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Simpler Spelling
Word of the Day
Archive of Discussions
April-June 2011

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Thursday, June 30, 2011: "advocat" for the noun "advocate"

The spelling "advocate" represents two related words with two different pronunciations. One is a verb, with a long-A at the end, as the spelling -ATE suggests. The other is a noun, with a schwa approaching short-I in the last syllable. For that sound, -ATE is very misleading. If the consonant before that sound were almost anything but C, we could change the -ATE to -IT. But since it is a C, we cannot simply substitute an I ("advocit") because the C would be read as "soft", with an S-sound. So we either have to change the C to something else, like K or CK ("advokit" or "advockit"), and CK would mislead people into seeing the second syllable as taking the word's stress. I suspect there would be a lot of resistance to changing the C to K.

If we simply drop the -E at the end, however, we can see a schwa-sound there, in that any vowel can represent a schwa (carat, lariat, secretariat): "advocat".

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

Wensday, June 29, 2011: "trivvea" and "trivveal" for "trivia" and "trivial"

A single-V leaves unclear the sound of the I before it. Is it long? Many words starting in TRI do have a long-I, such as trifle, tribal, and trident. Is the I short? It's short, and we can make that crystal clear by doubling the V.

IA is ambiguous, and it would be better to replace it with EA: "trivvia" and "trivvial".

Tuesday, June 28, 2011: "shnops" for "schnapps"

We have today a rare Booze Tuesday in which we can get rid of the bizarre and inefficient spelling SCH for an ordinary SH-sound (as in shush). The A is pronounced, in standard English, "broad" (as in father), which is the same sound as short-O in bother. Let's write it with an O, so that people are not tempted to mispronounce it (as some Britons do) as a short-A: "shnops".

Munday, June 27, 2011: "resus" for "rhesus"

Why is there an H in this word? It's not pronounced. If it's silent, it shouldn't be there: "resus".

Sunday, June 26, 2011: "terrodactil" and "terrosaur" for "pterodactyl" and "pterosaur"

Today's words relate to flying reptiles from the Age of Dinosaurs. Since dinosaurs are always popular, this word for extinct animals is not obsolete. In both words, the P is silent. Why is it there? Also in both, a single-R leaves unclear whether the E before it is long or short. It is short, and takes the usual sound of ER in words like better, pervert, and ermine. To show that plainly, we need to double the R.

What about the O? It represents a schwa, and any vowel can represent a schwa. We'd have to have a compelling reason to change it to anything else, such as an A, which is more commonly used for schwa. A, however, would produce "terra", which would mislead the reader twice. First, it would suggest Latin "terra", meaning "land", whereas "ptero-" actually means "wing". Second, "terra" would also suggest a creature bound to the land's surface, whereas the pterosaurs soared over the land, in the sky.

The last problem with today's words is the Y in "pterodactyl". It represents a short-I or even schwa, not long-I, so Y is entirely inappropriate. Let's change it to I: "terrodactil" and "terrosaur".

Saturday, June 25, 2011: "medly" for "medley"

EY is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced with a long-A (they, hey, survey) and other times with an ordinary long-E (whiskey, attorney, baloney). Mind you, -Y is not wholly unambiguous. It is usually pronounced long-E (or, in "clipped" British accents, short-I), but sometimes it takes a long-I sound. That is especially the case in words of one syllable (by, dry, sly), but also occasionally in longer words (deny, qualify, butterfly). This is another example of why it is so hard to learn to read and spell English. Still, -Y is clearer than -EY: "medly".

Friday, June 24, 2011: "luzhe" for "luge"

"Luge" is parallel in spelling to huge, refuge, and subterfuge, all of which end in a J-sound. That is not the sound here, which is ZH. So let's replace the ambiguous G with the unambiguous ZH: "luzhe".

Thursday, June 23, 2011: "houwel" for "howl"

OWL is ambiguous. This letter sequence is found in a fairly small group of words, but within that group there are at least three pronunciations, typified by owl; bowl, slowly; and knowledge (pronounced óu.wal; boel, slóe.lee; and nól.aj). In today's word, the pronunciation is in two syllables, the first containing an OU-sound. We can show that: "houwel".

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

Wensday, June 22, 2011: "gravvity" for "gravity"

The single-V after the A renders unclear the sound of that A. It's short, so we need to double the V to show that: "gravvity".

Tuesday, June 21, 2011: "forfother" and (rare) "formuther" for "forefather" and "foremother"

There is no need for an E after the first-R in today's words (compare forward and forbears). And the base word after the prefix in both cases is spelled misleadingly. The A in father has neither of A's basic sounds, long as in ate and short as in at. Rather, it is a "broad"-A, which is the same sound in standard English as short-O (on, odd, obvious), so let's write O. The O in mother takes neither of O's basic sounds, long as in oh, no, and so, and short as in, again, on, odd, and obvious, but short-U, as in up, under, and us. So let's write U: "forfother" and "formuther".

Munday, June 20, 2011: "ducid" for "deuced"

Let's fix a chiefly British term that looks to be one syllable but is actually pronounced as two, like naked and aged (for "elderly"). The two-syllable pronunciation of "deuced" rhymes with lucid, so let's write it that way. There is a one-syllable pronunciation (duest), but that doesn't require reform. If people use the one-syllable pronunciation, they can leave the present spelling. After all, there are many words that have more than one spelling (accouterment/accoutrement, check/cheque, naught/nought). What's one more? Reform of the two-syllable spelling will make its pronunciation clear, which it is not, at present: "ducid".

Sunday, June 19, 2011: "catterpiller" for "caterpillar"

There are two problems with today's word. First, a single-T after the first-A suggests that that A is long. It is short, and the way we commonly show a short vowel is by doubling the consonant after it. Let's do that here.

The second problem is with the other A, which occupies a place most commonly held by an E for that sound before R. To ease people's remembering what to write there, let's use the most common spelling, -ER: "catterpiller".

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

Saturday, June 18, 2011: "boozum" for "bosom"

The present spelling makes no sense at all. On the one hand, it suggests bosun, which is pronounced with a long-O; on the other, blossom, with a short-O. The actual vowel sound in the first syllable is a short-OO (as in good, book, and boogie-woogie). So let's write OO.

