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Thursday, September 30, 2010: "blaggard" for "blackguard"
Today's preposterous traditional spelling has three silent letters, C, K, and U! Ridiculous. The pronunciation is either bláa.gord or bláa.gerd. We don't need all those extra letters to spell that sound: "blaggard".
My thanks to "Music..." for this suggestion.
Wensday, September 29, 2010: "agen" and "agenst" for "again" and "against"
The most common pronunciation in both North America and Britain for both these words has a short-E sound rather than the long-A that AI suggests. People who actually do say a long-A may wish to retain the AI spelling. That's fine. There are hundreds of words with two or more spellings (ax/axe, premise/premiss, rescission/recission/recision), and they're not even pronounced differently.
Other people would be glad to get rid of the AI in today's words, even tho there is a slight ambiguity as to the pronunciation of the G if we put an E right after it.
Absent a systematic reform that banishes "soft"-G completely, we can't be perfectly clear about some words. But in this project, if the sound is J ("soft-G"), we write J, so G always represents the "hard"-G of get, gear, and gecko: "agen" and "agenst".
My thanks to "Clap..." for this suggestion.
Tuesday, September 28, 2010: "wethor" for "weather"
EA is ambiguous (each, bread, Sean, rhea, break; pronounced respectively as eech, bred, shaun, rée.ya, braek). Here, the sound is short-E. If we merely drop the A, the E will be seen as short, since it is followed by the two-letter consonant cluster TH.
But "wether" is already a word, for a castrated ram used to lead other sheep in herding. The two words are very different, and "wether" is rare in today's urban world, so the two words would not generally be confused. Still, if we can distinguish the two senses by spelling, that would be a good thing to do.
We can't do it in the first syllable, since WETH- is compact, and there is no unambiguous spelling but E-alone for short-E. We can, however, use -OR in the second syllable, since -OR is a common spelling for the sound in today's word (color, actor, razor): "wethor".
My thanks to "Unicycle..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.
Munday, September 27, 2010: "tung" for "tongue"
There are two things very wrong with the traditional spelling of today's word: first, the O represents a short-U sound; and second, the U and E are silent, so shouldn't be there. "Tongue" is a one-syllable word that looks as tho it should be two, because of the needless and misleading -UE.
Fortunately, there are two quick fixes. First, change the O to U. Second, drop the -UE: "tung".
Sunday, September 26, 2010: "serv" and "serviss" for "serve" and "service"
The -E on "serve", um, serves no purpose, so let's drop it. The -ICE on "service" misleads the new reader to pronounce that syllable with a long-I (as in ice itself, nice, and device). The actual sound is short-I followed by an S-sound, as in kiss, miss, and bliss. Let's use that pattern: "serv" and "serviss".
My thanks to "Fireworks..." for "serv".
Saturday, September 25, 2010: "rezzidue" and "rezijjual" for "residue" and "residual"
RE- is a prefix that is commonly pronounced long-E (or short-I verging on long-E). When, instead, the sound is short-E, we need to show that, by doubling the following consonant.
In "residue", the RE takes the short-E sound, but the following consonant, S, represents a Z-sound. If the sound is Z, let's write Z. And since the preceding-E is short, we need to double the Z to show that: "rezzidue". We don't really need a final-E, but it is customary, so the reformed spelling looks less objectionable with the E than it would without ("rezzidu").
In the case of "residual", the RE has the long-E sound, so we don't need to double the following consonant. But the S still represents a Z-sound, so should be replaced by Z (a single-Z). Alas, the D represents a J-sound! So we should replace it with J; since the preceding-I is short, we should double the J to show that clearly.
So today's twofer resolves to: "rezzidue" and "rezijjual".
Friday, September 24, 2010: "pathojen" for "pathogen"
As with yesterday's word, "nitrogen" (to "nytrojen"), we have today an ambiguous GE that merely expresses a J-sound, so should be rendered as J: "pathojen".
My thanks to "GreenD..." for this suggestion.
Thursday, September 23, 2010: "nytrojen" for "nitrogen"
An I before the two-letter consonant cluster TR could readily be seen as short. In actuality, it's long. Y would show that sound much better (hybrid, gynecologist, pyromaniac).
GE is highly ambiguous (get, gentle, genre; college, collage, renege). Here, the sound is J, so let's write a J: "nytrojen".
My thanks to "braeden..." for this suggestion.
Wensday, September 22, 2010: "maddam", "madamm", and "maidamm" for "madam", "madame", and "mesdames"
There are inconsistent ways these related words are pronounced, but they don't necessarily affect the spelling. Madam, without an -E, is stressed on the first syllable. To show that, and indicate plainly that the first-A is short, we can double the D. Madame and mesdames are stressed on the second syllable. To show that, we can double the M.
In mesdames, the S is silent, so has got to go. The vowel of the first syllable, however, is long-A (which could also be the case in madam, tho less likely in the case of madame), and that needs to be indicated. Fortuitously, we have the familiar word maid to show how that long-A should be spelled. So today's words resolve to: "maddam", "madamm", and "maidamm".
My thanks to "Unicycle..." for "madamm".
Tuesday, September 21, 2010: "lambaist" for "lambaste"
Two letters away is too far for a silent-E to show a long vowel (here, A). We should drop the -E and write the long-A in itself, as AI as in waist, caisson, and lackadaisical: "lambaist".
Note: There is a second form of this word with a short-A sound in both syllables. People who prefer the short-A should leave the present alternate spelling, "lambast". Since there are already two spellings, it doesn't matter if after reform there are still two spellings for the two pronunciations. We should just make sure that both spellings make the pronunciation clear whatever it may be.
Munday, September 20, 2010: "impechuus" for "impetuous"
I have hesitated to offer this reform in that the printed pronunciation in British dictionaries has shown T and then a Y-sound, rather than the CH-sound as such. But I just checked the Cambridge Dictionaries Online entry for "impetuous" and clicked on the recorded pronunciations, US and UK. It turns out that the pronunciations are pretty much indistinguishable. It's just that Brits conceive of what they're saying as TYU, when in actuality the sequence TYU said quickly equates with the CH-sound of church. The different pronunciation-key renderings I see in, for instance, the U.S. and World English versions of the Oxford Dictionaries Online (which, alas, do not (yet) offer auditory recordings) are a case of that famous "distinction without a difference". The Cambridge entry indeed has only one printed pronunciation key alongside both recorded pronunciations, UK and US, not two different keys for the two different varieties of English. So we can get rid of the silly T and replace it with CH.
The other thing that needs to be fixed is the -OUS ending, which has an OU but no OU-sound. If we drop the O, we eliminate any doubt about the sound: "impechuus".
Sunday, September 19, 2010: "erb" and "erbal" for "herb" and "herbal"
Three-fourths of all native speakers of English (those raised in North America) pronounce these words without an initial H-sound, so should drop the H. Retaining the H in "herb" makes it difficult to know if the H in words like herbivore and herbaceous should be pronounced (yes) or dropped (no). People who pronounce the H everywhere are of course entitled to write what they say, just as those who do not pronounce the H are entitled to write what they say: "erb" and "erbal".
Saturday, September 18, 2010: "jygantic" for "gigantic"
The sound of the G in the GI of today's word is very ambiguous, especially in these days when terms like "gigabyte" are common. "Gigabyte" usually takes an initial hard-G , but because of the ambiguity of traditional spelling, a very few people actually do say jíg.a.bìet.
