the metric system.

Why would anyone use an I to represent a long-E in English? -ITE should be pronounced with a long-I: bite, kite, mite. And -ITER should equally be pronounced with a long-I: miter, titer, screenwriter.

In Britain and some other spelling-challenged countries, "liter" is written "litre", an even stupider spelling that is wrong as to the sound of the I and wrong as to the sound of the RE. Plainly, sensible people have to ignore Britain to get anything like rational spelling, because Britain is lost in the past and in French, from post-Conquest days when French was king.

It's long past time to get rid of the I in "liter". The only question for rational people is whether to use a single-E, which might be enuf, given that there is only a single consonant between it and a following-E: "leter" (compare meter and saltpeter — which happens to be another word for niter, which has a long-I!); or a double-E (as in sweeter and greeter). EE might be preferable for being unambiguous, but any confusion about the sound of the first-E in "leter" would be made eliminated by comparison to the word letter, which has a short-E because it has two T's. The absence of a second-T cues the reader to see "leter" as having a long-E in the first syllable. So we don't need a second-T: "leter".

Once "leter" is well established, we can use "liter" as the comparative of "lite".

Munday, February 8, 2010: "invectiv" for "invective"

-IVE is ambiguous, sometimes having a long-I sound (hive, derive, alive) and sometimes a short-I (alternative, discursive, olive). The pattern vowel-consonant-E very frequently signals that the vowel before a single consonant is long. When it is not, we need to mark that in some way, either by doubling the consonant midword or dropping the E from the end of the word, as here: "invectiv".

Sunday, February 7, 2010: "harpsikord" for "harpsichord"

CH should be reserved for representing the CH-sound (as in church). Here, it is (improperly) used for a simple K-sound. The vowel that follows, O, permits two ways of representing the K-sound before it: with a K, or with a "hard"-C. C also has a "soft" sound, like S. Ideally, we shouldn't ask C to do double duty as a consonant to itself. It does triple duty in the CH-combination of "church" and myriad other words, and quadruple duty in the CH combination for an SH-sound in words like chivalry, chevron, and champagne. It even has a fifth use, in a CH-combo that represents a guttural sound as in the Scottish pronunciaton of loch and the puristic pronunciation of Chanukah. Give C a break! Move some of its sounds to other letters.

Here, we could, with equal clarity, write either "harpsicord" or "harpsikord". But "cord" is a word in itself, for a twined line between string and rope in thickness; and for related senses, such as an electrical power line. It would be better to show that the K-sound here refers to a musical "chord", not any kind of "cord". Using a K would draw attention to that sound in this word; suggest strongly that it has nothing to do with any kind of "cord"; and thus help produce thoughts of "chord" in readers, even those who don't know what "harpsichord" means. They would then likely suspect, thru the first element "harp" (a musical instrument more than a fixture for holding a lampshade) and the second element "kord" for "chord", that the word refers to a musical instrument: "harpsikord".

Saturday, February 6, 2010: "nyce" for "gneiss"

There's no way to justify a silent-G, so let's drop it. EI is ambiguous (either, spontaneity — both with two pronunciations — feign, foreign, etc.). And SS is a rather unusual way to show an S-sound. "Nice" would be clear, but is already taken. If we substitute a Y for the I, however, the sound is clear and the spelling distinct: "nyce".

Friday, February 5, 2010: "flombay" for "flambé" or "flambe"

This Food Friday, let's fix a word that many people know from cookery (pouring brandy or another liquor over food and setting fire to the fumes) but also has a use in (firing) ceramics. A silent-E after a consonant or some consonant clusters often indicates that the vowel before the consonant/s is long (base/baste, mane/mange). That is not the case in "flambe" — and most people in English-speaking countries do not know how to put an accent over a vowel in typing, so the usual spelling of today's word is "flambe".  No, this word is pronounced not flaemb but flom.báe. The way we would write that sound combination in easy-to-read traditional orthography is the way we should write it generally: "flombay".