The S represents a Z-sound, not S at all. So let's write Z.

And altho any letter can represent a schwa, ZOM would suggest a full short-O, as in zombie, and ZAM would suggest a full short-A, as in shazam. So U would seem the best way to go: "boozum".

Friday, June 17, 2011: "accurit" for "accurate"

RATE is a word to itself, pronounced with a long-A. That is not the sound here, which is a schwa so close to short-I in sound that we should write it with an I: "accurit".

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

Thursday, June 16, 2011: "travvel" and "travveler" for "travel", "traveler", and "traveller"

The first problem in today's words is the single-V after a short-A, which is easily misread (compare rave, save, and architrave, all of which have a long-A sound before a single-V followed by E). We need to double the V.

The second problem in the current spellings is whether to use a single-L in "traveler" (American preference) or double-L ("traveller", the British preference). That problem is solved if we double the V, because a reader would naturally see TRAVV- as taking the word's stress, so it becomes most unlikely that the E before a single-L would be read as representing a long-E sound: "travvel" and "travveler".

My thanks to "yaora..." and "yao..." for suggesting reform of today's words, tho I chose slitely different solutions.

Wensday, June 15, 2011: "sereez" and "sereal" for "series"and "serial"

"Series" looks plural, but is not. So we should have no hesitation to change the final-S to the Z it sounds like.

The first-E, before a single consonant (the R) is slitely ambiguous, but the fact that the letter immediately after the R is E in the proposed respelling "sereez" would lead most readers to see the first-E as the long-E it is.

IE is ambiguous (pies, policies, quiet, quietus, supplier, heavier: pronounced piez, pól.i.seez, kwíe.yat, kwie.yée.tas, sa.plíe.yer, hé Here, the sound is a simple long-E, which is most clearly shown by EE.

The IA in "serial" is also ambiguous (diagram, aerial, seriatim: pronounced díe.ya.gràam, ái.ree.yal,áe.tim or ser.~). There is no wholly satisfactory fix for that in this word, in that real is a word to itself, pronounced either reel or rée.yal, so "sereal", tho parallel to "cereal", is not 100% unambiguous. Still, I think it's a bit clearer: "sereez" and "sereal".

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

Tuesday, June 14, 2011: "reostat" for the verb "rheostat"

If the H is not pronounced, it shouldn't be there: "reostat".

Munday, June 13, 2011: "permitt" for the verb "permit"

"Permit" is two words in one, pronounced differently. The noun "permit" is, like most nouns, stressed at the beginning of the word; the verb, like many, if not most verbs, is stressed at the end. To show which one we intend at any given time, we should change at least one, tho changing both would hardly be necessary.

Marking syllabic stress is not generally a function of spelling, but we do have some patterns to mark unexpected stress (for instance, -ETTE, -ESSE, and -ELLE, to show that the last syllable is stressed: kitchenette, largesse, bagatelle). So adding to the end of a word is not that unusual.

Doubling the R in the first syllable to show stress there, for the noun ("perrmit"), would be a logical thing to do, but not something we generally do before a consonant. Lots of words, however, end in a double consonant, so that would seem a good way to go. Let's mark the verb as having the stress on the second syllable by doubling the T: "permitt".

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

Sunday, June 12, 2011: "messenjer" for "messenger"

As with yesterday's word, "longitude", we have today a word in which an N and G do not form the NG-sound of singing, so need to show that by substituting a J for the G: "messenjer".

Saturday, June 11, 2011: "lonjitude" for "longitude"

LONG is a word in itself, pronounced with an NG sound as in singing. That is not the sound here. Rather, the N and G represent separate sounds, N's regular sound, and the J-sound. If we use J to represent J's sound — which we should, always — people will know not to say an NG-sound there. Unfortunately, tho everyone in the United States knows not to say an NG-sound in "longitude", some people in Britain do not. If they insist on their dialectal pronunciation, they will want to keep the present spelling. The rest of us should want a spelling that guides people to the correct pronunciation: "lonjitude".

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

Friday, June 10, 2011: "genus" and "jennera" for "genus" and "genera"

"Genus" rhymes with "Venus", so the basic pattern is fine. But the initial sound is J, not G. So let's write J.

Further, the irregular plural has a short-E, not long as in the singular. To show that, we need to double the N right after it: "jenus" and "jennera".

Thursday, June 9, 2011: "fetta" for "feta"

We would ordinarily save this word for a Food Friday, but we have almost no words starting with F, left in our list, so let's address the misleading spelling of this word for a soft Greek cheese. The E is short, not long, as a single consonant after it might suggest. Nor is the E pronounced like a long-A, which you might expect if you saw the word as taking "Continental" values. Rather, the E is an ordinary short-E, as in get, bet, and set. The way we would ordinarily show that is by doubling the consonant after it: go-getter, better, and setting: "fetta".

Wensday, June 8, 2011: "estimit" for the noun "estimate"

There are two words in one spelling, "estimate". The verb is pronounced with a long-A in the last syllable; the noun, with a schwa so close to a short-I that we can reasonably write it with an I: "estimit".

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

Tuesday, June 7, 2011: "disgize" for "disguise"

There are two things wrong with today's word. First, GU is an inefficient way to write the simple G-sound ("hard"-G) , which needs only G itself (give, giddy, gimmick). GUI is also ambiguous (beguile, guitar; anguish, distinguish, pronounced bee.gí, gi.tór; áang.gwish, dis.tíng.gwish). So let's drop the U.

The second problem is the second-S, which represents not an S-sound at all (which the first-S does represent), but a Z-sound. So let's change it to Z: "disgize".

Some people, if not most, actually pronounce the SG as tho it were SK, because of the phenomenon of assimilation. The mouth forms the voiceless S-sound, and then just continues on to the G but pronounces it as G's phonetic mate, K. G is voiced. K is formed the same way but said without the voice.