"Gigantic" is supposed to have a soft-G, the J-sound, but how can the reader know that? Let's get rid of the first-G and put in its place the J that is the real sound.
The second-G in this word precedes an A, and thus does not cause a problem in the reader's seeing it as having a hard-G, in that the "rule" tells people that G can take its "soft" sound before E, I, and Y, but not A, O, or U. We are to ignore words like "margarine" in which the G is soft even tho it precedes an A. This kind of madness is why some of us are so insistent that present spelling has got to go.
The second problem with "gigantic" (and its derivatives, such as "gigantism") is the sound of the vowel right after the J-sound. There is only one G after the I, so a reader could read the I as long, as in ligation. Oddly, however, IG ordinarily suggests that the reader should say a short-I (ligament, bigot, alligator). Changing the I to Y will cue the reader that the sound is long-I.
Alas, since traditional spelling is so chaotic, it is possible that some readers will not take the hint, but say a short-I (as in mysterious, hysterectomy and physical), anyway. We do what we can do: "jygantic".
My thanks to "Doghouse..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.
Friday, September 17, 2010: "floress" and "floressent" for "fluoresce" and "fluorescent"
Tho there are slitely different pronunciations for today's pair of words, a U-sound is not part of any of them. The U has got to go: "floress" and "floressent".
Thursday, September 16, 2010: "eppilog" for "epilog"
The -UE in the traditional spelling is needless and ambiguous (compare ague, dengue). Let's just drop it, OK? Furthermore, the initial-E is short, but you can't be sure of that from a single-P following. So let's double the P: "eppilog".
Wensday, September 15, 2010: "dermattofyte" for "dermatofyte"
This scientific term entered general consciousness when a commercial product (Lamisil) to fight a fungus that thickens and yellows toenails chose to use the word. The present spelling presents a couple of points of difficulty. First, there is only a single-T, so the reader cannot know if the A is long or short. It's short, so the T should be doubled.
The second issue is the absurd spelling PH for an ordinary F-sound.
The third issue is the unexpected, tho perfectly phonetic, Y. Should we change it to I so that people hearing the word might guess the spelling more readily? I don't think so. The Y is fine: "dermattofyte".
And, because I got hung up in another project yesterday:
Tuesday, September 14, 2010: "cor" for "corps"
"Corps" is a preposterous spelling, a trap that some people fall into, giving the P and S their proper sounds. Actually, they are both silent. Imagine that, two silent letters at the end of a word. We are accustomed to a silent-GH in word like sight and light. But a silent-PS? That is really weird, and so unexpected that people don't always know to distinguish "corps" from the slitely longer, and much more grisly, "corpse". In the longer word, both the P and the S are said, as the reader might expect. In the shorter word, however, they are both silent. If they are silent, why are they there? Let's drop them both: "cor".
My thanks to "Clap..." for this suggestion.
Munday, September 13, 2010: "bel" for "belle"
Today's word retains a French spelling that is longer than need be. If we want to distinguish this word from the ordinary word bell, why not go shorter rather than longer, and do without a silent-E that does not, as many silent-E's do, mark the prior vowel long?: "bel".
My thanks to "Music..." for this suggestion.
Sunday, September 12, 2010: "apperchur" for "aperture"
There are at least three things wrong with today's word. First, it starts with the familiar word ape, but neither has any relationship to that word nor is pronounced that way. Rather, the A is short. Second, there is a CH-sound, but no CH. Rather, we are supposed to see the TU as implying a CH, as if the U were pronounced long and with an initial Y-glide.
-UREsuggests a long-U. So if the sound were really a long-U with an initial Y-glide, the Y-sound would combine with the T-sound to create a sort of CH-sound. The problem, however, is that the U is not long! It is either short or a schwa, which sound, combined with the R-sound that follows, would most commonly be written ER (ermine, certain, better). Sometimes, however, that sound is written UR (urge, blurb, fur). In that the present spelling employs a U, and -ERcan easily be seen as an agent ending that implies that an "appercher" is someone or something that "apperches", UR is a better choice: "apperchur".
Saturday, September 11, 2010: "wood" for "would"
"Would" is a ridiculous spelling for something pronounced wood. It has an OU but no OU-sound, plus a silent-L. Who on Earth needs a silent-L? Alas, since the word is so short, one syllable, and so simple, three phonemes (W + short-OO + D), there is no satisfactory way to reform it without creating a new homograph with wood (lumber).
"Wud" wouldn't work, but would rhyme with dud. "Wuud", suggested by some people, is "un-English" for that sound. Rather, UU, which is in any event rare in English, represents (a) two vowels side-by-side, long-U followed by short-U (continuum and the formal pronunciation of vacuum), or (b) long-U, with or without an initial Y-glide (muumuu and the informal pronunciation of vacuum). So "wuud", in addition to "looking funny", would not be self-evident as to sound to readers who might encounter it in ordinary text. Nor would the typical person guess that spelling on hearing the word.
So using the same spelling as wood can't be helped. We can't leave the current preposterous spelling. Kids and foreigners learning English have enuf ridiculous spellings to have to memorize. The word is already a homophone. Would it really make much difference if it were also a homograph? "Would" is a verb; "wood", a noun, and never a verb. Moreover, the meanings are hugely different. So the two could not be confused in context: "wood".
My thanks to "Doghouse..." for this suggestion.
Friday, September 10, 2010: "vouwel" for "vowel"
OW is ambiguous, sometimes taking the sound of long-O (show, crow, bestow) but other times the OU-sound (cow, crown, town). There is no way the reader can know how to pronounce OW in any given word, so, ideally, we should eliminate that digraph from the English language entirely, substituting something clearer in every instance.
Where the sound is OU, we should write OU (to use our sample words above, croun, toun). If the word is complicated, as is the case where the OU-sound ends the word (cow) or precedes another vowel, we need more, since a number of words that end in OU are pronounced with a different sound than OU (for instance, bayou, caribou, and kinkajou all end with the long-U sound, without an initial Y-glide, as in pure, use, and revue). If we bring back the W after a written OU that is, write OUW for words that now end in an OU-sound or have an OU-sound followed by another vowel the sound can be clear again: "vouwel".
Thursday, September 9, 2010: "tronsh" for "tranche"*
Today's word is from French, and is pronounced in the French fashion (except few people nasalize the A before the N). That is, the CH is pronounced like English SH; and the A is pronounced "broad", as in father. But there's no way a reader of English can know that, so s/he would be inclined to read it as being pronounced traanch, like trench but with a short-A instead of short-E.
If the sound is SH, let's write SH. And if the sound is broad-A, which is the same as short-O, let's use O instead, because an O before a consonant will be given its short sound, which is right: "tronsh".
* "Tranche" is a word from law and finance for an issue of bonds that differs from others of that series in some particular, such as maturity date or rate of return.
Wensday, September 8, 2010: "skitsofreenea" and "skitsofrennic" for "schizophrenia" and "schizophrenic"
CH is an absurd way to spell the K-sound, especially after S, where the three-letter combination might be read as representing an SH-sound (schtick, schmuck, schist). If the sound is K, let's just write a K.
The Z represents not Z's own sound but a TS-sound. So let's write TS.
The I in the -IA ending represents a long-E sound. Let's write E.
