FPlease note: This website has no control over the ads placed here by Google AdSense. Caveat emptor.

Simpler Spelling
Word of the Day
Archive of Discussions
January-March 2011

Click here for today's suggestion.
Click here to return to the archive index.
Click here for a list of possible future words.
Click here for the principles that govern the selection of words.

Thursday, March 31, 2011: "goald" and "goalden" for "gold" and "golden"

A vowel followed by two consonants is ordinarily short, but somehow we are supposed to ignore that with -OLD-, except of course in words like folderolgoldarned, goldurned, and doldrums (as some people say it). We really don't have to make things so complicated. Rather, let's adjust around the convention that a single vowel letter followed by two consonants will be perceived as short, and use a vowel digraph, two letters to represent one vowel sound, to show a long sound clearly. In the case of long-O, we have OA, which not only serves in words like oak and toast but also in a word that encompasses all the sounds of "gold" except the D, goal. Let's use that: "goald" and "goalden".

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

Wensday, March 30, 2011: "forwerd" for "foreword"

We don't need an E at the end of the first element in this compound word, any more than we need it in the homophone "forward", in which the "for" does derive from "fore". And OR is misleading as to sound in the second element. We can change it to the more common ER for that sound, and still maintain the distinction from "forward": "forwerd".

Tuesday, March 29, 2011: "electroforeesis" and "cattaforeesis" for "electrophoresis" and "cataphoresis"

Let's fix a couple of scientific words, which mean the same thing.*

Science isn't entitled to its own spelling system, but must use English conventions in English. The International Scientific Vocabulary is content to use the English version of the Roman alphabet in its English-language version, but with some foolish (phoolish?), unphonetic conventions such as the indefensibly silly use of PH for the F-sound, as here. The notion underlying that ridiculous spelling is that that's how Greek, from which that element of the word derives, writes it. It is not.

Mind you, the Greek alphabet does have two letters that look like P and H, but they have nothing to do with the Roman P or H. Rather, they are rho and eta, pronounced like English-R and EE respectively. The F-sound in Greek is represented by a single letter of the Greek alphabet, phi, a circle with a vertical line thru it. Believe it or not, the PH rendering in English purports to show how Greek used to write that sound, some 2,000 years ago! Come into the modern world. If the sound is F, write an F. Spanish doesn't allow the ISV to inflict idiocies. The Spanish for "electrophoresis" is "electroforesis". English should have the same respect for its own spelling system (to the extent it has one) as has Spanish.

In the second word of today's pair, "cataphoresis", the sound of the first-A is ambiguous because there's only one T. That A is short, and we can show that clearly by doubling the T.

The last issue with today's words is the sound of the E toward the end of both words. Not only is it long, which is not plain from the present spelling, but it also bears the primary stress. It's easy to see these words having stress on the -FOR-, which is wrong. Both the quality and stress of the E-sound are easily shown by doubling the E: "electroforeesis" and "cattaforeesis".

* Dictionary.com: "the motion of colloidal particles suspended in a fluid medium, due to the influence of an electric field on the medium."

Munday, March 28, 2011: "deterjent"  for "detergent"

GE is ambiguous (get, gentle, genre). If the sound is J, let's just write J: "deterjent".

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

Sunday, March 27, 2011: "clerjy"  for "clergy"

GY is ambiguous (gynecology). If the sound is J, let's just write J: "clerjy".

Saturday, March 26, 2011: "baggatell"  for "bagatelle"

The single-G leaves unclear whether the first-A is long or short. It's short, which is better shown by doubling the G.

Do we really need a silent-E at the end of this word? Tho one could argue that it's superfluous, the word's stress does fall on the last syllable, which is fairly unusual. The final-E suggests that, so it's not exactly superfluous, even tho many words have stress on the last syllable without a silent-E (invent, pretend, upon). Worse, some readers might think that the final-E represents another syllable, with a long-E sound, as in "abalone", "pysche", and "terpsichore". That is not the case here, so let's drop that E. The LL that remains should suffice to suggest stress on the last syllable: "baggatell".

Note: I originally thought we could leave the final-E, but reconsidered, given the possibility of its being thought to represent a fourth syllable.

Friday, March 25, 2011: "alofone"  for "allophone"

Let's fix a word that has two meanings, one in phonetics and one in Canadian sociology. In phonetics, an allophone is a slight variation in the pronunciation of a phoneme that is generally regarded by native speakers as one sound but is actually said slightly differently depending upon the sounds around it. Typical examples are the P in pot, which entails a little puff of air after it, and the P in spot, which does not. In some languages, the first P, sometimes written in pronunciation keys with a superscripted-h (Ph) to indicate the puff of air, and second P are regarded as different sounds. Not in English.  

In Canadian sociology, an allophone is someone other than a Francophone (speaker of French) or Anglophone (speaker of English), especially in the Province of Quebec. (Speakers of Amerindian or Eskimo languages — in Canada, Eskimos are called "Inuit" — are generally not regarded as allophones.)

In any case, the ALL in today's word is not pronounced as in the word all, nor similar words like ball and call (that is, with the AU-sound), but with a regular short-A, as in Al, pal, and alimony. To show that more clearly,* we need merely drop the second-L, and save ourselves a letter.

The second problem area in "allophone" is the first-O, which is pronounced as a schwa. But any vowel letter can be pronounced schwa, and the current spelling employs O, so we can leave it unchanged.

The third problem area is the PH, which is a preposterous and ambiguous (uphold, diphthong) way to spell a simple F-sound. If the sound is F, let us simply write F: "alofone".

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

* The sound of an A before L or LL cannot be made completely clear in traditional spelling: already and allegory are pronounced aul.réd.ee and áal.a.gàu.ree).

Thursday, March 24, 2011: "trole"  for "troll"

OLL is ambiguous: boll, troll; hollow, trollop (pronounced boel, troel; hól.oe, tról.ap). If the sound is long-O followed by L, we should use the pattern of dole, mole, and pole: "trole".