Munday, June 6, 2011: "catarr" for "catarrh"

Today's word is at least one letter too long. The silent-H at the very end serves absolutely no purpose, so let's just drop it, OK? We might also drop the second-R, since spelling does not generally show syllabic stress. But having the second-R there does help indicate that the stress falls on the second syllable, which is fairly unusual for a noun, so let's leave it: "catarr".

Sunday, June 5, 2011: "badinozh" for "badinage"

On May 31st, I offered a reform to another word that means "banter" and also ended with an -AGE pronounced with a ZH-sound ("persiflage", to "persiflozh"). Let's repeat the exercise, of substituting -OZH for a misleading -AGE: "badinozh".

There is no agreement among online dictionaries about where the syllabic stress falls in this word. Some say on the last syllable; some, first syllable. For our purposes, it doesn't matter, because we are concerned only about speech sounds (phonemes), not syllabic stress, and the proffered spelling can be stressed on either syllable.'s Unabridged Dictionary shows a second pronunciation, with a J-sound rather than ZH, but other authorities show no such pronunciation, so I don't think we need to accommodate it.

Saturday, June 4, 2011: "autotrof" for "autotroph"

Let's fix the ridiculous PH in this unusual word from science,* which I found when checking the lyrics to the theme song of the American (CBS) sitcom The Big Bang Theory.

PH is a preposterous, inefficient, and ambiguous way (uphold, diphthong, Phnom Penh) to spell the simple F-sound, so it's got to go. If the sound is F, let's just write F: "autotrof".

*"Autotroph" is defined as "any organism capable of self-nourishment by using inorganic materials as a source of nutrients and using photosynthesis or chemosynthesis as a source of energy, as most plants and certain bacteria and protists".

Note: There are two pronunciations for this word, one of which has a long-O in the last syllable (the pronunciation used by the band Barenaked Ladies in its performance of the Big Bang Theory theme), and one with a short-O. The short-O pronunciation is preferred by for its own lexicon; the long-O pronunciation is the only one shown by the Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary entry at the same webpage. We don't need to take sides. If both pronunciations can attach to "autotroph", both can equally well attach to "autotrof". Mind you, if we were sure that the pronunciation with long-O is the only one that educated speakers use, we would offer "autotrofe", with a final-E to mark the O long.

Friday, June 3, 2011: "tweel" and "tweele" for "tuile" and "tuille"

This Food Friday, let's phoneticize the name of a thin, crisp, French cookie, and distinguish it from its homophone, a piece of a suit of armor that is also called a "tasset".

Both "tuile" and "tuille" are pronounced tweel, so their bizarre spellings should in any case be changed. Since their meanings are wildly different, it's probably a good idea to distinguish them if we can do so without losing phoneticity. Fortuitously, we can do that simply by adding a silent-E at the end of the less common word. Neither word is common, but suits of armor went out of fashion centuries ago, whereas a cookie not presently well known in the English-speaking world might come into fashion at any time. So let's use the final-E on the word for "tasset": "tweel" and "tweele".

Thursday, June 2, 2011: "shoalder" for "shoulder"

"Shoulder" is doubly bizarre a spelling. First, the OU represents not the OU-sound but a long-O. Second, it looks like the comparative form of "should", which is pronounced shood and doesn't have a comparative form, nor an agent form that could end in -ER (a person who shoulds?).

To show a long-O before a consonant cluster such as LD, we might write OE or OA. In this particular case, however, OE is not available because that would form "shoelder", which looks to have the word "shoe", pronounced shue, in it. So let's go with OA, as in coal, goal, and, indeed, shoal: "shoalder".

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

Wensday, June 1, 2011: "ravvij" for "ravage"

I mentioned today's word yesterday, when I spoke of the ambiguity of AGE (for instance, rage, ravage, garage, which are pronounced raej, ráv.ij, ga.rózh). Yesterday's word was one of the -OZH words. Today's is one of the -IJ words, so the end should be written as it sounds, IJ.

The A in the first syllable is short, and the way we commonly show a short vowel is by doubling the consonant after it, in this case, the V. Let's do that too: "ravvij".

Tuesday, May 31, 2011: "persiflozh" for "persiflage"

This unusual word for "banter" has an unexpected pronunciation for the final AGE. It does not sound like age, sage, or rampage. Nor does it have the sound it takes in percentage, mucilage, or ravage. Rather, it takes the sound in massage, fuselage, and camouflage. That would not be guessed by most readers of English — and unusual words need to be spelled especially clearly — so needs to be written in a way that shows plainly how to say it: "persiflozh".

Munday, May 30, 2011: "miazma" for "miasma"

Why would we use an S to express a Z-sound? If the sound is Z, as here, let's just write Z: "miazma".

Sunday, May 29, 2011: "loezh" for "loge"

The main problem in today's word is that the G takes neither G's own, distinctive sound (also called "hard-G", as in get, give, and God), nor the other sound commonly expressed by G (mainly before E, I and Y; but note "margarine"), J (gesture, gigantic, theology). Rather, the sound is G's third, relatively rare, sound, ZH (genre, collage, cortege).  Many people are not clear as to when G takes this sound, and may actually substitute a J-sound in words like garage. Let's give them clear guidance by substituting ZH for all such G's.

If we do that with today's word, we are left with "lozhe", which may not be clear as to whether the O is long and whether the -E is pronounced (abalone, epitome, psyche) or silent. Ideally, then, we should get rid of the final-E and show the long-O in itself, before the ZH.

"Loezh" might be clear, on analogy to toe, echoed, and tomatoes. So might "loazh", on analogy to goal, toast, and approach. OA sometimes, however, represents two syllables (boa, coalition, coalesce). OE also occasionally represents two syllables (coeducation, coerce, coefficient). It's a close call, and I've gone back and forth on the matter myself, but I think OE is less likely to be misread: "loezh".

Saturday, May 28, 2011: "hydrainja" for "hydrangea"

To see that the present spelling is misleading, you need merely consult, whereupon you will see that the woman speaking the recorded pronunciation says it WRONG, contrary to the preferred pronunciation shown in print. The pronunciation as written is "hahy-dreyn-juh" ('s way of showing hie.dráen.ja), but the speaker says "hie.drán.ja or hie.drán.jee.ya" — both of which are, alas, wrong. The Cambridge Dictionaries Online have it right, hie.dráen.ja in both the U.S. and UK. So let's show that pronunciation clearly.