Thursday, February 4, 2010: "euker" for "euchre"

The stupid spelling of today's word (a noun for the name of a card game and the verb meaning to win at that game) is utterly indefensible. It is not faithful to some ancient origin, because its origin is unknown! The CH does not take the CH-sound (as in church), but represents a simple, uncomplicated K-sound, not even the sound of the Scottish pronunciation of loch. It's just a plain old K-sound, so let's write it with a plain old K: "euker".

Wensday, February 3, 2010: "demmyjon" for "demijohn"

Why is there an H in this word? OH is regarded as a clear spelling of the long-O sound, and used as such in folk-phonetic pronunciation keys. But here the O is short.  The H has got to go(h). The single-M is also ambiguous, since the E could be read long. Let's double the M. As for the I, it's not right, as most people say the word. Y would be better, because most people will see it as the long-E sound they say, but people who use a short-I sound can justify their pronunciation too, considering that in words like mysterious and hysterical, the Y represents a short-I sound. Putting this all together, we get: "demmyjon".

Tuesday, February 2, 2010: "cassle" for "castle"

If we don't say a T, we shouldn't write a T: "cassle".

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

Munday, February 1, 2010: "breef" for "brief"

Why would we spell a long-E with an I?: "breef".

Naturally, all derivatives take the same form: breefs, breefcase, breefing, debreef, etc.

Sunday, January 31, 2010: "aleveate" for "alleviate"

The letter sequence ALL ordinarily takes an AU-sound: all, ball, tall. That is not the vowel sound here, which is schwa. That would be more clearly spelled without a second-L, tho some uncertainty will remain, since AL could be pronounced with a full short-A, as in alabaster, algebra, and alimony; or it could be pronounced with the same AU-sound as the spelling with two L's, as in already, albeit, and alder. In traditional spelling, it is not always possible to be completely clear. But there are better and worse spellings, and we should strive to use better spellings and reduce the number of worse spellings. Here, a single-L is more likely to be read right, especially in that the first syllable does not take any stress.

The other issue in today's word is the I, which does not represent any of I's own sounds, but a long-E sound.  Why would we spell a long-E with an I? We have as better models words like create, delineate, and permeate. Let's use that pattern: "aleveate".

Saturday, January 30, 2010: "woolf" and "woolvs" for "wolf" and "wolves"

Both singular and plural of today's base word are unphonetic. The single-O does not represent any of O's usual sounds. It's not long as in owe, slow, or toe. It's not short, as in on, cot, or hostage. It's not even an AU-sound as in ore, horde, or often. What it actually represents is the short-OO sound of good, book, and woofer, which sound is also sometimes spelled with a U, as in full, push, and accurate.

There is a surname, best known from the British writer Virginia Woolf, that puts the correct spelling into a word of the same sound, so let's adopt that.

For the plural, we should not just add the O and leave the E, since "woolves", like "wolves", could be read as two syllables. It's only one syllable, so the E has got to go: "woolf" and "woolvs".

My thanks to "Clap..." for "woolf".

Friday, January 29, 2010: "vulgur" for "vulgar"

As pointed out yesterday, AR is ambiguous, usually being pronounced as in bar, star, and far. That is not the sound here. Rather, it is the sound that is spelled mainly as ER (better), but also by OR (actor), UR (urge), and, yes, AR (hangar). ER is far and away the most common spelling for this sound, but we have a problem in using it in today's word, in that the consonant before it is G, and GE can be read as a J-sound, which is not what we intend. UR seems a better choice here (compare fur, urban, and bulgur (wheat): "vulgur".

Thursday, January 28, 2010: "thwaurt" and "athwaurt" for "thwart" and "athwart"

AR is ambiguous, usually being pronounced with a "broad"-A (as in father) (or short-O, the same sound: bother): bar, star, and far. That is not the sound here. Rather, it is the AU-sound that is spelled in various ways: war, caustic, flora, door. But since the sound is closely connected to the AU-digraph, let's just use that, which leaves everything else the same but adds a U for clarity: "thwaurt" and "athwaurt".