Wensday, March 23, 2011: "shert"  for "shirt"

IR is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced with a long-E sound, as in irritate. That is not the sound here. Rather, this sound is the one most commonly written ER. So let's use that: "shert".

Tuesday, March 22, 2011: "ryme"  for "rhyme"

Why is there an H in this word?  There is, so to speak, no rhyme or reason to that.  The H is not pronounced, so should not be written: "ryme".

Munday, March 21, 2011: "peekid"  for "peaked" (wan)

The present spelling suggests a one-syllable word that is the past tense of the regular verb meaning "pointed". It is actually two syllables, from a different word of the same spelling but unknown origin, and means sickly in appearance. It is pronounced, so should be spelled: "peekid".

Sunday, March 20, 2011: "nonfeezance" and "feezance"  for "nonfeasance" and "feasance"

Today's words complete the little family of "feasance" words started yesterday, which discussion you should see for the reasons for today's changes: "nonfeezance" and "feezance".

Saturday, March 19, 2011: "malfeezance" and "misfeezance" for "malfeasance" and "misfeasance"

Again today, an S represents not an S-sound, but a Z-sound. There's no reason for that. We have a Z, so should use it.

The other problem with both of today's words is that EA is ambiguous (bead, bread, shea, Sean, rhea, pronounced beed, bred, shae, shaun, rée.ya). Here, the sound is long-E, which is most simply written, midword, as EE. So let's do that: "malfeezance" and "misfeezance".

Friday, March 18, 2011: "louzy"  for "lousy"

The S in today's word represents not an S-sound, but a Z-sound. Why? We have a Z. Let's use it: "louzy".

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

Wensday, March 17, 2011: "hansum"  for "handsome"

The D in "handsome" is silent. And the OME is misleading, because it looks as tho it expresses a long-O sound, but the vowel is actually a schwa. We don't need O_E to express a schwa. In today's word, the schwa approaches a short-U, so let's write U.

The "-some" in this word has nothing to do with the regular word some, and "handsome" could not be reversed to "somehand". So there is no reason whatsoever to retain an unphonetic spelling that suggests a tie to a word that in fact bears no relationship whatsoever to the word at, um, hand: "hansum".

Wensday, March 16, 2011: "gro" and "gru"  for "grow" and "grew"

OW is ambiguous. By itself and as part of some words, it is pronounced with an OU-sound in some words (how, now, brown) but with a long-O in others (know, show, and today's word, grow). We don't need to add a thing to clarify which sound is intended here. We can instead simply drop a letter, the W.

EW is a bizarre and inaccurate way to show a long-U sound. If you regard an E that is closed by a following-W, as a short-E, then add a W-sound, what you actually get is a type of long-O, not U. If we want to indicate a long-U, let's just write a U, which will naturally, in final position, be read as long: "gro", "gru".

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2011: "frizay" for "frisé" and "frise"

Knowing that today's word has two syllables requires that we see an accent on the second syllable, but English doesn't use accents, and very few people in the English-speaking world know how to put an accent over a letter in typed text (emails, text messages, even most documents created in word processors). So we need to substitute an English-form second syllable. A long-A sound at the end of a word is most commonly written -AY. So let's write that.

There is another problem with today's word, that the S stands in for a Z-sound. Why? English has a Z. Let's use it: "frizay".

Munday, March 14, 2011: "escuchon" for "escutcheon"*

We can save two letters from today's word. The CH-sound does not need a T (such, much, touch), so let's drop the T. Second, EON is a word, of two syllables, but the sound in that part of today's word is only one syllable. We need to drop the E too: "escuchon".

* I usually don't provide definitions for the words used here (tho if you think I should aways do that, please let me know, at Fanetiks[_]aol.com] ) but thought I would for this word because tho I thought it related only to a coat of arms, when I checked it at Dictionary.com, I found three meanings:

"1. a shield or shieldlike surface on which a coat of arms is depicted.
"2. an ornamental or protective plate around a keyhole, door handle, drawer pull, light switch, etc.
"3. Nautical . a panel on the stern of a vessel bearing its name and port of registry."

Sunday, March 13, 2011: "dubblet" for "doublet"

The OU in today's word does not represent the OU-sound but, rather, a simple short-U. The way to show that clearly is to delete the O and double (or dubble) the following-B: "dubblet".

"Dubble" was offered here December 1, 2004.

Saturday, March 12, 2011: "cavvil" for "cavil"

A single-V leaves unclear the sound of the A before it. Is it long, as in caving, affidavit, and craving? Is it short, as in avid, average, and cavalry? Or can it be said long, short, or "broad", as in the different pronunciations of caveat? The sound here is short-A, and to show that clearly we need merely double the V: "cavvil".

Friday, March 11, 2011: "breoshe" for "brioche"

The problems with this week's Food Friday word are (1) it contains a CH, but no CH-sound (as in church); (2) there is an I for a long-E sound; and (3) the O is long, but it is marked so by a silent-E separated from the O by two consonants.

(1) If the CH represents the SH-sound, let's just write SH.  

(2) Why would we use an I to represent an E-sound? Let's use an E.

(3) This is tougher. If we just drop the final-E, the result ("breosh") will seem to have a short-O, which is wrong. How would we show a long-O midword, after another vowel? "Breoesh" and "breoash" are both confusing. So maybe we just have to leave the final-E. There are other words with two consonants between the affected vowel and a silent-E (lathe, waste, range), so I guess it's OK to leave this as-is: "breoshe".

Thursday, March 10, 2011: "alouw" for "allow"

There are two problems with today's word. First, ALL is commonly pronounced with an AU-sound, as in the word all itself, and others like ball and call. "Allow" is also parallel in spelling but not sound to callow, fallow, and hallow, all of which have a short-A. The sound here is actually a schwa, which at the beginning of a word is usually shown by an A with a single consonant after it (alarm, aloud, alone). So let's drop the second-L.