The first syllable, HY, is fine just as it is.

The second syllable is exactly like the well-understood word "drain", so let's use that spelling.

The third syllable — of three, not the four of the spelling-pronunciation that sees -GEA as two syllables — is a J-sound followed by a schwa. If the consonantal sound is J, let's write J. And if the vowel sound is a schwa, let's write A, the most common spelling of schwa (America, Britannia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Jamaica, etc.): "hydrainja". 

Friday, May 27, 2011: "jimnazeum" and "jim" for "gymnasium" and "gym"

GY is ambiguous (gynecology, gyrate, gymnosperm, and argyle are pronounced gìól.a.jêe, jíe.raet, jim.noe.spèrm (or, and ór.gie.yal). If the sound is, as here, a J followed by short-I, we should write JI.

The second problem area in today's words is the S, which represents not an S-sound at all but a Z-sound. If the sound is Z, we should write Z.

The third problem area is the IU, in which the I represents neither of I's own sounds, long as in pie and short as in pit. Rather, the sound here is long-E. So let's write EU.

Putting this all together, we get: "jimnazeum" and "jim".

Some defenders of traditional spelling may object that "Jim" is a proper noun, the short form of the name "James". But there are many names that are also words: bill, bob, will, mike, lee, teddy, mark, nick, cliff, ray, and on and on.

Thursday, May 26, 2011: "fuj" for "fudge"

DGE is a preposterously cumbersome, inefficient, and even ambiguous (headgear, pronounced héd.geer, not héj.eer, hé, or he.jéer) way to write a J-sound. If the sound is J, let's write J. In the case of inflected forms of the verb form of "fudge", we can double the J before adding -ED or -ING: "fuj".

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

Wensday, May 25, 2011: "exercize" for "exercise"

-ISE is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced with an S-sound (vise, concise, precise), but other times a Z-sound (rise, devise, revise). If the sound is Z, let's write a Z: "exercize".

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

Tuesday, May 24, 2011: "desperit" for "desperate"

RATE is a word to itself, pronounced with a long-A. That is not the sound here. Rather, the A represents a short-I sound. So let's write IT, and drop the misleading final-E.

There is a second problem with today's word, namely, that the middle syllable is often dropped. Not all speakers drop it, tho, and especially not in all utterances. That is, the same person may say the word in three syllables in formal speech but two in informal. So we should leave the word written in three syllables. The people who drop the middle-E can drop it as easily, in the situations in which they drop it, from a spelling with -IT at the end as with -ATE at the end: "desperit".

Munday, May 23, 2011: "chou" for "ciao"

The spelling of today's word is inexcusably absurd — in English. In Italian, it makes perfect sense. English is not Italian.

The word has undergone enormous change already. The Online Etymology Dictionary says:

dial. variant of It. schiavo "(your obedient) servant," lit. "slave," from M.L. sclavus "slave."

Given that history, it's a little hard to argue against phoneticizing this so people who read English know how to say it on seeing it written and spell it on hearing it said: "chou".

Sunday, May 22, 2011: "billyon" and "billyonair" for "billion" and "billionaire"

LION is a word to itself, pronounced with a long-I. That is not the sound in either of today's words. Rather, the I takes Y's consonantal sound. If the sound is Y, let's just write a Y. In the longer word, we don't need an E at the end. It's entirely superfluous, so let's just drop it, OK?: "billyon" and "billyonair".

Saturday, May 21, 2011: "amuze" for "amuse"

USE is ambiguous, as in the noun and verb senses of the word "use" itself. The noun has an S-sound, but the verb, a Z-sound. We thus need to clarify that in "amuse", the sound is Z. That's easy. Just write Z: "amuze".

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

Friday, May 20, 2011: "tripple" and "tripplet" for "triple" and "triplet"

TRI is a common prefix that is usually pronounced with a long-I. That is not the sound here, which is short-I. The way we commonly make plain that a vowel is short is by doubling the consonant immediately after it. Let's do that here: "tripple" and "tripplet".

Thursday, May 19, 2011: "serus" for "serous"

"Serous" relates to serum, not "seroum". There should be no OU if there's no OU-sound, and there's no OU-sound here, nor in the noun derivative, serosity. Let's drop the needless and ambiguous O: "serus".

Wensday, May 18, 2011: "revize" for "revise"

Why is there an S in this word? The sound is Z, and we have a Z. Let's use it: "revize".

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2011: "perzhan" for "persian" (rug, cat)

SIA is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced like SHA (fuchsia), sometimes like ZHA (amnesia), and sometimes in two syllables (dyspepsia, symposia). In "persian", the sound is ZHA, so let's write that: "perzhan".

I don't see the customary capital-P as necessary, and shows a quotation in which the P is lowercase. After all, the country is now called "Iran", not "Persia", and neither a type of rug nor a type of cat needs to have a capital letter at the start of its name (e.g., shag rug, tabby cat).

Munday, May 16, 2011: "mue" for "mew"

EW is no way to spell the long-U sound. If you sound it out, and regard the W as closing a short-E, what you end up with is a type of long-O. To show the proper, long-U sound, let's just write UE, as in argue, barbecue, and revue: "mue".

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

Sunday, May 15, 2011: "louwer" for the verb "lower"

There are two words in "lower", one the comparative of the adjective "low", pronounced with a long-O, and the other a verb, meaning to glare sullenly, pronounced with the OU-sound. The adjective is frequently heard, so we don't need to clarify that. We do, however, need to show the OU-sound clearly. How better to write an OU-sound than with OU? Let us, then, write OU in place of the present O, and leave the W to mark where the syllabic break in an otherwise confusing OUE three-vowel sequence would fall: "louwer".

Saturday, May 14, 2011: "herroewin" and "herroewinn" for "heroin" and "heroine"

These two words, distinguished by one letter in the spelling, have exactly the same sound but hugely different meanings. "Heroin" is an extremely dangerous hard drug; "heroine" is a traditional term, presently "politically incorrect", for a female hero.  In that "heroin" is, sadly, very much with us, but "heroine" is scarcely ever used anymore, let's assign the shorter spelling to the drug.