PH is a ridiculous way to spell the F-sound, and ambiguous too (uphold, upholstery, diphthong). The sound is F. Let's write an F.
In the noun, the E before the N is long; in the adjective, it is short. We should show both sounds plainly, by doubling the E in the noun and doubling the N in the adjective: "skitsofreenea" and "skitsofrennic".
Tuesday, September 7, 2010: "renue" and "renuwal" for "renew" and "renewal"
-EW is a preposterous way to spell a long-U sound. If you actually try to pronounce EW, you must regard the vowel E as "closed" by the consonant W, so say a short-E (that is, a closed-E) followed by a W-glide, which ends up sounding like a type of long-O, not -U. So we should substitute U for EW where, as here, the sound is long-U.
The question then becomes whether to retain the -E, as in parallel words like revue, blue, and accrue, or drop it ("renu"), which would save a letter. Tho it is a fine thing to save a letter, and with each letter, a tiny bit of ink/toner and paper in printed materials, that is hardly a rigid criterion for spelling reform, now is it? My prime concern in this project is the clarity of pronunciation in reading and the ease of guessing the spelling of words that people hear but do not see. We can afford the occasional extra -E as long as the sound of the written word is clear and the spelling is easy to guess. So let's write the base word as "renue" rather than "renu". (I don't know why the convention is -UE rather than the simpler and more compact -U. But why change many words if the slitely-less-efficient convention is clear?)
As for the derivative "renewal", we can follow the convention that a single consonant suggests a long vowel before it, so we do not need the E (which merely shows the U to take its long sound) in the longer word. Nor do we need a W between the U and A. Thus do we arrive at today's twofer: "renue" and "renual".
My thanks to "rhod..." for "renue".
Munday, September 6, 2010: "peev" for "peeve"
EE is unambiguous in expressing a long-E sound. We don't need three E's to show a long-E sound: "peev".
My thanks to "Jungle..." for this suggestion.
Sunday, September 5, 2010: "macrofaje" for "macrophage"
Let's deal today with one of the myriad ridiculous spellings in the scientific vocabulary. There is no justification for the antiphonetic spelling PH for a simple F-sound, especially since there are words in which a PH letter sequence represents the separate sounds of P and H (uphill, uphold, upholstery). Indeed, in upholstery, some people don't say an H-sound at all, so the PH there represents a simple P-sound. No reader should ever have to wonder if a PH represents an F-sound, P-sound, or the separate sounds of P and H in simple sequence. If the sound is F, let's just write F.
As for the G in "macrophage", G before E is ambiguous, even in final position (renege, college, collage: ri.níg, ri.nég, ri.néeg; kól.aj; ka.lózh). Here, the sound is J, so let's just write a J: "macrofaje".
Saturday, September 4, 2010: "lile" for "lisle"
There is a silent-S in this word, which has got to go: "lile".
My thanks to "yaora..." for this suggestion. There is a second pattern for words of this pronunciation that we might alternatively apply, as in dial, trial, and denial, and "rhode..." suggested that spelling, which is arguably superior in suggesting two syllables, which this word is. But -IAL also has the pronunciation -ee.al (actuarial, atrial, territorial) and sometimes just schwa + L (providential, glacial, cordial, where the I actually combines with the prior letter to form a different sound than that letter alone would have), so -ILE, while less than ideal, seems the better choice. But I thank "rhode..." for the suggestion nonetheless.
Friday, September 3, 2010: "indor/s" for "indoor/s"
Yesterday I mentioned that a lot of people insist on seeing every OR as having an AU-sound. Let's use that for good. "Door" is one of a small family of words in which OO takes neither of its usual sounds, short as in good or long as in bamboo, but the AU-sound, which no new reader would expect. Three days ago I offered reform (to U) of another bizarre use of OO, to represent a short-U sound (in floodlight). All these weird misuses of OO should be eliminated from the language.
The reform here is obvious, just to take out one of the O's, to leave OR, which will be read right: "indor" and "indors".
My thanks to "GreenD..." for this suggestion.
Thursday, September 2, 2010: "hemmaroid" for "hemorrhoid" and "haemorrhoid"
There are a number of things wrong with these two spellings. The first problem, of course, is that there are two spellings, when there should be only one.
The second problem is that the primarily British spelling, with AE, is ridiculously antique, and suggests a more complicated sound than a simple short-E, which is the sound it is supposed to represent. So that A has definitely got to go.
The third problem is that there is a silent-H, so that has to go.
The fourth problem is that a double-R suggests that the word's stress falls on the second syllable, before that double consonant. It does not, but on the first syllable.
The fifth problem is that a single-M leaves the sound of the E unclear. Is it long? Is it short? It's short, so we should double the M, not the R. A double-M will as well tell most readers that the word's stress falls on the first syllable, which is all to the good.
The last problem is that OR will be seen by all too many people as having an AU-sound, which is not the case here. Rather, the sound is schwa, which is most commonly written with an A. So let's change the O to A.
Putting this all together, we get: "hemmaroid".
Wensday, September 1, 2010: "nomon" for "gnomon"*
This is quick and easy. The G is silent, so should not be there: "nomon".
* A "gnomon" (pronounced nóe.mon, with a full short-O in the second syllable, is the "style" that casts the shadow in a sundial.
Tuesday, August 31, 2010: "fludlite" for "floodlight"
Tho this is a compound of two words already offered here separately,* the sense of the compound is quite different from that of either of its elements (especially "flood", which usually conjures images of deep water where there should be none). Compounds are legitimately words to themselves, so need to be addressed in themselves: "fludlite".
My thanks to "Fisherman..." for this suggestion.
* "Flud" for "flood" offered July 19, 2004, and "lite" for "light", offered June 8, 2004.
Munday, August 30, 2010: "extole" for "extoll"
Two L's after an O to show a long-O is the opposite of standard practice, in which we double a consonant to show a short vowel. To show a long-O, we should use a single-L and following-E, as in role, whole, and cajole: "extole".
Sunday, August 29, 2010: "dimize" for "demise"
DE- is ambiguous, often having a long-E sound (detest, devious, decent). Here, however, the vowel sound is short-I (as in it).
-ISE is also ambiguous, sometimes having the S-sound one would expect from an S in the spelling: vise, precise, paradise, whereas here it takes a Z-sound. If the sound is Z, let's write a Z: "dimize".
Saturday, August 28, 2010: "chek" for "check" and "cheque"
"Check" is both a noun and a verb. "Cheque" is only a noun, and only used for a bank draft or similar instrument. What exactly is the point of that? There are 52 definitions for "check" at Dictionary.com. Why trouble to insist on a different spelling for one of them? We also don't need both C and K to express a K-sound. We could write "chec" or "chek", and save a letter. "Chek" is a popular choice in the names of businesses, so let's use that. The only question is what to do when -ED or -ING is added to the verb. Given the model of "travel", I imagine that Americans will prefer "cheked" and "cheking", whereas Britons might prefer "chekked" and "chekking". In any case, most of the time, that issue won't arise: "chek".
Friday, August 27, 2010: "broeshette" for "brochette"
This Food Friday, let's reform a word for a little skewer, which has an unusual stress pattern, on the last syllable. Tho indicating syllabic stress is not something English spelling ordinarily does (witness permit, which can be stressed on either syllable), the present spelling does cue the unusual stress, so there's no persuasive reason to change that. Thus we can leave the -ETTE, which is found in many other words.