The second problem is that OW is ambiguous, and in words parallel in spelling, is pronounced long-O (again, callow, fallow, and hallow). To show the OU-sound, we need to write OU. But if we drop the W, the sound will be ambiguous (kinkajou, bayou, caribou). So let's leave the final-W and merely add a U before it): "alouw".

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

Wensday, March 9, 2011: "tribbune" for "tribune"

TRI is a common prefix in which the I is often given its long pronunciation. Here, the sound is short-I, which we should show, by doubling the B: "tribbune".

Tuesday, March 8, 2011: "shae" for "shea"

The E and A are in the wrong order. Let's flip them: "shae".

Munday, March 7, 2011: "reea"  for "rhea"

If the H is silent, why is it there? Let's just drop it, OK?

But once we do drop it, what remains is "rea", which is not clear. Compare sea, pea, and tea, all of which have only one syllable, whereas "rhea" has two. That's easy. Just add a second-E to the first, and everyone will see the result as having two syllables: "reea".

Sunday, March 6, 2011: "pereod"  for "period"

Why use an I to represent an E-sound?: "pereod".

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

Saturday, March 5, 2011: "meggafone"  for "megaphone"

PH for an ordinary F-sound is silly and unclear, because the P and H could perfectly well take their ordinary sounds (uphill, uphold, upheaval). If the sound is F, let's write F.

EGA is ambiguous, because a vowel before a single consonant could be long. Here, the vowel (E) is short. To show that it's short, we should double the G: "meggafone".

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

Friday, March 4, 2011: "locomotiv"  for "locomotive"

IVE suggests a long-I (jive, contrive, revive), but here and in many other words we are supposed to ignore the common pattern vowel-consonant-E that we learn early on to see as marking the first vowel long (take, cyclone, inopportune), instead to pronounce the I short. That is unreasonable, and all -IVE endings that contain a short-I sound should drop the E. Here's one: "locomotiv".

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

Thursday, March 3, 2011: "ikor"  for "ichor"

I only recently encountered this arcane word from mythology and medicine.* The CH does not represent the CH-sound (as in church), but the ordinary K-sound, so should be written K: "ikor".

* Dictionary.com:

1. Classical Mythology . an ethereal fluid flowing in the veins of the gods.

2. Pathology . an acrid, watery discharge, as from an ulcer or wound.

Wensday, March 2, 2011: "hoald"  for "hold"

A vowel followed by two consonants should be short, but the O in "hold" is long. We need to add something to the O to indicate that it's long. We could add an E (toes, lassoed, torpedoed) or an A (goal, toast, road). OA is found midword in a lot of words. OE followed by a consonant is generally found only in verb endings. So let's use OA: "hoald".

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

Tuesday, March 1, 2011: "gerdle"  for "girdle"

IR can be pronounced with a long-E (irritation, Iran), short-I (iridescent, irascible), long-I (irate, iris), or the ER-sound, as here and in words like birds. If the sound is the one most often written ER, let's write ER rather than IR, not just to ease reading but even more, to ease writing the word from hearing: "gerdle".

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

Munday, February 28, 2011: "footwair"  for "footwear"

EA is highly ambiguous, most commonly being pronounced long-E (hear, fear, tear — as in water from the eye), other times as short-E (bread, head, thread), or long-A (yea, shea, O'Shea), or the AU-sound (bear, tear — to rip — and, as here, wear), and even as more than one syllable (area, cornea, panacea) or as tho it were written YA (azalea, bougainvillea). AI, especially before R, would be much clearer: "footwair".

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

Sunday, February 27, 2011: "enliten/ment"  for "enlighten/ment"

The GH in these two words is silent, so let's just drop it, OK?: "enliten" and "enlitenment".

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

Saturday, February 26, 2011: "douw"  for "dhow", "dau", and "dow"

Given the intense focus on the Arab world at present, this seems a fitting time to fix the spellings — three of them, none quite right — of the name of a type of Arab sailboat.* DH is a cumbersome spelling for what is in English an ordinary D-sound (tho some spelling reformers have  — foolishly, I think — proposed DH for the voiced-TH sound of this, that, and then (dhis, dhat, dhen)** leaving TH for the unvoiced sound in thick, thin, and thing, only)). That is not the sound here, which is a plain D-sound, so we don't need an H.

"Dau" is un-English for its sound, and looks as tho it should be pronounced like the start of daub, daughter, and daunting.

"Dow" is plainly a spelling English might use for this word, given the well-known financial firm Dow Jones. But OW is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced long-O (glow, know, show) but other times being pronounced with an OU-sound (how, now, brown), and sometimes both, depending upon which of two homonyms one intends (row, bow, mow). So OW is insufficient to show clearly the sound in "dhow".

We need an OU to indicate the proper, OU-sound, but OU in final position is usually pronounced long-U (you, caribou, kinkajou). So we need to add a W to put the OU midword, and thus indicate that the OU takes its customary, midword OU-sound: "douw".

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

* Dictionary.com: "any of various types of sailing vessels used by Arabs on the east African, Arabian, and Indian coasts, generally lateen-rigged on two or three masts".

** The thinking is that D and T are the voiced and unvoiced forms of the same sound, so the voiced and unvoiced forms of TH should follow the same pattern, with DH for voiced and TH for unvoiced. The model here is SH and ZH for the voiceless and voiced forms of that sound. While intellectually defensible, the result in practical terms looks like a plain D-sound with a superfluous H (dharma, dhow) or the separate D- and H-sounds adjoining (adhere, adhesive, birdhouse, etc.).

Friday, February 25, 2011: "cappicola"  for "capicola" and "capicolla"

This Food Friday, let's fix the spelling of an Italian food ("rolled pork shoulder cured like ham"). The first-A is short, not long, but the presence of a single-P after it leaves that unclear. So let's double the P. In the alternate spelling capicolla, the wrong letter is doubled, since the O is long but the A short, so the P should be doubled, not the L: "cappicola".