Given the familiar word "hero" contained within both longer words, which has a long-E, we need to double the R to show that the E here is actually short.

The second problem is the sounds now shown by OI, which letter combo is ordinarily pronounced in one syllable, as in coin. We should try to clarify the two actual sounds, by separating them into two syllables. We can use the W to show the boundary, but -OWI- wouldn't do, in that OW is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced with a long-O, with a W-glide between syllables (showy, glowing, unknowable), but other times with an OU-sound (allowance, power, avowedly). OE would indicate the long-O, and we can keep the W to show where the word's second syllable ends and third begins.

That takes care of all the problem areas in showing the sounds of both words.

There remains the issue of how to distinguish between the two words. We can't very well use the current convention, -E, since "herroewine" will be seen as a type of wine. How else might we mark the less-common word? How about adding a second-N at the end? English has myriad words ending in a double consonant, employing almost every consonant (ebb, add, duff, ... buzz), so people cannot be too indignant at a double-N, now can they?: "herroewin" and "herroewinn".

Friday, May 13, 2011: "gwar" for "guar"

This Food Friday, let's fix the name of a legume that is best known as the source of guar gum, a food additive with many uses. The present spelling is at best ambiguous and at worst misleading, given that the U is pronounced as a W, whereas in other familiar words, it is silent (guaranty, guarantee, guard). Since the U is not silent here, we can't just drop it, but should change it to the letter whose sound it represents, W: "gwar".

My thanks to "Firewall" for this suggestion.

Thursday, May 12, 2011: "fishboal" and "boal/ing" for "fishbowl" and "bowl/ing"

OW is ambiguous, sometimes taking the OU-sound (now, town, howl), other times a long-O sound (show, glow, flown), and even, in one word and its derivatives, a short-O (knowledge). OA would be much clearer (coal, goal, shoal), tho not completely unambiguous (coalesce, coalition). Still, much clearer is better than not at all clear: "fishboal", "boal", "boaling" (and derivatives).

My thanks to "Fisherman..." and "Music..." for these suggestions, tho I chose slitely different solutions.

Wensday, May 11, 2011: "extensiv" for "extensive"

Why is there an E at the end of today's word? -IVE should be pronounced with a long-I sound (jive, derive, alive). To show that the I is, instead, short, we need merely drop the final-E, and save ourselves a letter and some ambiguity: "extensiv".

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

Tuesday, May 10, 2011: "dizaster" and "dizastrus" for "disaster" and "disastrous"

There are two S's in each of today's words, but only one S-sound. The other S represents a Z-sound. Why? We have a Z. Let's use it. That's what it's for.

In the adjective "disastrous", there is an OU but no OU-sound. The sound is actually a schwa, which we can efficiently represent by U, without more (rebus, fungus, abacus): "dizaster" and "dizastrus".

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

Munday, May 9, 2011: "celfone" for "cellphone" and "cell phone"

Today's word, also sometimes treated as two words, is a collapsed form of "cellular phone". If we're going to collapse that phrase, why not remove the superfluous second-L? And while we're at it, let's get rid of the ridiculous PH spelling for a simple-F sound too: "celfone".

Sunday, May 8, 2011: "blessid" for the adjective "blessed"

The ordinary past tense of the verb "bless" is "blessed" or "blest", pronounced in one syllable. The adjective, however, has two syllables, with a short-I sound in the second. We need to show that: "blessid".

Saturday, May 7, 2011: "autograf" for "autograph"

PH for F is foolish, inefficient, and ambiguous (uphill, upholstery): "autograf".

Friday, May 6, 2011: "tempay" for "tempeh"

This Food Friday, let's address a term from Indonesian cookery (for fermented soybeans and cakes made from them), pronounced tém.pae. The spelling is not particularly misleading to people who see it, tho they might wonder if it is stressed on the second syllable. But that spelling would not be guessed by any native speaker of English on hearing the word said. There are, in fact, no common English words that end in -EH. But there are a couple of hundred words ending in the long-A sound spelled -AY. So let's use that: "tempay".

Thursday, May 5, 2011: "seenyer" for "senior"

Why would we use an I for a consonantal Y-sound? And why would we use -OR for the sound most commonly written ER (better, smarter, wiser)? Moreover, a single consonant (the N) after the E leaves unclear the sound of that E, which could be seen as short, such that "senior" might be pronounced much like Spanish "señor (sen.yáur). If the E is long, let's make that clear by writing double-E. If the sound after the N is Y, let's write Y. And if the sound before the R is not AU as in "or", but the sound of ER in "perfect", let's write ER: "seenyer".

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

Wensday, May 4, 2011: "restiv" for "restive"

-IVE should have a long-I, as in jive, strive, and alive. Here, the I is short, so there should be no silent-E at the end: "restiv".  

Tuesday, May 3, 2011: "farrinx", "farrinxes", and "farinjees" for "pharynx", "pharynxes", and "pharynges"

PH is a preposterous, inefficient, and ambiguous (uphill, uphold) way to spell an ordinary F-sound, so let's replace the PH with F. AR is commonly pronounced with a short-O (star, bar, and afar have the same sound as in foreign, forest and Florida), but the sound here is short-A, which is more clearly written with two R's (arrow, barrel, carry). The irregular plural, "pharynges", is pronounced with a schwa, not short-A; a J-sound, so should not have a G; and a long-E, so should have a double-E, not single: "farrinx", "farrinxes", and "farinjees".

Munday, May 2, 2011: "manozh" for "ménage" and "menage"

There is only one pronunciation for this word shown in major dictionaries, mae.nózh, with a long-A in the first syllable. In actual use, however, it is often pronounced ma.nózh, with a schwa. Fortuitously, if we change the É (or just plain E) to A and leave a single-N after it, people can justify either pronunciation.

As for the -AGE, it is not only ambiguous but unlikely to be seen by anyone who does not know French as having the sound it takes. Compare, sage, assuage, and macrophage (long-A + J-sound); signage, passage, and advantage (schwa or short-I + J-sound); collage, massage, and fuselage (short-O, also conceived of as "broad"-A, + ZH-sound). If the sound is ZH, let's write ZH.