What we do have to clarify is (a) the sound of the O, which before a two-letter consonant cluster (CH) could be short, whereas it is actually long, and (b) the sound of the CH, which is not the English CH-sound (as in church) at all, but the French-CH, which is the same as the English-SH.
We could show the long-O by OA, and "brochette" is etymologically related to "broach". But OA sometimes takes two syllables (inchoate, koala, boa), so that wouldn't really clarify the issue. OE also sometimes expresses two syllables (coed, coefficient, macroeconomic), but relatively rarely. So let's use that.
As for the SH-sound of the CH, that's simple. Just change the C to S: "broeshette".
Thursday, August 26, 2010: "aulso" for "also"
AL is ambiguous, often having a short-A sound, as in at (alabaster, altimeter, calisthenics), but sometimes having the AU sound in caustic (already, alderman, caldron) or a schwa (alarm, thermal, statistical). There's not much we can do about the use of any vowel letter to represent a schwa, since all do in various words. But we can at least make plain when the sound is AU, by making short-A the default for AL, and inserting a U in those words where the sound is as in haul, aura, or pause: "aulso".
My thanks to "Bookk..." for this suggestion.
Wensday, August 25, 2010: "wouw" for "wow"
Today's word is parallel to yesterday's (see below): "wouw".
My thanks to "Wilddog..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.
Tuesday, August 24, 2010: "vouw" for "vow"
-OW is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced with a long-O, other times with an OU-sound (stow, now, know, how: pronounced stoe, nou, noe, hou). Clearly, there is no way to make plain, in one spelling, which of the two sounds applies to a given word. Rather, we have to distinguish the different sounds with different spellings.
If English used accents, we could use an accent to show one sound or the other (e.g., "nôw", "hôw", "plôw", "pôwwôw" (where the circumflex accent indicates the OU-sound in standing in for a following-U, and the sound is remembered by comparison of the ^ to an upside-down V, which was the chiseled, ancient-Roman version of U), versus the bare-O that stands for a long-O, as in "crow", "stow", "grow", "aglow"). But English does not employ accents, so we have to use full, unadorned letters to draw distinctions.
We could revise both spellings, as by dropping the -W from words in which the sound is long-O ("cro", "sto", "gro", "aglo"), or by replacing that -W with -E ("croe", "stoe", "groe", "agloe"); and inserting a U between the O and W in words in which the sound is OU ("nouw", "houw", "plouw", "pouwwouw"). Or we could change the spelling of only one sound, which would, by default, leave the other spelling to represent the other sound, everywhere. I am not, now (or "nouw"), going to decide whether both sounds need to be made plain in themselves, but just deal with the OU-sound, which does indeed need a U.
Do we need a -W if we employ a U, or can we merely write "nou" and "hou"? Unfortunately, we do need a -W, because there are a number of words in English that end in OU but do not have the OU-sound (bayou, marabou, caribou), because that same spelling convention, OU, is employed (bizarrely, and not just at the end of a word) to represent a simple long-U sound without a Y-glide, which English sometimes writes as OO. This is especially common in geographic and personal names, and other loanwords lifted whole into English from other languages (Djibouti, Tony Shalhoub, baba ghanoush). So let's use -OUW for all words that end in an OU-sound, such as today's: "vouw".
My thanks to "Jungle..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.
Munday, August 23, 2010: "tun" for "ton" and "tunn" for "tonne"
There are two words for two units of weight in two systems of weights and measures that are both pronounced tun. The senior member of the pair is the "ton", the traditional overall term for a bifurcated unit with two values: the "short" ton (2,000 pounds) and "long" ton (2,240 pounds). The junior member of this set is the "tonne" or "metric ton", equal to 1,000 kilograms or 2,205 pounds.
One could argue that since the "ton" has two values covered by one word, the same one word could cover all three values. That seems to me inadvisable. The distinction between "ton" and "tonne" is meaningful (if poorly understood in the United States, where "tonne" is perceived merely as another needlessly cumbersome British spelling, like "programme", not as the name of a different unit of weight), but the two terms should both be phonetic, which neither now is.
The vowel sound in both is short-U: they both rhyme with "fun". The older term should have the more compact form,* "tun", parallel in both spelling and sound to "run". The newer term, and larger unit (than the 2,000-pound "ton" commonly used in the United States but abandoned in most other places), which is now spelled "tonne", with two N's, can drop the silent-E and retain the two N's, but after a phonetically correct U: "tun" and "tunn".
There is also an antique measure for a wine cask, "tun", of 252 gallons or 4 hogsheads! That unit is no longer used, so its spelling can be reassigned to the "ton".
* This is especially the case in that the great majority of all native speakers of English reside in the United States, and we are dealing here with the spelling of an English word, so pride of place belongs to "tun" for "ton", not "tonne".
Sunday, August 22, 2010: "salvij" for "salvage"
-AGE should have a long-A sound, as in the word "age" itself, and in rage, stage, and bacteriophage. The actual sound of the A is schwa approaching a full short-I (as in it).
GE is ambiguous, being variously pronounced with a regular G-sound ("hard"-G: get), J-sound ("soft"-G: gentle), even a French-G (genre, collage). Here, the sound is J, so let's just write a J, OK?: "salvij".
Saturday, August 21, 2010: "reccomend" for "recommend"
RE- is a very common prefix that is usually pronounced with a long-E (reduce, reuse, recycle). That is not the sound here, which is short-E. The way we commonly show a short vowel is by doubling the consonant following. Let's do that here.
Oddly, the traditional spelling has a single consonant (C) where it should have a double (CC), but a double-M where there should be only one, since the O represents a schwa sound, not a short-O (as in omnidirectional, common, diatom). So if we drop one of the M's, but add a C, we will end up with a word of the same number of letters, but clearer: "reccomend".
Friday, August 20, 2010: "paist", "paisty", and "paistry" for "paste", the adjective "pasty", and noun "pastry"
This Food Friday, let's deal with three related words that have a long-A that the new reader could not be expected to know. "Past" has a short-A, but when you add E, Y, or RY to it, the A magically becomes long. New learners of English are familiar with the "silent-E" that after a single consonant sometimes marks a prior vowel long (casework, ride, precede). But E after a consonant doesn't always do that (seven, elevator, collage). There are some occasions on which a silent-E has the same effect on a vowel that precedes two consonants (lathe, strange, tulle). But that doesn't work consistently either (lather, hanger, fuller). Rather than make people guess when an E one or two consonants away marks a vowel long, we should endeavor to make the vowel's sound clear in itself. In today's words, we have a long-A sound within the word. There are a few ways to show a long-A in the spelling of the vowel itself: AY, AE, and AI. Of the three, AI is probably most common. So let's use that: "paist", the adjective "paisty", and "paistry".
My thanks to "Fireworks..." and "Firewall..." for suggesting reform of today's words, tho I chose a slitely different solution. Note: There is a British noun, spelled "pasty", for a pie filled with meat or fish, which has a short-A, so does not need reform, unless we wanted to, say, double the T to make plain that the A is short (pastty).
Thursday, August 19, 2010: "meddal" for "medal"
A single-D leaves unclear the sound of the E in the first syllable of today's word, especially since what precedes it is ME, which is a word to itself, with a long-E. To show unambiguously that the E is short, we need merely double the D: "meddal".