There are other spellings and resulting different pronunciations for this meat:  capicolla, capicollo, capocollo, and coppa. The two terms capicola and capicolla can both be reformed to "cappicola"; capicollo and capocollo to "cappicolo"; and coppa left as it is.

Thursday, February 24, 2011: "blynd"  for "blind"

IND — that is, an I followed by two consonants, — should be pronounced with a short-I (hinder, dwindle, headwind). But "blind" is pronounced with a long-I. How would we show that unambiguously? "Bliend" would not be clear, given the parallels to "friend" (short-E sound) and "fiend" (long-E). "Blynd" (compare dynamic, dehydration, dynamite) is not completely unambiguous (syndicate, syndrome, synthetic). So chaotic is traditional spelling, however, that sometimes we just have to settle for a reformed spelling that is more like clear rather than completely clear: "blynd".

Wensday, February 23, 2011: "alerjy" and "alerjic"  for "allergy" and "allergic"

Let's finish fixing the family we started with "allergen" to "alerjen" yesterday. There are two things wrong with today's words, the same as with "allergen", to wit, ALL, which starts both, ordinarily has an AU-sound, whereas today's words both have a regular short-A (as in at, Al, pal, and palace). So let's drop one L and both save a letter and clarify the sound.

Second, GE is ambiguous (get, gesture, even genre). Where, as here, the G represents a J-sound, the G should be replaced by J: "alerjy" and "alerjic".

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

Tuesday, February 22, 2011: "alerjen" for "allergen"

There are two things wrong with today's word. First, ALL is a word, and part of a number of other words, that contain the AU-sound. Today's word does not have that sound, but, instead, a regular short-A (as in at, Al, pal, and palace). So let's drop one L and at once save a letter and clarify the sound.

Second, GE is ambiguous (get, gesture, even genre). Where, as here, the G represents a J-sound, the G should be replaced by J: "alerjen".

Munday, February 21, 2011: "tribbute" for "tribute"

TRI- is a frequently encountered prefix, for "three", and pronounced with a long-I. That is not the sense nor the pronunciation here. Rather, "tribute" comes from a Latin term that ultimately goes back to "tribe" (as in, divide among the tribes, "distribute", which is from the same source). Altho the English word "tribe" also has a long-I, the word "tribute" does not. To show that the I is short, we need merely double the following consonant, the B: "tribbute".

Sunday, February 20, 2011: "shrue" for "shrew"

EW is an odd and unphonetic way to write a long-U sound. If you see it as it should be seen, as a short-E followed by a W-sound, what comes out is a type of long-O, not long-U. Since the actual sound is long-U without an initial Y-glide — since long-U never takes an initial Y-glide after R — let's write UE (as in glue, true, and sue): "shrue".

Saturday, February 19, 2011: "rezume" for (the verb) "resume"

The S in today's word stands in for Z. Why? If the sound is Z, let's just write Z: "rezume".

I offered the noun resume/résumé here on March 28, 2005 as "rezummay".

Friday, February 18, 2011: "patissery" for "patisserie"

This Food Friday, let's make a minor change to shorten and make cleafthe sound of the last syllable of this fancy word for a pastry shop. Both -IE and -Y are variable, and thus ambiguous, but -Y is shorter and much more common a spelling for the long-E sound (or, in "clipped" British dialects, short-I) at the end of a word, especially given that it forms part of endings like -LY and -OLOGY. So let's make it a little easier for people who hear the word to spell it, and save ourselves a letter to boot: "patissery".

Oddly, the British pronunciation of "patisserie" uses a Continental-I, pronounced as a long-E in English, for the I before the S's in today's word, even tho, in general, Britons tend to more radically anglicize pronunciations than do Americans (for instance saying "pasta" and "taco" with a short-A (as in at), whereas Americans say them with a broad-A, as in the original Italian and Spanish). For some reason, however, Brits use a French I-sound in "patisserie".  I suppose that has to do with French being the most commonly studied foreign language in Britain, and France being the UK's closest Continental neighbor, just as Americans are influenced greatly by Spanish because it is the most widely studied foreign language in the United States, and Mexico is our most important neighbor. (I pass over the fact that Norman French was the language of the ruling class of England for nearly 300 years after The Conquest of 1066, because the one-time dominance of French is at least as likely to disincline as incline Britons to use French pronunciations.) Since I don't offer any change to that part of the spelling of today's word, however, if Britons wish to use a long-E sound for the medial-I, the reformed spelling with a final-Y assuredly does not forbid it. If Brits say pa.tées.a.rèe for "patisserie", they can equally say pa.tées.a.rèe for "patissery".

Thursday, February 17, 2011: "majer" for "major"

We have today the reverse of yesterday's situation. Here, -ER is better than -OR. In today's word, there's no reason for what is most commonly written -ER to be written instead as -OR. Tho this is admittedly not a big deal, what is a big deal is the need to memorize differences without a point. Instead of hearing the ER-sound and just plugging in ER, we have to memorize a very long list of words that take OR instead — or AR, IR, UR, or YR (better, actor, library, thirst, burst, martyr)! To simplify the task of people in learning and using written English, we need to eliminate as much needless variation as possible: "majer".

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

Wensday, February 16, 2011: "loggor" for "logger"

GGE is ambiguous, because GE is ambiguous, sometimes being said as a "hard"-G (that is, G's own, unique sound) but other times as a tho a J. So when you double a G before an E, you don't necessarily show a hard-G clearly. That is, suggest and exaggerate have a hard-G followed by a soft-G, the J-sound.

To show plainly that the word for a person who renders trees into logs is pronounced with only a hard-G, we need only change the -ER agent ending to the -OR agent ending, as in actor, indicator, and sailor: "loggor".

Tuesday, February 15, 2011: "implor" for "implore"

We don't need an -E at the end of today's word. It doesn't change the sound. So let's just save ourselves a letter: "implor".