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

Sunday, May 1, 2011: "limelite" for "limelight"

As we did Thursday, let's check off another compound word with "light" in it, and replace it with the much more sensible "lite". In "limelight" we have two long-I sounds spelled differently, for no apparent reason. The first is spelled in a conventional way, I-consonant-E (lime). The second has a bizarre, silent-GH and no E after the T (light). Once we replace that second element with "lite", however, we will have a visual match between the way the long-I in the first part of the word is written and the way the long-I in the second part of the word is written. Much better: "limelite".

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

Saturday, April 30, 2011: "hippee" for "hippie" and "hippy"

"Pie" is a word to itself within today's longer word, but it is pronounced with a long-I, whereas in "hippie" the vowel sound of the second syllable is long-E (contrast magpie and potpie). We usually show that with -Y, and there is an alternate spelling for this word with a Y: "hippy". But there is another word of that spelling, which refers to having big hips. So it's better not to confuse those two words. We can keep the word for a quirky nonconformist distinct from the word for having big hips simply by using EE for the nonconformist: "hippee".

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

Friday, April 29, 2011: "gwoccamoly" for "guacamole"

This Food Friday, let's address the name of an avocado-based dip. Altho we think of terms from Mexican cookery as recent arrivals in English, today's word came in, at latest, in 1920 — thus, perhaps, its largely anglicized pronunciation, with a long-E at the end rather than a long-A. If it were thoroughly anglicized, it would have only three syllables, ending with an L-sound. Instead, "guacamole" is one of over 100 common English words in which a final-E is pronounced long-E. But that spelling is still regarded as so odd that a lot of people are tempted either to say this word as tho it is still Spanish, with a final long-A sound, or to wonder if it is only three syllables. It is not, and it ends in a fourth syllable that has a long-E sound (or, in "clipped" British dialects, with a short-I sound). The way we ordinarily write that sound at the end of a word is -Y. Let's do that here.

The other oddity in this word is the U for a W-sound. GU is highly ambiguous. Is the U said or silent? Compare guard and gullet. If it is said, why would it take a W-sound? That's not one of U's ordinary sounds, short as in up and long as in brute. If the sound is W, let's just write a W.

The first-A is "broad", as in father, which is not one of A's basic sounds, short as in at and long as in ate. Rather, it's the same sound as short-O, so let's use an O. To show that O takes its short sound, we need either to double the C ("gwoccamoly") or write a K in lieu of a second-U ("gwockamoly"). It's a close call, but I think we should stick with the rule of doubling a consonant to show a short vowel before it: "gwoccamoly". 

And, because I was unable to put up a word on Thursday due to personal demands:

Thursday, April 28, 2011: "flashlite" for "flashlight"

"Light" to "lite" was the eighth word offered in this project, on June 8, 2004, and we have periodically added derivatives and compound words with "light" in them. Let's check off one more compound: "flashlite".

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

Wensday, April 27, 2011: "exite/ment" for "excite/ment"

X has several sounds (KS: fix, GZ: exist, KSH: luxury, GZH: luxurious, Z: xylophone; it is even sometimes silent, as in Lakota Sioux and grand prix), but we don't see the need to distinguish among X's various sounds by putting a second letter to indicate which one in particular is intended, except with some words in which the sound is KS, as with today's words.*  We don't, by comparison, write "exzist", "luxshury", "luxzhurious", and don't even write "sexcist". So let's just drop the C from today's words, and save ourselves a letter in each: "exite" and "exitement".

*'s Hot Word Blog yesterday distinguished X's sound in wax and fox from that in today's word excite: "the /ks/ sound, as in wax and fox" and "the hard /k/ sound as in 'excite'." That suggests that if we were to treat the other X sounds the same, cutting off part of their sound and writing separate letters for that part, we would indeed have to write things like "exzist", "luxshury", "luxzhurious", and "sexcist".

Tuesday, April 26, 2011: "dezzignate" (verb) and "dezzignit" (adj. and noun) for "designate"

We have in "designate" two pronunciations in one, which differ according to the function the word serves in context. As a verb, the third syllable has a long-A sound. As an adjective (and noun) the third syllable has a schwa that is so close to a full short-I that it is reasonable to regard it as a short-I.

In both grammatical functions, the DE- contains not a long-E, as you might expect (detest, detention, demon), but a short-E. The way to show that is to double the consonant after it. But what consonant should that be? In the present spelling, it's an S, but it doesn't have an S-sound. Rather, the sound is Z. If the sound is Z, let's write Z. And if the consonant after the DE- is to be doubled to show the E short, then we need to double the Z.

The -ATE ending is fine for the verb, because it suggests a long-A, and the verb does have a long-A. But to show that the adjective (and any noun use of that adjective) has a short-I, we need to drop the final-E and change the A to I before the now-final T.

Putting this all together, we get: "dezzignate" (verb) and "dezzignit" (adjective and noun).

My thanks to "fishstick..." for "dezzignate" for the verb.

Munday, April 25, 2011: "chimny" for "chimney"

EY is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced long-E (abbey, money, whiskey) but other times being pronounced long-A (they, hey, survey). Here, the sound is long-E (or, in "clipped" British accents, short-I). That sound is more clearly conveyed by -Y: "chimny".

Sunday, April 24, 2011: "bochy" and "bocha" for "bocci", "bocce", "boccie", and "boccia"

I was reminded of this word last Sunday when I passed a bocci (etc.) court in Newark's Branch Brook Park here in northern New Jersey. There are four spellings and two pronunciations for one game, an Italian version of lawn bowling but on a bare-ground court (lane). The first three spellings, above, are all pronounced bó, which is easy to write clearly in English conventions as "bochy". The fourth is pronounced bóch.a, which is also easy to write clearly. And thus we get: "bochy" and "bocha".