Wensday, January 27, 2010: "si-fi" for "sci-fi"

My original thought as regards "sci-fi", the short form for "science fiction",  was simply to drop the C and leave everything else the same. But then cable television's Sci Fi Channel changed its spelling to Syfy on July 7, 2009. Quandary: should everyone conform to that spelling? There are good reasons to do so, namely that "syfy" is compact, does not need a hyphen (which English deplores), but does accord with the use of Y in words like hybrid, psychotic, and asylum. But the Syfy cable service has apparently trademarked that spelling, for at least some commercial uses. So let us not worry about whether a given use violates a trademark, but use for general purposes a simplified spelling that drops a silent-C but leaves everything else the same: "si-fi".

Tuesday, January 26, 2010: "reddolent" for "redolent"

RE- is a prefix that is usually pronounced with a long-E (response, regurgitate, redo). When it is to be given the sound of short-E, then, the consonant after it may need to be doubled, because a non-doubled consonant cluster will still be seen as having a long-E (reproach, respell, retrench): "reddolent".

Munday, January 25, 2010: "passenjer" for "passenger"

Today's word is one of those in which NG represents not the NG-sound of sing, nor the NG + G sound of linger, nor the separate N- and G-sounds of ungainly, but the N- and J-sounds of engender. Those sounds are sometimes written unambiguously, as N and J: enjoin, injunction, and enjoy. Let's do that with today's word: "passenjer".

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

Sunday, January 24, 2010: "outskerts" for "outskirts", "skert" for "skirt"

The first part of today's word is fine, as OUT. The second, however, which is also a word to itself that needs to be changed in the same way, is wrong. IR is ambiguous, and sometimes takes the sound of EER (irritate) or a regular short-I followed by R in the next syllable (irascible); but other times it does take the sound most commonly spelled ER (better). Let's use the clearer spelling ER: "outskerts", and "skert".

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

Saturday, January 23, 2010: "medeoker" for "mediocre"

Several things are wrong with today's word. The sound of the first-E is ambiguous. A single consonant might cue readers to pronounce it long, but medicine starts the same, and has a short-E. The O should plainly be short, because it is followed by two consonants, CR, as in mediocrity. It is actually long. The I is pronounced as an E. And the RE is to be read as tho written ER.

Fortunately, there are quick fixes for all these little absurdities. The improper I, when changed to an apt E, cues the reader to pronounce the previous-E long. The RE cannot be changed to ER as long as there's a C beforehand, because that would produce -CER, which would be read as tho written -SER. But if we change the C to a K, which can be read only one way, the right way, we can reverse the RE to ER. And then everything works: "medeoker" (and "medeokritty").

Friday, January 22, 2010: "livvid" for "livid"

A single consonant leaves the vowel before it unclear. Is it long? Is it short? Why force people to guess? Let's just double the V and make plain that both I's are short: "livvid".

Thursday, January 21, 2010: "infloressence" for "inflorescence"

There is no way to justify an SC for a simple S-sound. The E before that S-sound is short, and the standard way to show that would be to double the following consonant, the S. Let's do that: "infloressence".

Wensday, January 20, 2010: "hydrocloric" and "hydrocloride" for "hydrochloric" and "hydrochloride"

Scientists have made major problems for the English language with their moronic disregard for phonetics. Not all languages let them get away with their crap, however. Spanish imposes its spellings on scientific coinages, and so should we.

At best, the H in today's words serves no phonetic purpose, since without it, the words sound the same. But it's actually worse than that, since the H is part of a CH-digraph that does not represent the CH-sound (as in church). So let's just drop the H from after the C, OK?: "hydrocloric" and "hydrocloride".

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

Tuesday, January 19, 2010: "gorj" and "gorjus" for  "gorge" and "gorgeous"

The traditional spellings of today's words present a couple of problems. First, there are two G's, but they are pronounced differently. The first takes the G-sound, so can remain, but the second takes the J-sound, so should be written with a J.