Munday, February 14, 2011: "hoezher/y" for "hosier/y"

SI is a preposterous way to spell the ZH-sound. If the sound is ZH, let's write ZH.

But since ZH is a two-element consonant cluster, the O before it might be seen as short, so let's add an E to show that the O is long: "hoezher" and "hoezhery".

Britons do not say a ZH sound in either of these words. Rather, they pronounce "hosier" as "hóe.zee.ya" and "hosiery" as "hóez.ya.rèe". They can spell these words in the present fashion if they like. At least there would be a reason for a different spelling, unlike so many words that now are pronounced the same but spelled differently.

Sunday, February 13, 2011: "godfother", "godmuther", "godparent", "godchiald", "godsunn", and "goddauter" for "godfather", "godmother", "godparent", "godchild", "godson", and "goddaughter"

We have dealt, earlier, with most of the words for related persons that form the second element in this set of terms, except for "son" to "sunn", which we can now add. Tho a double-N at the end of a word is unusual in English (inn, (d)jinn, and Finn being the only examples in the college-level vocabulary), it's certainly a defensible spelling to distinguish this homophone from "sun" (the star that Earth circles). So this little family of words for people given special relationship by the church is: "godfother", "godmuther", "godparent", "godchiald", "godsunn", and "goddauter".

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

Saturday, February 12, 2011: "fouwel" for "fowl"

OW is ambiguous, sometimes taking a long-O sound (show, known, slowed) but other times representing the OU-sound (endow, rowdy, now). Here, it represents the OU-sound, but we can't just change the W to U without running afoul of the homophone "foul". We can, however, put a U between the O and the W, and add an E after the W to show that this is actually a two-syllable word, because you can't say an OU-sound before an L-sound in the same syllable. "Foul" can be left as it is, because altho it also has two syllables, people learn early to put in that extra little schwa-sound before adding the L-sound. But since we are changing "fowl" anyway, let's show the extra syllable clearly: "fouwel".

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

Friday, February 11, 2011: "eufemizm" and "eufemistic" for "euphemism" and "euphemistic"

PH for a simple F-sound is preposterous, wasteful, and ambiguous since PH sometimes takes the two sounds it appears to, P and H (uphold, uphill), sometimes takes a P-sound (naphtha and diphthong as many people say them), and occasionally is even silent (phthisis, phthisic). So let's change the PH to F.

The other issue is an S for a Z-sound in -ISM. If the sound is Z, let's just write Z. In the adjectival derivative "euphemistic", there actually is an S-sound, so we should leave the S there: "eufemizm" and "eufemistic".

Thursday, February 10, 2011: "diemond" for "diamond"

There are two pronunciations for today's word, one with two syllables (díe.mand), the other with three (díe.ya.mand). The present spelling calls for three syllables, but by far most people say only two. Let's exchange the A for E, which will produce a spelling that does not demand one pronunciation or the other but permits both (compare diet and quiet): "diemond".

Wensday, February 9, 2011: "kiropractic" and "kiropracter" for "chiropractic" and "chiropractor"

There is a CH in this pair of words but no CH-sound (as in church). The sound is K, so let's write a K.

In the agent noun, there's no reason for an -OR, when that sound is much more commonly written with an -ER, even for agent nouns (writer, speller, dreamer): "kiropractic" and "kiropracter".

Tuesday, February 8, 2011: "boch" for "botch"

We don't need TCH to represent the CH-sound. CH will do quite well without more: "boch".

Munday, February 7, 2011: "aileean" for "alien"

Today's word could be seen as the phrase "a lien", which is pronounced a leen. That is not the sound here. To begin with, the A is pronounced not as a schwa, which you might expect of an A in its own syllable at the start of a word (ahead, about, ajar), but as a flat-A or, in some dialects, long-A. That sound at the beginning of a word or midword is better written AI (ailment, pail, derail).

In addition, IE is ambiguous (pie, field, acquiesce, luckiest — pronounced, respectively, pie, feeld, àak.wee.yés, lúk.ee.yast). Here, the sound is long-E followed by a schwa, which is better written EEA: "aileean".

Sunday, February 6, 2011: "touwer" for "tower"

Today's word is exactly parallel to yesterday's, with an OU-sound before the W, so let's write OU rather than O: "touwer".

Saturday, February 5, 2011: "shouwer" for "shower"

"Show", which is wholly contained within today's word, is pronounced with a long-O, but the longer word, "shower", has an OU-sound, not long-O. If the sound is OU before the W, let's write OU: "shouwer".

Friday, February 4, 2011: "refrijjerate/r" for "refrigerate" and "refrigerator"

This Food Friday, let's fix the name of a device that makes food safe in all kinds of weather. GE is highly ambiguous (get, gentle, genre, pronounced, respectively, get, n.tool, zhón.ra). If the sound is J, as here, let's write J. Since the I before the J-sound is short, we need to double the J to show that.

The second problem with today's word is that the verb ends in -ATE, but the -E is changed to -O before adding the -R for the noun. That makes absolutely no sense: "refrijjerate" and "refrijjerater".

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

Thursday, February 3, 2011: "perimmeter" for "perimeter"

Both the vowel sounds and the syllabic stress of today's word are unclear from the present spelling. But if we double the M, everything falls into place: "perimmeter".

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

Wensday, February 2, 2011: "obbelisk" for "obelisk"

I actually heard someone on television this week say this word with a long-O. And why wouldn't he, and others, since the spelling includes OBE, as in obedient, robe, and adobe? The O is actually short, however, and we need to show that, which is easy to do, by doubling the B: "obbelisk".

Naturally, all derivatives take the same change. Further, the derivative "obeliscal" should take K, as does the standard spelling of the derivative "obeliskoid": "obbeliskal", "obbeliskoid".