My thanks to "Dogs..." for this suggestion.
Wensday, August 18, 2010: "libeedo/es", "libiddinus", and "libiddinal" for "libido/s", "libidinous", and "libidinal"
Today, let's address an adúlt issue, which we ordinarily would not do during the school year, since one main audience for this project is schoolchildren, whose minds aren't closed about spelling. It's still summer break for most school districts in the English-speaking world, however, so we can talk about adúlt topics.
The second-I in today's base word, "libido", represents not an I-sound (long as in irony, short as in it), but the long-E sound. Why would we write an E-sound with an I? We don't write short-E with I, ever, so why would we ever write a long-E sound with an I? Today's base word should be written with the clearest rendering of long-E midword, EE: "libeedo", the plural to which should be regularized with -ES, not the present unexpected -S only.
The derivatives of "libido" have a short-I sound for the second-I, and the way we customarily show that is by doubling the consonant that follows, which here is D. So let's double the D.
"Libidinous" has an OU but no OU-sound. Let's drop the O, because U-alone suffices (abacus, fetus, radius).
Today's proposed reforms are thus: "libeedo", "libeedoes", "libiddinus", and "libiddinal".
Tuesday, August 17, 2010: "ishue" for "issue"
The traditional British "posh" pronunciation ís.yue has apparently fallen out of favor of late, because altho the U.S.-based Dictionary.com includes it as an alternate pronunciation with the notation "especially Brit.", the "World English" version of the Oxford Online Dictionary shows ísh.ue first, and only then, ís.yue, and the Cambridge Dictionaries Online gives a recorded pronunciation, for British usage, with the SH-sound. So there's no reason to retain the old-fashiond and unphonetic spelling. Any speaker of a dialect that does not use the SH-sound is of course free to retain the SS-spelling.
The one remaining, um, issue, is whether to retain the needless final-E. If we drop it, the sound won't change. BUT the E would pop up again in the plural, so there's very little point in dropping it, whereas retaining it will make the reformed spelling a tad closer to the traditional spelling. So let's retain it: "ishue".
My thanks to "Bookk..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.
Monday, August 16, 2010: "hydrojen" for "hydrogen"
As with yesterday's word, "giant", today's employs a G to represent a J-sound. Why? Let's just use a J: "hydrojen".
Sunday, August 15, 2010: "jiant" for "giant"
GI is ambiguous (gig, gist, gigolo). Here, it represents the J-sound. But why would we use a G to represent a J? We have a letter J. Let's use it: "jiant".
My thanks to "Jungle..." for this suggestion.
Saturday, August 14, 2010: "ferrul" for "ferrule" and "ferule"
"Ferrule" or "ferule" has several meanings, but the most common is "a ring or cap, usually of metal, put around the end of a post, cane, or the like, to prevent splitting". The most familiar ferrule is the metal band that holds the eraser on a pencil. In any case, the word, regardless of whether it be written with one R or two, is pronounced fér.al, which is also one pronunciation of a word written "feral". To show that the word for a metal band differs from the word for "wild" (such as a feral cat), we can drop the final-E, to steer people away from the pronunciation fér.uel, but leave the U. We do need two R's, however, not the one R in the alternate spelling "ferule", to show that the first-E is not long but joins with the R to form the sound most commonly written ER (better, ermine): "ferrul".
Friday, August 13, 2010: "exelseor" for "excelsior"
Today's word is from a Latin expression used as the motto of the U.S. State of New York to mean "Ever Higher" or "Onward and Upward". How it came to mean wood shavings as packing material, or a tiny font (3-point) is hard to understand, but is partially explained by the fact that it was a trademark. The manufacturers of that packing material presumably wanted to imbue it with superiority. That doesn't explain its use for tiny type, but that's not very important, is it?
We are concerned here with how it should be spelled, and there are a couple of problems with the traditional spelling. First, there is an unnecessary silent-C that new students of English around the world would not expect to see. Second, the I represents a long-E sound. Why would we write a long-E sound with an I? Let's use an E: "exelseor".
My thanks to "yaora..." for reporting yesterday that at some unknown point, the code for the hyperlinks to other pages on this site became corrupted and did not take visitors to those pages. I hope the problem is now fixed and will not recur.
Thursday, August 12, 2010: "dinggo" for "dingo"
There is a G-sound after the NG-sound in today's word, but you'd just have to know that, because you can't read it from the spelling. If there is a hard-G here, we need to show it: "dinggo".
My thanks to "Unicycle..." for this suggestion.
Wensday, August 11, 2010: "shiffaneer" for "chiffonier" and "chiffonnier"
Today's word has nothing to do with the fabric chiffon, but is the name of a piece of furniture. It is spelled with a CH, but has no CH-sound (as in church). The actual sound is SH, as in shush, so we should replace the C with S.
The -IER looks as tho it should be pronounced in a French or pseudo-French fashion, in two syllables (-ee.yáe) or one with a consonantal-Y (-yáe). It is actually pronounced in one syllable, as tho written -EER. So let's write it that way.
And there can be either one N or two in the two present variant spellings. We don't need two N's. One will do quite nicely.
Moreover, since there is no obvious connection between "chiffon" and "chiffonier", we should replace the O with an A, which is the most common way of writing the schwa sound that the present O represents, as will at once make the sound plain and break any mental connection to "chiffon".
Putting this all together, we get: "shiffaneer".
Tuesday, August 10, 2010: "baj", "bajjes", and "bajjer" for "badge", "badges", and "badger"
-DGE- is a preposterous and ridiculously cumbersome way to spell the J-sound, which is all that that letter combination does in today's words. It's even worse than French, German, and Dutch DJ (as in "Djibouti" and "Djakarta"). Unlike those languages, English does have a simple J-sound, represented in a great many words by one character, the letter J. Let's use J rather than -DGE- here.
In the noun "badge", changing to "baj" saves two letters. On a base of five letters, that's a 40% saving. For the plural, doubling the J seems advisable to show that the A remains short: "bajjes", like "busses". Some people write "buses", so would likely write "bajes" too. Their choice. But the clearer spelling "bajjes" would be better.
For "badger", a double-J is necessary to show a short-A, since "bajer" would be read with a long-A.
So today's suggested reforms are: "baj", "bajjes", and "bajjer".
My thanks to "Clap..." for "baj".
Munday, August 9, 2010: "afect" for "affect"
"Affect" is a fine spelling for the noun of that form (meaning "an expressed or observed emotional response" (Dictionary.com)), since the double-F shows the A to be short. But the verb does not have a short-A. Rather, the A represents a schwa, and the word's stress falls on the second syllable. The way to spell that clearly is to remove one of the F's. So let's do that: "afect".
My thanks to "Dogs..." for this suggestion.
Sunday, August 8, 2010: "wingid" for the literary adjective "winged"
"Wing" is a noun, a verb (for "to fly"), and, in the past tense, a two-syllable adjective of literary use, meaning "elevated" or "soaring", that is sometimes spelled "wingèd". It is that use that needs to be respelled, to show that it has two syllables: "wingid".
My thanks to "fishstick..." for this suggestion.