The second problem applies to the -EOUS ending of "gorgeous", which should sound like the same letter sequence in beauteous, hideous, and courteous, but does not. Those all have two syllables in the ending. "Gorgeous" has only one.

Worse, the OU part of that ending is misleading, because it does not represent the OU-sound. We can save a couple of letters and clarify the sound by dropping the E and O.

Putting this all together, we get: "gorj" and "gorjus".

Munday, January 18, 2010: "flaminggo" for  "flamingo"

Yesterday, we didn't need two F's in "earmuffs". Today, we do need two G's in "flamingo", because there's no other way the new reader can know that this word is not pronounced like "flaming O" (flá oe) but that there is not just an NG-sound (as in sang, ginseng, wing, long, rung), but also a G-sound (or "hard"-G): "flaminggo".

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

Sunday, January 17, 2010: "earmuf/s" for  "earmuff/s"

We don't need two F's in "earmuff/s". We don't write two F's in if, serif, and waif, do we?: "earmuf/s".

Saturday, January 16, 2010: "dejennerate" and "dejennerit" for "degenerate"

Today, let's distinguish between two forms of a word spelled in one way but pronounced in two. The verb is pronounced dee.jéàet (tho some people shorten the EE to a short-I). The adjective and noun are pronounced dee.jéìt. Let's show the actual pronunciations clearly.

The G in both forms is pronounced not as a G but as a J, so let's write J. And the -ENE- is ambiguous because of the single consonant. Is the first-E long or short? Is the second-E silent, as in timeline or dateline? Answers: no, the E before the N is not long but short, and the E after the N is not silent. The way to show both these things is to simply double the N: "dejennerate" and "dejennerit".

My thanks to "Fisherman..." for suggesting reform of today's words, tho I chose a slitely different solution.

Friday, January 15, 2010: "cappelin" for "capelin"

This Food Friday, let's fix the name of a small food fish. CAPE is a well-known word that conforms to one very common rule for showing a long vowel, to place a silent-E after a single consonant right after the long vowel: cape.  Unfortunately, in the case of "capelin", the A is short. To show that, we need merely double the P: "cappelin".

There is another spelling and pronunciation for the name of this fish: "caplin", with a short-A but only two syllables. That spelling is fine for that pronunciation. As to whether we really need two such similar names for one fish, that is not exactly a spelling issue.

Thursday, January 14, 2010: "batheing" for "bathing"

Few people in North America know that in Britain "bathing", pronounced bó (like the British version of "bath", said with a "broad"-A as in father, plus an -ING at the end) is a verb. We would never say tu báath or, as the present progressive, báathing. So it wouldn't occur to us that dropping the -E from "bathe" before adding -ING produces an entirely different pronunciation in some countries. We need to retain the -E in this word, as we all do with "singe" ("singeing") and many people do with "binge" ("bingeing"): "batheing".

Wensday, January 13, 2010: "adition" for "addition"

A double consonant usually marks the prior vowel short, but in today's word, the A does not take its short sound (as in add, addict, and additive). Rather, the sound of the A in "addition" is a schwa, which would ordinarily be shown at the beginning of a word with an A followed by a single consonant: adapt, adept, and adore. Let's do that here: "adition".

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

Tuesday, January 12, 2010: "wikky" for "wiki"

Today's word is a perfect example of bad coinage that would be forbidden in its present spelling if English had the equivalent of France's Académie Française or Spain's Real Academía to control the development of the language. It is exactly parallel in spelling to the previously borrowed (1777!) Polynesian word tiki, which is pronounced tée.kee. "Wiki" was also borrowed from a Polynesian language (in 1995), but is pronounced wí This crap has got to stop.

We need to show that wiki has a short-I in the first syllable, but still a long-E in the second. The customary way to show a short vowel is to double the following consonant. So let's do that. As for the second syllable, -I is ambiguous, often taking the long-I sound (alkali, alibi, octopi). -Y could also be pronounced that way, but is most commonly pronounced long-E. So let's write -Y in the second syllable: "wikky".