Tuesday, February 1, 2011: "maylonzh" for "mélange" and "melange"

Altho some dictionaries show a couple of other pronunciations (mae.lónj and ma.lónzh), the preponderance of speakers of English pronounce today's word mae.lónzh, so let's spell it in a way that will guide people to the proper way to say it: "maylonzh".

Munday, January 31, 2011: "lojjic/al" for "logic/al"

GI is ambiguous, sometimes taking G's own, unique sound, but other times taking J's distinctive sound (girl, giraffe, gin, begin). Here, the sound is J, so let's use J. But the O before the J-sound is short, so we should double the following consonant to show that. The mere fact that the following consonant is now J is no reason, in logic, why it cannot be doubled: "lojjic" and "lojjical".

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

Sunday, January 30, 2011: "kybosh" for "kibosh" and "kybosh"

The more common spelling of this informal term (of unknown origin) is "kibosh", which is ambiguous. Is the I long? short? It's long, which is clearer from the alternative spelling "kybosh". People who prefer the pronunciation with a short-I sound can perfectly well continue to say that, given the host of Y's used for short-I (mysterious, acrylic, homonym). Most people, however, should take the hint, and pronounce this word with a long-I if we change the I to Y. So let's promote the alternative spelling to the sole spelling: "kybosh".

Saturday, January 29, 2011: "hachbak"  for "hatchback"

The word "back" itself can be used as a verb, and so could have suffixes like -ED and -ING added, which would confuse the issue of the sound of the A if we shortened "back" to "bak". "Backing" would become "baking" unless we doubled the K, to create "bakking"; same with "backed" to "baked" or "bakked". Tho there is no logical reason we can't double a K, and we in fact do so in a few words (chukker, trekked, yakked), some people might be uncomfortable doubling a K, thinking it somehow "un-English".

We don't have to decide what to do with "back" and similar words right now, but can change "hatchback" because it's a noun, not verb, so the only suffix to concern ourselves with is the plural -S, and that wouldn't cause any confusion. I offered "hach" for the "hatch" element of this compound word on February 18, 2007, which saves one letter. Dropping the C from the "back" element saves us a second letter. Good: "hachbak".

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

Friday, January 28, 2011: "gizzerd"  for "gizzard"

This Food Friday, let's make a minor fix to the spelling of a giblet. AR often takes a broad-A, or short-O, the same sound: bizarre, alarm, yard). But here, the AR represents the sound more commonly spelled ER. Let's just spell it that way: "gizzerd".

Thursday, January 27, 2011: "forarm"  for "forearm"

The traditional spelling of today's word has the smaller word REAR in it, but no such sound. If we drop the E, we end up with the proper sound, and save a letter: "forarm".

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

Wensday, January 26, 2011: "ellement"  for "element"

Vowel-consonant-E is a common way we write a long vowel. The E after the consonant marks the vowel before that consonant as long in thousands of words (for instance, grace, evening, nighttime). But here, the initial-E is short, and the second-E has nothing to do with the first but expresses its own sound (a schwa) in its own syllable. We need to double the L to show that: "ellement".

Tuesday, January 25, 2011: "divize" for "devise"

There are two problems with today's word. First, the vowel sound in the first syllable is not a long-E, as one might think from the presence there of an E. Rather, it is a short-I. So let's change it to I. We don't need to double the consonant after it (the V), since the V starts a new syllable. Indeed, if we did double the V to show the I short, we would simultaneously suggest that the first syllable takes the word's stress, whereas it is actually the second syllable that does so.

The second problem is the S, which makes the word look related to "vise" — as perhaps to mean "remove from a vise", to de-vise something. "Vise" has an S-sound (as do other similar words, like paradise, concise, and precise), whereas the sound is actually Z: "divize".

Munday, January 24, 2011: "chiald" for "child"

"Child" should be pronounced with a short-I, exactly the same as "chilled", but is instead pronounced with a long-I. A long-I cannot be said in the same syllable as a following L. Instead, a schwa sound has to be articulated before the L is added. Schwa is often written with an A (about, America, Britannia), and IA, used for a long-A followed by schwa (diatom, diagram, diaphragm), is a good way to show a long-I merging into L, as in dial, trial, and denial: "chiald".

* Note that in "children", the I is short, so we don't need to change that spelling. There's no reason for people to object to changing "child" if we don't also change "children", since the two forms are already very different. Compare "brother" and "brethren". I don't hear anyone insisting we should change "brethren" to "brothren".

Sunday, January 23, 2011: "boddy" for "body"

ODY is ambiguous. The new reader should see it as having a long-O, but in fact the O is short, in today's word, homebody, and antibody; a schwa in other words (prosody, rhapsody, melody), and even a short-U in other words (somebody, anybody, everybody as most people say them). To show that here the sound is short-U, we need merely double the following-D: "boddy".

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

Saturday, January 22, 2011: "ajjeraitum" for "ageratum"

Let us, in the middle of what is in much of the Northern Hemisphere, a severe winter, think ahead to greener times and a common decorative plant with flat flowerheads of many tiny flowers. There are three problem areas in this word, the sound of the A at the very beginning, the GE-sound right thereafter, and the A after that. The end is fine.

Because there is only one G, the reader is unclear as to the sound of the A. Is it long? Is it short? Does it represent a schwa sound, as so many A's at the beginning of a word do (ahead, amount, abet)? The sound is short-A, which is often shown by doubling the consonant immediately after it. Unfortunately, that consonant is G, and a double-G almost always represents G's own, unique sound ("hard"-G), even if followed by E, I, or Y, as in dagger, aggie, and baggy. There's a tiny number of words like suggest, exaggerate, and arpeggio, in which there is a "soft-G" for at least the second-G. In suggest, there is also a hard-G sound, whereas there is no hard-G sound at all in "ageratum".

The consonant sound here is the usual sound of J, so let's write J. And since it follows a short-A, let's double the J to show that.

The last problem today is the sound of the second-A, which could be "broad" as in erratum, datum, and desideratum as some people say them. To show a long-A midword, AI is a better spelling: "ajjeraitum".