Saturday, August 7, 2010: "villify" for "vilify"
The single-L in today's word renders unclear the sound of the first-I, which could well be long. Tho the word does mean something very like what "vile-ify" would mean, "vilify" is actually pronounced with two short-I's, so we need to double the L. Once that is done, the stress on the first syllable makes the rest of the word plain: "villify".
Friday, August 6, 2010: "toemateeyo" for "tomatillo"
This Food Friday, let's fix an ambiguous spelling for a Mexican fruit* that could be seen as being pronounced various ways (tòe.ma.tée.yo, tòm.a.tíl.oe, even ta.máe.ti.lò by people who don't know Spanish, which is the case with many students of English worldwide). The fruit is not related to the tomato, not similar in appearance to it, nor pronounced like it, so we should not hesitate to make the pronunciation clearer by making the spelling quite different from "tomato". The two L's have no L-sound, but a Y-sound. We should spell it as it is pronounced: "toemateeyo".
* Merriam-Webster Online: "the small round yellow, purplish, and especially pale green edible sticky fruit of a Mexican ground-cherry".
Thursday, August 5, 2010: "suwer" for "sewer"
SEW is ambiguous, being a word in itself, pronounced soe, which means to join things by needle and thread. EW is a foolish way to write a long-U sound. One could conceivably form a long-O sound from short-E plus a W-glide, but you could not get a long-U sound from E + W. If the sound is U, let's write a U: "suwer".
My thanks to "Dogs..." for this suggestion.
Wensday, August 4, 2010: "reccognize" for "recognize"
RE- is a common prefix, usually pronounced with a long-E (refurbish, reverse, respell). Here, the E is short, so we need to show that. The way we ordinarily show a short vowel is by doubling the consonant after it. Let's do that here: "reccognize".
Tuesday, August 3, 2010: "peddestal" for "pedestal"
A single-D leaves the sound of the first-E unclear. It could be long, but is actually short, which is much more clearly shown by a double-D. Doubling the D also makes plain that the first syllable takes the word's stress, which is all to the good: "peddestal".
Munday, August 2, 2010: "meerer" for "mirror"
IR is a misleading spelling for the sound in this word, which is actually long-E (in all but the most peculiar, "clipped" dialects of England). We should replace the I with the clearest spelling for that sound midword, EE.
Moreover, OR is substantially less common a way of spelling the sound most commonly spelled ER, and is as well misleading, since OR in many words actually represents an AU+R combination (as in or, ornate, and tornado). Since part of the point of spelling reform is to enable people to know how to spell words they only hear, we should in general replace OR with ER when it represents not the AUR sound combination but simply the sound most commonly written ER (better, ermine, merge): "meerer".
My thanks to "Clap..." for this suggestion.
Sunday, August 1, 2010: "leeric/s" and "leerical" for "lyric/s" and "lyrical"
Y is very ambiguous, often taking a long-I sound (pyromania), short-I (mystical), or long-E (logy and today's words), so we need to clarify which sound should be read: "leeric", "leerics", "leerical".
Saturday, July 31, 2010: "indisriminit" for "indiscriminate"
ATE is ambiguous, often having a long-A sound, as in the word ate itself, and many other words like inflate and the verb discriminate. (Altho there is technically an adjective discriminate, said with a schwa or short-I in the last syllable, it is rare, whereas today's word is commonplace.) In today's word, the vowel in the last syllable is a schwa approaching a full short-I, so we should write an I in the last syllable too, so that all the vowels of the word are I's: "indiscriminit".
Friday, July 30, 2010: "hart" for "heart"
There is no way in the world that a new learner of English could see that "heart" represents the broad-A/short-O sound (hort). EA is highly ambiguous, to be sure, but its usual sounds are long-E (hear, dear, weary), short-E (bread, head, wealth), AI (bear, pear, and the verb to tear), and long-A (yea, break, steak). The sound here is none of those varied sounds for EA, but short-O. Short-O, or broad-A, before R is usually represented by A (car, star, partner). So if we drop the needless and misleading E, we get a spelling that almost all readers of English will know how to pronounce, "hart"
There is a minor problem in that "hart" is already a word, but it is so rare a word in actual occurrence that using that spelling would not create a significant problem. After all, there are hundreds of words spelled the same that mean different things (bow as the thing that launches arrows or as a knot in shoelaces or around gift packages; bear as a furry critter or as a verb meaning "to support"). So let's drop the E in the traditional spelling and not worry about the rare meaning* for the same spelling: "hart".
* Dictionary.com Unabridged: "a male deer, commonly of the red deer, Cervus elaphus, esp. after its fifth year."
Thursday, July 29, 2010: "jeraneum" for "geranium"
GE is ambiguous (get, generous, genre). If the sound is J, why should the spelling be G?
The other wrong letter in today's word is the I, which represents a long-E sound. If the sound is long-E, why would we write an I? Changing the I to E has the additional benefit of indicating more plainly that the A is long: "jeraneum".
Wensday, July 28, 2010: "fishu" for "fichu"*
You wouldn't know it from the spelling, but "fichu" exactly rhymes with "tissue". Then again, you wouldn't know that "tissue" has an SH-sound, from its spelling, which is why I offered it here on July 20th as "tishu". Let's use that pattern for "fichu", too SH in place of the misleading CH; and the rest as-is, with no need of a final-E: "fishu".
* Dictionary.com: "a woman's kerchief or shawl, generally triangular in shape, worn draped over the shoulders or around the neck with the ends drawn together on the breast". There is an alternate pronunciation that not all dictionaries recognize, fée.shue, but we don't have to change the spelling "fishu", because if the people who say fée.shue can see a long-E in "fichu", they can perfectly well see a long-E in "fishu".
Tuesday, July 27, 2010: "ellevate" and "ellevater" for "elevate" and "elevator"
The pattern vowel-consonant-E often marks a long vowel before the consonant: elect, allele, delete. Here, the ELE sequence does not mark the first-E long. Rather, that E is short, and the way we commonly mark a short vowel is by doubling the consonant after it. So let's do that: "ellevate".
In the derivative "elevator", we have a second problem, an OR for the ER-sound. There are some people who insist on seeing an AU-sound in any O-R combination, so we should replace the O with E to prevent that misreading. Besides, "elevate" ends in an E. Why would we change that E to O, when the sound of the OR is intended to be the same sound as is most commonly spelled ER? That makes no sense.
Today's twofer, then, is: "ellevate" and "ellevater".
My thanks to "yaora..." for "ellevate".
Munday, July 26, 2010: "deccorativ" for "decorative"
A single-C leaves unclear the sound of the first-E in today's word, especially when the word "decor" (or "décor") appears within the longer word, and has several pronunciations. If we double the C, we show the E to be short, and also indicate that the first syllable takes this four-syllable word's primary stress.
The final-E is not just superfluous but also misleading, in that it could mark the prior vowel, the I, long (ative, derive, revive). So let's just drop it, OK?: "deccorativ".
My thanks to "Table..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.
Sunday, July 25, 2010: "carrapace" for "carapace"
AR is most commonly pronounced with a "broad-A" (or short-O, the same sound): car, bar, starling. The sound here, however, is short-A, which is more commonly, before R, shown with a double-R: arrow, barren, carrier. So let's double the R to show the short-A: "carrapace".
Saturday, July 24, 2010: "boddiss" for "bodice"
"Bodice" looks as tho it should be pronounced with a long-O and long-I: bóe.dies. It is actually said with a short-O and short-I. To show that, we need merely double the D and change the CE to SS: "boddiss".