Saturday, April 23, 2011: "alagory" for "allegory"

ALL is often pronounced with an AU-sound, as in the word all itself, call, and tall. That is not the sound here, which is a regular short-A, as in Al, pal, and gal. So let's drop the second-L. The rest of the word is fine except that the E after a single-L (alegory) would lead the reader to think the A long, and wonder if the word has only three syllables, whereas it actually has four. Since that E does not take either of E's standard pronunciations, long as in meet or short as in met, but is pronounced as a schwa; and schwa is perhaps most commonly represented by A (America, about, anemia); if we actually write it as A, we easily fix the problem: "alagory".

Thursday and Friday, April 21 and 22, 2011: "tellejennic" and "viddeojennic" for "telegenic" and "videogenic"

These two synonyms share three spelling problems. First, vowel-consonant-E is very often pronounced with the long sound of the first vowel (base, allele, dote). That is not the sound in either "telegenic" or "videogenic". To show that the E before L and I before D in today's words are short, we should double the consonant before the (not-)silent E: the L in "telegenic" and D in "videogenic".

The single-N in both words also renders unclear the sound of the E before. Is it long? Is it short? It's short, so we should double the N.

GE is ambiguous, sometimes taking G's own, unique sound (get, gear, gecko), but other times representing J's sound (germ, gentle, gesticulate), and other times even representing the ZH-sound (genre, collage, garage; the fact that some people (mis)pronounce garage with a J-sound shows how very ambiguous GE is). Here, the sound is J's, so let's just write J.

Putting this all together, we get: "tellejennic" and "viddeojennic".

Wensday, April 20, 2011: "shelvs" for "shelves"

Why is there an E before the final-S in today's word? If we were to leave the F of the singular, "shelf", and pluralize that form (rather than, oddly, changing the F to V, for reasons I do not know), we wouldn't put an E before the final-S (beliefs, chefs, serifs). So why would we put an E between the V and S (contrast revs)? That E suggests there is a second syllable in the pronunciation, when the word actually has but one syllable. Let's drop the E and save ourselves a letter: "shelvs".

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2011: "rume", "rumattic", and "rumatizm" for "rheum", "rheumatic", and "rheumatism"

The H in these words is silent, so shouldn't be there.

EU should be pronounced like YU, but is not, so let's move the E from before the U to after the M for "rheum". Once any vowel is added after a single-M in the other words, the long quality of the U becomes evident.

To show that the A in "rheumatic" is short, however, we need to double the T.

The A in "rheumatism" is not short, but a schwa, so one T after it is fine.

The S in -ISM takes a Z-sound. If it's a Z, let's just write Z. Putting this all together, we get: "rume", "rumattic", and "rumatizm".

Munday, April 18, 2011: "peruze" for "peruse"

Today's word has an S for a Z-sound. Why? Its spelling suggests a pronunciation like the phrase "per use" (per yues), which is wrong. The correct pronunciation involves a Z-sound, so let's write Z. That's what Z is for: "peruze".

Sunday, April 17, 2011: "mault" for "malt"

As with yesterday's word, the A here does not represent either of A's standard sounds (long as in ate, short as in at). "Malt", where an A is followed by two consonants, should contain a short-A, as in the first syllable of altoaltruism, and altitude, but actually contains the sound most clearly written AU (haul, caustic, aura). Let's add a U to make the actual sound clear: "mault".

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

Saturday, April 16, 2011: "lomma" for "llama"

We don't need two L's for one L-sound, so let's drop one, OK? The presence of a second-L suggests that this word should take a Spanish pronunciation, with a Y-sound rather than L-sound (yóm.a). That is not the way it is said in English.

The vowel sound in the first syllable is not really an A-sound (long as in ate, short as in at) but a short-O. To show that, we should replace the first-A with O, and double the M: "lomma".

Friday, April 15, 2011: "halafyte" for "halophyte"

"Halo" is a familiar word, pronounced with a long-A and long-O. That is not the sound here. The A is short, and the O is pronounced as a schwa. If we change the O to A, the temptation to pronounce the first-A long vanishes, because the association with "halo" vanishes.

PH is, of course, a preposterous, ambiguous (uphold, upholstery), and inefficient way to write the simple F-sound, so let's just change it to F.

The rest of the word is OK. We could change the Y to I, but there's no reason to, and "fite" is better reserved to a reform of "fight" (as offered here November 22, 2005). So let's leave the Y here: "halafyte".

A "halophyte" is a salt-tolerant plant.

Thursday, April 14, 2011: "jene" and "jenettic/s" for "gene" and "genetic/s"

GE is ambiguous (get, gent, genre are pronounced get, jent, zhonra). If the sound is J, as here, let's write J. That's what the J is for, the J-sound.

Second, in "gene", the two E's represent only one sound, long-E, that extends past the intervening N. But in "genetic/s", suddenly the two E's are in two separate syllables, separated by the N. Plainly, it is far less than ideal to show a long vowel by a silent-E (or "magic-E") beyond an intervening consonant. It might be better to put the second-E immediately after the vowel it pertains to: "jeen". But there's no real harm done in leaving the ENE sequence in the base word, since a single-N lets the reader see the first-E as long, and the base word and derivatives will be closer if we leave ENE.

Third, the second-E in "genetic" or "genetics" is short, and the way to show that is by doubling the consonant immediately after it, in this case, the T. That will have the additional virtue of showing plainly that we're seeing a three-syllable word, pronounced ja.nét.ik(s), not a two-syllable word, jéen.tik(s).

Putting this all together, we get: "jene", "jenettic", and "jenettics".

My thanks to "JohnS..." for suggesting reform of today's words, tho I chose slitely different solutions.

Wensday, April 13, 2011: "feesees" and "feecal" for "feces", "faeces", "fecal", and "faecal"

On Munday we dealt with "diarrh(o)ea" (to "diareeya"), so let's deal with today's formal terms for solid waste this week too and get the whole issue out of the way.

The British spellings "faeces" and "faecal" are, as so many antique British spellings are, just silly, so we can eliminate the A from both, right away.

The -ES is the main problem with the spelling "feces", since -ES is a standard plural that is almost always pronounced schwa plus an S-sound. That is not the sound here, which is long-E plus S. The simplest way to show that is -EES. Let's write that.