Friday, January 21, 2011: "trottoreeya" for "trattoria"

This Food Friday, let's reform a word that has a completely unexpected stress pattern, on the next-to-last syllable. The current spelling leads many people to put the emphasis on the second syllable, which changes the pronunciation of the entire word, to tra.táu.ree.ya, from the proper tròt.a.rée.ya. And because so many people conceive of it as tra.táu.ree.ya,  they tend to be confused about whether it is the T or the R that is doubled. Neal Shapiro, CEO of New York's main PBS station WNET (which is actually a Newark, NJ station STOLEN by New Yorkers), pronounced this word WRONG, on air, as tra.táu.ree.ya in announcing a movie by that name. What an idiot. Just look it up!

If we change the IA to EEYA, the other sounds fall into place, except that the first-A does not, in the United States, take either of A's main sounds, long as in ate or short as in at. Rather, it is a "broad"-A, which is the same sound as short-O. Writing an O in place of the A, before two T's (as in trotter), would make that clear.

In Britain, the vowels have been so anglicized that the A actually does take A's short sound. If Britons wish to retain that pronunciation, they can retain the A, but Americans would be better off replacing the A with O. And this word will join the other few hundred that are spelled, and pronounced, differently on the different sides of the Atlantic: "trottoreeya".

Tho "trattoria" seems a pretty fancy name, a trattoria is actually an informal Italian restaurant.

Thursday, January 20, 2011: "seddentery" for "sedentary"

The absence of a double-D in this four-syllable word gives the reader no guidance as to either the quality of the first-E (long or short) or the location of the word's syllabic stress. If anything, a reader might see the ENT as taking the word's stress, as it does in elementary. But if we double the D, we at once show the preceding-E to be short and indicate that the first syllable bears the word's stress.

A second problem is that the A is wrong for the actual sound of the third syllable, which is most commonly written ER. So let's change the A to E. Now everything is clear: "seddentery".

Wensday, January 19, 2011: "restt" for "wrest"

A silent-W is impossible to defend. But what should we do with today's word? If we simply drop the W, we are left with "rest", which is already taken by a very frequently used word. There are of course many words that take both the same spelling and the same pronunciation but mean different things (row a boat, stand in a row; rap the door, rap music), but it would be better to avoid adding another if we can.

Many English words end in a double consonant, from ebb to putt to buzz, so it is certainly not "un-English" to double the T of today's word,to show that it is distinct from rest as in "to relax" or "the remainder": "restt".

Tuesday, January 18, 2011: "verennicleen" for "verenicline"

Chemists create ridiculous words that are almost completely indecipherable to laypeople. I think they do so deliberately, even gleefully, to show how smart they are and keep their work mysterious. But the names of chemicals are formed from the same sounds as ordinary words, so are susceptible to phonetic simplification. In today's word, the generic name for "Chantix",* the brand of a product to help people stop smoking, there are only two areas that present problems.

First, the single-N renders unclear whether the immediately preceding E is long or short. It is short, so can be shown clearly by doubling the N.

Second, the INE at the end of the word should be pronounced with a long-I, to rhyme with fine, decline, and columbine. It actually is said with a long-E, which is most clearly written EE: "verennicleen".

* When "Chantix" was first advertised, I was sure I heard a British-accented announcer pronounce it with a K-sound, káan.tiks. I'm sure of that because it annoyed me that someone would deliberately create a brand name with an antiphonetic spelling, tho I cannot find, online, any reference to this first, pretentious, and now abandoned pronunciation. Apparently a lot of other people were offended, or at least puzzled, because the manufacturer switched to the phonetic pronunciation we hear today, with the ordinary CH-sound of church.

Munday, January 17, 2011: "unggwent" for "unguent"

There are two ambiguous areas in today's word, the NG and the GU.

NG has a number of pronunciations. Usually it combines to form the distinctive NG-sound of singer, hanger, and meringue. Sometimes it represents that NG-sound plus a hard-G (finger, stronger, anger). Sometimes it represents the two separate sounds N and G, which do not merge. The G can take either its hard sound (ingredient, ingrained, engulf) or its soft sound (ingenious, hinge, ingest). Here, the NG represents the combination of the NG-sound and hard-G. We need to show that, by adding a second-G.

GU sometimes represents a hard-G, without more (guess, beguile, plague); sometimes it represents a hard-G plus a W-sound (anguish, extinguish, and today's word, unguent); and sometimes the G and U simply lie beside each other and do not interact (argue, ague, ambiguous). To show that there is a W-sound in today's word, let's just write a W, not U, after the (second-)G: "unggwent".

Sunday, January 16, 2011: "teppid" for "tepid"

A single P renders ambiguous the sound of the E, which could be long (tepee, depend, sepia) whereas it is actually short. To show a short-E clearly, we need merely double the P: "teppid".

Saturday, January 15, 2011: "sebboreea", "sebboreeic", and "sebboreeal" for "seborrh(o)ea", "seborrh(o)eic" and "seborrh(o)ea"*

The wrong consonant is doubled in this trio of words. The R is doubled for no reason, whereas the B should be doubled, to show that the preceding-E is short. Also, a single-E is insufficient to show that there is a stress on the long-E sound. But if we double the E, that will cue the reader to stress that syllable: "sebboreea", "sebboreeic", and "sebboreeal".

* The British spelling has a ridiculous OE, shown here by placing the O in parentheses.

Friday, January 14, 2011: "raizin" for "raisin"

This Food Friday, let's make a little change in a little fruit snack. The S represents a Z-sound. Why? We have a Z. Let's use it: "raizin".

Thursday, January 13, 2011: "quoddrat" for "quadrat"

The A in today's word* has neither of A's usual sounds, short as in at and long as in ate. The sound here is "broad"-A as in ah, car, and father. That sound is better shown as a short-O, so let's replace the A with O and double the following consonant, D, to show that the O is short, because the consonant cluster DR does not necessarily make a preceding vowel short (redress, bedraggled, prodrome): "quoddrat".