* "A collaborative website whose content can be edited by anyone who has access to it." (American Heritage Dictionary)

Munday, January 11, 2010: "volly/ball" for "volley/ball"

EY is ambiguous, sometimes taking a long-E sound (as here and in key and alley) but other times taking a long-A sound (hey, they, greyhound). If we simply take out the E, the correct sound becomes clear: "volly/ball".
My thanks to "Tom..." for "volly".

Sunday, January 10, 2010: "treddle" for "treadle"

EA is ambiguous, and is usually seen as representing a long-E (pea, sea, bead), which is not the sound here. The first-E in today's word is actually short, and the way we would ordinarily show that is with a plain E folllowed by a double-D: "treddle".

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

Saturday, January 9, 2010: "serennity" for "serenity"

The adjective from which this noun derives is serene, which has a long-E before the N. The traditional spelling of the noun, "serenity", has the same single-N as the adjective, but a short-E sound before the N. The single-N does not adequately guide the reader to the fact that the sound of the immediately preceding E is different in the two words. If we merely double the N here, however, we will cue the reader to the correct, short-E: "serennity".

Friday, January 8, 2010: "radeate", "radeation", and "radeator" for "radiate", "radiation" and "radiator"

Radiators are much on the mind of scores of millions of people right now, as severely cold weather sweeps not just 2/3 of the United States (and almost all of Canada, of course) but also the British Isles. In my part of the world, there is a dialectal pronunciation for "radiator" with a short-A in the first syllable, as rhymes with gladiator. That may be due in part to the ambiguous spelling, in which the D is followed by an I, not an E. The pattern vowel-consonant-E is well understood to signal a long vowel (trade, precede, fine, home, rude), but a single consonant without a following-E does not necessarily signal a long vowel (adipose, radical, eradicate). We do have words with the letter sequence EA for the sounds that follow the D in today's words (such as create, creation, creator). So EA would be a better spelling here.

The last issue is whether the ending should be -OR or -ER. Ordinarily I prefer ER, but here the sequence would be -EATER, which would be read like one who eats (beefeater, anteater, and the word eater itself), so -OR is the better choice: "radeate", "radeation", "radeator".

My thanks to "Table..." for "radeate" and "radeation".

Thursday, January 7, 2010: "kootub" for "qutb" or "Qutb"

Sometimes English brings in words from foreign languages that have, for English, completely insane spellings, like today's word.* Uncountable people learning English have objected to the idea that Q must always be followed by U, and of course in various loanwords that 'rule' does not hold. Here, the Q is a simple K-sound, without a U/W sound after it. The vowel expressed by the U in the current spelling is long-U without a Y-glide, as in rue, blue, and bamboo. That sound is most clearly shown by OO, which admittedly is not wholly clear, in that some OO's take the short-OO sound in good and took. In today's word, the QUT rhymes with hoot, shoot, and toot. As to the end of the word, there is indeed a vowel sound, a schwa, between what is in the current spelling just two adjoining consonants that don't go together, T and B. The sound and spelling should be united in English as they are in Arabic: "kootub".

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

* Unabridged: "(in Sufism) the highest-ranking saint, the focal point of all spiritual energy".

Wensday, January 6, 2010: "pezzant" for "peasant"

PEA is a common word learned early, pronounced with a long-E. That is not the sound here, which is a short-E. Nor does the S represent an S-sound, but a Z-sound. We thus need to change the S to Z, then double it to show that the vowel before it is short, then drop the misleading A, and finally this word will be spelled sensibly: "pezzant".

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

Tuesday, January 5, 2010: "bicicle" for "bicycle"

Current frigid temperatures remind me that we have two rhyming words, bicycle and icicle, that are spelled differently. In Middle English, one spelling of the latter was isykle,* with a Y. That was changed to an I, presumably for simplicity's sake. It's time to change "bicycle" in the same way, and replace the Y with I. Some people don't know or don't think about the origin of the "-cycle" part of the word, so don't know whether the Y goes in the first syllable (as in the word by) or the second. Let's simplify their task in spelling this by putting an I in both places: "bicicle".