Friday, July 23, 2010: "aipron" for "apron"
This Food Friday, let's fix a word for an item of protective clothing that, in its traditional spelling, looks like it could be pronounced with a schwa in the first syllable and the word's stress on the second syllable, as to rhyme with "upon". A- starts a great many words of that pattern, such as ajar, alert, and astonish.
Here, the sound is long-A, which most readers would not get from A- followed by a two-letter consonant cluster, PR. Long-A before a consonant cluster would have to use a second vowel letter to clarify the A. AE, AY, AI, and EH are common ways to show a long-A within the vowel's spelling. Of those, AI is probably the most common within a word (paid, laid, staid), so let's use that: "aipron".
My thanks to "yaora..." for this suggestion.
Thursday, July 22, 2010: "wainrite" for "wainwright"
"Wainwright" is an old word for "wagon maker". The traditional spelling has 3 silent letters: W, G, and H. Let's get rid of all of them: "wainrite".
Wensday, July 21, 2010: "verchu" and "verchuus" for "virtue" and "virtuous"
T does not spell the CH-sound. CH does. So let's replace the T in both of today's words with CH.
IR is an unusual and ambiguous way of writing the sound most commonly spelled ER. Indeed, irritable and iridescent are said more like EER than ER. So let's use ER instead.
As with yesterday's word ("tishu" for "tissue") we also don't need an -E on a long vowel at the end of a word (flu, guru, kudzu), so let's save ourselves a letter.
And OUS is a misleading way of writing a short-U plus S, since an OU suggests the OU-sound (oust, joust, roust).
Putting this all together, we get: "verchu" and "verchuus".
Tuesday, July 20, 2010: "tishu" for "tissue"
For years I have hesitated to offer reform of this word, on the understanding that in Britain it is said as it is spelled, with an S-sound rather than the SH-sound used in North America. But today I looked it up in both the Oxford and the Cambridge Dictionaries Online, and both show the SH-pronunciation as standard. Cambridge offers the S-sound version as a secondary pronunciation, and even, oddly, offers a recorded pronunciation of "connective tissue" in which the S-sound alternate is used, even tho the recorded pronunciation for other uses of "tissue", even in the sense of cells, employs an SH-sound. Still, it would seem that for most people even in Britain, the SH-pronunciation is standard. So let's write SH.
We also don't need an -E on a long vowel at the end of a word (flu, guru, kudzu), so let's save ourselves a letter: "tishu".
My thanks to "Bookk..." for this suggestion.
Munday, July 19, 2010: "seecret/iv" for "secret/ive"
A two-letter consonant cluster generally marks the prior vowel short (bath, list, puff; acrobat, decrement, secretary), but here, the vowel is long. We cannot rely upon the consonant cluster to show the vowel sound, but must indicate that in the spelling of the vowel itself. Common ways to show a long-E midword are EE, EI, IE, EA, and, in compound words, EY. The simplest and clearest spelling is EE, so let's use that.
The adjective ends in -IVE, which is ambiguous, often being pronounced with a long-I (alive, deprive, survive). Here, the sound is short-I, and a quick fix to the ambiguity is simply to drop the final-E, which causes the ambiguity.
Putting these two fixes together, we get: "seekret/iv".
My thanks to "JEA..." for this suggestion.
Sunday, July 18, 2010: "radeoactiv" for "radioactive"
The sound/s of the I's in today's word need to be clarified. IO could have a long-I (Iowa, Kiowa, lionize). -IVE could have a long-I (alive, derive, survive). That is not the sound of either of the I's in "radioactive". The first is a long-E. Why would we write an I for a long-E? The second-I is short. So why would we write an E at the end, which suggests a long-I?: "radeoactiv".
My thanks to "rhod..." for this suggestion.
Saturday, July 17, 2010: "packij" for "package"
-AGE- is ambiguous, often being said with a long-A (agent, stage, enrage) but here, and in many other words, being given a schwa sound that approaches a full short-I (advantage, language, tanager). There's also at least one word in which it contains a full short-A (ageratum). Let's eliminate the possibility of this word being misread with either a long- or a short-A sound: "packij".
My thanks to "Moon..." for suggesting this word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.
Friday, July 16, 2010: "meeso" for "miso"
This Food Friday, let's put a word from Japanese cookery* into English form. I before a single consonant would, in English, ordinarily be given its long value, as in bison, isolation, and proviso. That is not the sound here, which is actually the English long-E sound. There is no good reason why a transliteration from Japanese, which does not use the Roman alphabet, into English should use the "Continental" values of Roman-alphabet vowels, as in Spanish, French, or Italian. This is the kind of idiocy that has produced massive chaos in English spelling, a Japanese word spelled in a French fashion for readers of English.
If the sound is long-E, let's write that clearly in English conventions. We might write "meso", except that that looks like the prefix meso-, which is more commonly pronounced with a short-E. EE, however, would be clear: "meeso".
* American Heritage Dictionary: "A thick fermented paste made by grinding together cooked soybeans, rice or barley, and salt and used especially in making soups and sauces."
Thursday, July 15, 2010: "lizzerd" for "lizard"
A single-Z makes unclear the sound of the I, which could be long or short; and most readers might expect the -ARD to rhyme with yard, lard, and regard. So let's double the Z to show the I to be short, and change the A to E: "lizzerd".
Wensday, July 14, 2010: "ignor" for "ignore"
With or without a silent-E at the end, this word would be pronounced the same, so why not save ourselves a letter? The final-E does not signal that the word's stress falls on the last syllable (sóphomore, álbacore, thérefore), and indicating syllabic stress is not a customary function of English spelling (e.g., "permit", "content", or "combat" can be stressed on either syllable). So let's save ourselves a letter: "ignor".
My thanks to "Dogs..." for today's suggestion.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010: "houw" for "how"
-OW is ambiguous, and cannot ever be read with confidence by new readers: slow, now, bow, row (pronounced slo, nou, and both bo and bou, and ro and rou, in different senses).
Here, the sound is OU, but we can't just write "hou", because -OU is ambiguous too! "Thou" does have the OU-sound, but "you", the modern version of "thou", has a long-U sound.
In today's word, we do need an OU to show the OU-sound, but we also need something to show that it doesn't take the sound of long-U without an initial Y-glide (bayou, caribou, kinkajou). If we add a W at the end, that will plainly suggest an OU-sound. That spelling is not a current English convention, but since it would clarify sounds that cannot now be clarified, the general reader, especially in countries where English is not the first language, should welcome it: "houw".
My thanks to "Gator..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.
Munday, July 12, 2010: "gassoleen" for "gasoline"
-INE is ambiguous: refine, doctrine, machine, even aborigine (pronounced ree.fíen, dók.trin, ma.shéen, àab.a.ríj.i.nêe). Here, the sound is long-E, as in convene, acetylene, and kerosene, or teen, between, and sheen. -EEN is clearer, and self-contained, within one obvious syllable, whereas -ENE could represent two syllables (Na-Dene, nota bene). So let's write -ENE.
The other issue in today's word is the sound of the A. A single consonant after it leaves its sound unclear. Is it long (asocial, mason), short (gasohol, masochism), or a schwa (masonic, parasol)? Indeed, the sound of the S isn't even clear (in vasodilator, the S is pronounced as a Z). If we double the S, we make plain at once that the A is short and the sound after it is S: "gassoleen".