* Two meanings, old and new.  Old: a piece of movable type with no raised surface, used to create a blank space; new, "a square or rectangular plot of land marked off for the study of plants and animals".

Wensday, January 12, 2011: "periffery" for "periphery"

PH for the F-sound is an indefensible absurdity. It's got to go. We could replace it with one F, but that would leave unclear the sounds before and after it, in that it would be followed by E. "Rife" would thus be part of the longer word, in spelling but not in sound. A single-F would also leave unclear where in this four-syllable word the stress falls. If we replace the PH with two F's, however, everything becomes clear: "periffery".

Tuesday, January 11, 2011: "meouw" for "meow"

OW is ambiguous, sometimes representing a long-O sound (mow, crow, below), but other times representing an OU-sound (how, now, cow). The sound in "meow" is not like that in minnow, and we need to show that, by including an OU before the W. We still need the W, because without it, the OU might be seen as taking a long-U sound (bayou, caribou, kinkajou). Besides, the longer spelling suits the extended sound we think of when we see this word: "meouw".

Munday, January 10, 2011: "lounj" for "lounge"

GE is highly ambiguous, even in final position: get, general, genre, renege, college, collage. The sound here is J, so let's write J: "lounj".
My thanks to "Red..." for this suggestion.

Sunday, January 9, 2011: "himm" and "himnal" for "hymn" and "hymnal"

A Y midword should be reserved for a long-I sound (hybrid, gynecologist, myopia). The sound here is short-I. The spelling "him" is taken, by a very common word. But we can double the M to distinguish this less-common word from the more-common. Double consonants at the end of a word are very common in English (ebb, inn, buzz), so there is no reason to oppose an -MM here.

An odd thing happens with the adjectival and related noun form, "hymnal". A silent-N pops up as a sounded-N. So it has to be shown: "himm" and "himnal".

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

Saturday, January 8, 2011: "glouwer" for "glower"

Today's word is a verb and noun meaning "sullen dislike, discontent, or anger"; it's not the agent form of the verb to glow. But you cannot know that from the spelling, nor can you tell how it is to be pronounced. Glow has a long-O, but the added W confuses things (know, flow, show; how, now, cow). "Glower" has an OU-sound (bower, cower, dower), but again, you can't tell that from the spelling, especially given that glow does not have an OU-sound.

If there's an OU-sound, let's write OU. We then do need a W-glide to indicate where what would otherwise be a three-letter vowel sequence (OUE) divides into two syllables: "glouwer".

Friday, January 7, 2011: "fortay" for "forte"

It's time to give up on trying to distinguish the two words and various senses of "forte". A word is what it is perceived to be, and by far most people nowadays perceive "forte" as a two-syllable word ending in long-A. Only pedants and prigs try any longer to maintain a distinction between the French-derived "forte", a one-syllable term for a person's or sword's strong point, and the Italian-derived musical direction to play something loud. What's the point? Given that the French pronunciation creates a needless and misleading homonym with "fort", the Italianized pronunciation makes much better sense. But we shouldn't retain an Italian nor vague spelling. We can make this two-syllable pronunciation clear in English conventions, and steer people clear of confusion: "fortay".

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

Thursday, January 6, 2011: "engrose" and "grose" for "engross" and "gross"

As "Clap..." points out, "gross" does not rhyme with moss, floss, and boss (all of which have an AU-sound as most people say them, or short-O, as other people say them), nor, I might add, does "gross" rhyme with the OSS letter sequence in blossom,  fossil, and colossal (all of which have a short-O as everyone says them). In "en/gross", the sound is long-O, so SS after the O is wholly misleading. Tho traditional spelling is so chaotic that there is no completely unambiguous way (nose, arose, decompose) to show a long-O before an S-sound, OSE would be more like clear, as in dose, morose, and bellicose: "engrose" and "grose".

My thanks to "Fisherman..." and "Clap..." for suggesting reform of these words, tho I chose a slitely different solution.

Wensday, January 5, 2011: "determin" for "determine"

MINE spells a familiar word, pronounced with a long-I, as the reader has the right to expect, given the vowel-consonant-E letter sequence (tine, dine, define). In today's word, however, that letter sequence misleads, because the I is short! Fortunately, there is a quick fix, to just drop the final-E: "determin".

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

Tuesday, January 4, 2011: "chastize" for "chastise"

This is a perfect example of why it's so hard for children everywhere and adults outside an English-speaking country, to learn to spell. We have two S's in one word, each of which takes a different sound. The first represents an S-sound, as you might expect. The second, however, takes the Z-sound. Why?

Further complicating the pronunciation of this word is the fact that the -ISE ending, which is written even in North America, suggests that the sound is S, because if it were Z, we in North America would expect a Z to be written in a verb ending (phoneticize, criticize, emphasize). But the second-S does not represent an S-sound. If the sound is Z, let's write Z: "chastize".

Munday, January 3, 2011: "burth" and "burthday" for "birth" and "birthday"

IR is ambiguous, often taking a sound like long-E (irritable, irrigate, virulent) but also often taking the sound most commonly written ER (bird, stir, thirty), but also UR (urge, curt, fur). That second sound is the one that occurs in "birth/day". The unambiguous spelling ER is already taken by "berth", but UR, also clear, is available: "burth" and "burthday".

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

Sunday, January 2, 2011: "alissum" for "alyssum"

Let's reserve Y midword for the long-I sound. That is not the sound here. Rather, the sound is short-I, which is much better spelled with an I: "alissum".

Saturday, January 1, 2011: "woodwerk" for "woodwork"

We reformed "work", to "werk", early in this project,* but compound words involving "werk" are fair game, for being different words: "woodwerk".

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

* September 20, 2004.

Click here for today's suggestion.
Click here to return to the archive index.
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".

Please send comments and suggestions to: Fanetiks@aol.com.