* Online Etymology Dictionary. Douglas Harper, Historian.

Munday, January 4, 2010: "acaizhon/al/ly" for "occasion/al/ly"

A double-consonant ordinarily signals a short vowel before it, but here, the O represents only a schwa. However, some people see an initial-O and say it as tho it is the O' of some well-known Irish surnames (O'Reilly, O'Shaughnessy). So let's eliminate both the double-C and the initial-O.

The second problem area of today's words is the -SION, which is an odd alternate version of the -TION ending. Tho -TION is so extremely common that changing it would be fiercely resisted, -SION is much less frequent. It is also sometimes mispronounced, especially in Britain, as tho it were the standard -TION ending. So let's get rid of it too, and replace it with something more indicative of the pronunciation.  We can leave the O and N here, and replace only the SI, with ZH, the standard spelling for the correct sound in pronunciation keys.

Unfortunately, changing the SI to ZH renders the sound of the A before it unclear, since a two-letter consonant cluster could be seen as marking the prior vowel short, whereas it is really long! We need to add something to mark the A long, and writing an I after it is probably the most common way to indicate a long-A mid-word. So let's do that.

This little group of words becomes much changed, but clear. It will look odd to people who are accustomed to the present spelling, but that spelling is no less odd, if you try to read it as it looks. After all, "Sion" is a word, a variant of "Zion" pronounced síe.yan; OCC should be read with a short-O; and the A between those two elements could be read as a schwa, not a long-A, which would make the whole base word òk.a.síe.yan. If the original spelling were "acaizhon" and someone suggested respelling it "occasion", we would be entitled to look at him as tho he were out of his mind. No, let's write what words actually sound like, near as we can do that without a radical spelling reform: "acaizhon/al/ly".

My thanks to "Firewall..." for suggesting reform of today's words, tho I chose a slitely different solution.

Sunday, January 3, 2010: "nesessity" for "necessity"

We have today a little oddity, a word that is fine in itself — if read, not heard. A listener cannot know, except from rote memorization, that the first S-sound is to be spelled with a C, even tho the second S-sound is spelled with not just one but two S's! But the main reason I suggest we change today's word is simple 'housekeeping', tidying up the mismatch with its mate, "necessary" if that word, whose spelling suggests that it is stressed on the second syllable, is reformed to "nessesery", as I suggested here April 25, 2009.

The only change today's word needs is a switch out of the C for an S. If the sound is S, let's use S. People shouldn't have to remember that some S-sounds are actually spelled with C. And why should an S-sound be spelled with a C?:  "nesessity".

Saturday, January 2, 2010: "menninggococcal" for "meningococcal"

This word is mispronounced with a J-sound for the G in a Public Service Announcement about meningitis, the latter of which is indeed pronounced with a J-sound. At least "meningitis" has a G before an I, so the reader might wonder about whether it's a J- or G-sound. In "meningococcal", however, the G precedes an O, so the reader is entitled to think it should not have a J-sound, and indeed it does NOT properly have a J-sound. The question then arises as to whether the G has any sound of its own or is merely part of the NG-sound, as it is in hanger, singer, and stringer. To make plain to everyone what the sound properly is, a second-G after the NG is, apparently, needed.

The other problem with today's traditional spelling is the single-N after the initial ME-, which leaves the reader to wonder if the E is long or short. It's short, and the way we ordinarily show that unambiguously is by doubling the consonant after it. Let's do that too: "menninggococcal".

Friday, January 1, 2010: "lissen" for "listen"

Why is there a T in "listen"? Let's get rid of it before foolish people start pronouncing it, as happened with the silent-T in "often": "lissen".

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

Click here for today's suggestion.
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Click here for a list of possible future words.

Click here for the principles that govern the selection of words.

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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