Sunday, July 11, 2010: "feezible" for "feasible"
Long-E within a word is most simply spelled EE, not EA. EA is ambiguous (bead, bread, create, pronounced beed, bred, kree.yáet). So let's write EE.
The S represents not an S-sound but a Z-sound. So let's write Z.
The rest is OK: "feezible".
My thanks to "Firewall..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.
Saturday, July 10, 2010: "encloze" and "encloezher" for "enclose" and "enclosure"
The S in today's words does not represent an S-sound, so should be changed. In "enclose", the sound is Z. So let's write Z. In "enclosure", the sound is ZH, so let's write ZH.
Writing ZH, however, presents a problem with the sound of the O, because any vowel before a consonant cluster of two or more letters is generally seen as short, whereas the O here is actually long. We need to show that plainly. OA, OE, and OW are ways we typically show a long-O (oat, toe, show). "Encloazher" might be seen as having two syllables for the OA, as in boa, protozoan, and inchoate. "Encloezher" would probably be read right. "Enclowzher" might very well be read with an OU-sound. So let's use OE.
The -URE in "enclosure" looks as tho it should be pronounced with a long-U, given that the pattern vowel-consonant-E ordinarily indicates a long vowel (sure, cure, demure). Here, however, the sound is the one most commonly spelled ER (better, enter, sever). So let's write -ER.
Putting this all together, we get: "encloze" and "encloezher".
My thanks to "Red..." for "encloze".
Friday, July 9, 2010: "dilivver/y" for "deliver/y"
This Food Friday, let's fix the words for the way a lot of people get their Chinese food and pizza.
DE- often takes a long-E sound (debate, defibrillate, depend). That's not the sound here, which is a short-I. So let's write I.
-IVE- is ambiguous, often being pronounced with a long-I (alive, driver, striver). Here, the I is short. The way we commonly show a short vowel is by doubling the consonant immediately after it. Let's do that here: "dilivver" and "dilivvery".
My thanks to "Shoe..." for this suggestion.
Thursday, July 8, 2010: "kitin" for "chitin"
CH should be reserved for the CH-sound (as in church). Here, the sound is K, so should be written K. The new spelling is like the noun kiting without an NG-sound, so should be read right: "kitin".
"Chitin" is the material that comprises the exoskeleton or shell of insects, spiders, and crustaceans.
Wensday, July 7, 2010: "biggot/ry" for "bigotry"
A single-G renders unclear the sound of the I before it. Is it long (vitiligo, impetigo)? Is it short (vigor, rigor)? Is it, perhaps, a long-E, as in amigo or demigod? It's short, and we have a simple way to show that, by doubling the G: "biggot" and "biggotry".
My thanks to "yaora..." for today's suggestion.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010: "adress" for (verb, and noun in the sense of a speech) "address"
The word presently spelled "address" has different senses and takes different parts of speech. As a noun in the sense of a location, it is pronounced with a full short-A and stress on the first syllable: áa.dres. In the noun in its sense of a speech, or the verb in the sense of to speak to, the A represents a schwa, and the word's stress falls on the second syllable: a.drés.
A double-D plainly suggests that the A takes its full short sound, and also suggests that the first syllable takes the word's stress. If we drop one of the D's, however, the word then becomes comparable to ajar, akin, and alarm, with a schwa in the first syllable and stress on the second: "adress".
My thanks to "Cargo..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.
Munday, July 5, 2010: "worlok" for "warlock"
Altho the term "warlock" (for a male witch) is less common than it was in the days of the TV sitcom Bewitched, it is still part of the language and might make a comeback in this era of silly mythical creatures in major films.
In any case, the element "war" here derives from an entirely different language and word from the common term for armed conflict. Here, the origin is in Old English wær, meaning "covenant" (which goes with the second element, -loga, "breaker"). The word for armed conflict comes from Old North French werre, "strife". So there is no reason to preserve the spelling "war" in "warlock" but, indeed, good reason to get rid of it.
"War" does not rhyme with star, bar, or car, but with or, nor, and for. So we should spell it with OR. And "-lock" here does not relate to the familiar word meaning a mechanism to keep things secure, so there is good reason to distinguish it too, which we can do efficiently by dropping the C, which will save us a letter. Since "warlock" is a noun only, we don't have to worry about whether to double the K before adding verb endings, because it doesn't take any verb endings, and the plural can simply add S without throwing the sound of the root into question: "worlok".
My thanks to "Music..." for this suggestion.
(Etymologies are from Dictionary.com.)
Sunday, July 4, 2010: "vaicant" for "vacant"
A single following consonant makes unclear the sound of the first-A in today's word. Is it long (vacate) or short (vacuous)? It's short. So let's add something to that A to show that. Y, E, or I could clarify the issue ("vaycant", "vaecant", "vaicant"). AY is more common at the end of a word than the middle, and AE is neither common nor clear (sundae, aegis, aerodynamics, anaerobic). So, I is the best choice: "vaicant".
My thanks to "Smoke..." for suggesting reform of today's word, tho I chose a slitely different solution.
Saturday, July 3, 2010: "thouzand" for "thousand"
There is an S in this word that is used to represent a Z-sound. Why? If the sound is Z, let's write a Z. This is especially important in a word like "thousand", which contains the shorter word "sand", which is said with an S-sound.
There is one other problem with this word, the fact that you cannot tell whether the TH is voiced (as in this) or voiceless (as in thing). Alas, there's nothing we can do about that, because English has never, since Old English abandoned runes for the Roman alphabet, distinguished between those two sounds in writing. (When Old English, or Anglo-Saxon, was written in runes, the representations of the two TH-sounds were indeed different from each other, but the voiced-TH was not distinguished from D!) So we can't do anything, in standard English,* to distinguish the two TH-sounds: "thouzand".
My thanks to "GreenD..." for this suggestion.
* My Fanetik system does distinguish the two sounds: this, tthing.
Friday, July 2, 2010: "shov" for "schav"
This Food Friday, let's simplify a term from East European/Jewish cooking* that ends with a V, as does the reformed spelling offered here yesterday for "resolve" "rezolv".
Altho there is a secondary, complicated pronunciation for the SCH shown in print at Dictionary.com, both of the auditory pronunciations shown for this word (one from Random House, the other from American Heritage) have a simple SH-sound. Anyone who wants to use the alternate pronunciation can use the traditional way the word is written, as an alternate spelling. For native speakers of English, the word is quite simple in sound, with an initial SH-sound followed by a short-O followed by a V-sound. We can write that more simply: "shov".
* Dictionary.com: "a cold soup of sorrel to which chopped egg, sour cream, lemon juice, and chopped scallions are sometimes added."
Thursday, July 1, 2010: "rezolv" for "resolve"
Today's word contains a shorter word, pronounced differently, "solve", with an S-sound for the S. Here, the S, irrationally, has a Z-sound. If the sound is Z, let's write Z.
The other problem with the traditional spelling of "resolve" is that there is a genuinely-silent E. Ordinarily, a final-E at least indicates that the preceding vowel is long, even after two consonants (strange, waste, lithe). But here, the preceding vowel is short(-O). The E serves no purpose, so let's just drop it, OK?: "rezolv".
My thanks to "Wurdplay..." for this suggestion.
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