We would then be presented with two different ways of spelling a long-E sound, separated by one letter, a C. Why confuse the issue, such that someone encountering "fecees" might think the E in the first syllable is short, since it's spelled differently from the long-E in the second syllable? Let's just write the two long-E's the same, EE.

In the adjectival form, there is only one E-sound, and a person might argue that a single-C after it shows it to be long. Not so. A single-C allows it to be seen as long, but does not require it to be said long. There are lots of E's followed by a single consonant that are short, even with an E right after that single consonant: element, ebony, educate. To show plainly both that "fecal" relates to "feecees" and that the E is long, let's just write EE in the adjective too: "feecees" and "feecal".

Tuesday, April 12, 2011: "excuze" for the verb "excuse"

There are actually two words in one within the spelling "excuse", a noun with an S-sound at the end, and a verb with a Z-sound there. Why would we write a Z-sound with an S, when we have the letter Z? We can distinguish the two parts of speech by leaving the S for the noun but changing the S to Z for the verb: "excuze".

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

Munday, April 11, 2011: "diareeya" for "diarrhea" and "diarrhoea"

Altho this is not a pleasant topic to broach at any time, this intestinal disorder can be very serious, even life-threatening, especially in the Third World, so the term is encountered fairly frequently. Let's address it now, and get it over with.

There are two spellings, the one with a preposterous and superfluous O being primarily British. Once we get rid of that, there remain two problems in the shorter spelling. First, we don't need two R's. Indeed, the presence of a double-R suggests that the word's stress falls on the second syllable, which is wrong. So one of the R's has got to go.

The second problem in the standard spelling is a silent-H. If it's silent, we don't need it. So let's get rid of that too.

Both the British and the standard spelling are pronounced the same, dìe.ya.rée.ya. How should we intelligently spell that?

"Diarea" looks like "di-area", a double area, and pronounced like area (die.á, which is not right at all. The word's stress actually falls on the third syllable. Happily, we can show that easily: "diareeya".

Sunday, April 10, 2011: "keyaroscuro" for "chiaroscuro"

This term from painting employs an Italian way of conceiving the CH letter combination, which represents not the English-CH (as in church) but the English K-sound. If the sound is K, let's just write a K.

The second problem is the IA, which is ambiguous, pronounced as in diagram, cafeteria, camellia, deviate (pronounced díe.ya.gràm, kàaf.a.tée.ree.ya, ka.méel.ya, dée.vee.yaet) and other ways, including as in today's word (kee.yòr.a.skúer.oe). In that we already have a familiar word, key, that sounds like the first syllable of today's word, let's use that for that syllable, and leave the rest of the word as-is: "keyaroscuro".

Saturday, April 9, 2011: "baschun" for "bastion"

-TION is a common suffix, pronounced much as tho written like the word "shun". That's not the sound here. The sound in "bastion" is CH, not SH. So lets write -CHUN after the initial BAS-. One might be tempted to put a T before the CH to prevent people from seeing SCH as a different spelling for the SH-sound. But we don't really need it:  eschew, discharge, mischief: "baschun".

Britons who say báas.tee.yan will want to keep the present spelling, so British and American spelling would depart a tiny bit more. But we must not let the progress of English be held back by the most regressive forces. Britain, for instance, still writes things like "gaol" for "jail" and "centring" for "centering".

Friday, April 8, 2011: "ommond" for "almond"

This Food Friday, let's fix the foolish spelling of a word whose silent-L has been resurrected by people who don't know that the correct pronunciation has no L-sound. If we simply take that misleading L out, we get "amond", which is misleading as to the sound of the A — and of the word, which could be parallel to among, with stress on the second syllable. The A is "broad", as in father, but has also been mispronounced, as short, by people who don't look things up.

Spelling-pronunciations are not legitimate pronunciations, so don't deserve to be preserved in spelling reform.

People really don't want to have to look things up in the dictionary, and all too many dictionaries are willing to include what are plainly spelling-pronunciations born of ignorance. Spellings should be clear as to sound, to the extent that that is possible. Here, it is easily possible to guide people to the correct pronunciation, óm.and.

The L is silent, so should be dropped, and the A takes its "broad" sound, which is the same as short-O. An unambiguous way to spell that sound is OMM. Putting these two things together, we get the absolutely clear and uncomplicated: "ommond".

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

Thursday, April 7, 2011: "tricicle" for "tricycle"

"Tricycle" (trí rhymes with "icicle" (í, but is spelled differently, in a way that has led some people to mispronounce it with a long-I in the second syllable (tríe.sie.kool), rather than the correct short-I. Perhaps we can eliminate that mispronunciation by replacing the Y with an I. It's worth a try: "tricicle".

Wensday, April 6, 2011: "sensitiv" for "sensitive"

Why is there a silent-E at the end of today's word? It doesn't show the prior vowel (I) to be long, because it's actually short. Let's just drop it, OK?: "sensitiv".

Tuesday, April 5, 2011: "ratan" for "rattan" and "ratan"

We have today one of those words with two spellings, the more rational of which is the alternate, while the less rational is the standard spelling. We need to get rid of the less rational spelling altogether, and go with the more rational.

"Rattan" looks as tho the word's stress should fall on the first syllable, because of the double-T. Compare rattle and ratty. In actuality, the stress falls on the second syllable, so the double-T is misleading. Let's just drop it, OK?: "ratan".

Munday, April 4, 2011: "partaire" for "parterre"

Now that spring is well under way, and much of Anglo-America is in "April Showers", let's fix a word for a type of formal garden (or for part of the seating in a theater). The present spelling has an ER that is not pronounced like the ER we most commonly encounter (better, clearer, smarter), but with the sound of AIR in words like air itself, fair, and stairs. Let's use that spelling.

There is one point we can finesse, leaving a final-E to show that the word's stress falls on the last syllable, which is unusual for a noun in English (millionaire, questionnaire, concessionaire). That's not strictly necessary, since English does not generally show syllabic stress, and many words can be stressed on either syllable, esp. if they serve as different parts of speech, such as noun or verb (permit, combat, subject), and there is one word ending in the AIR sound, with stress on the last syllable, that doesn't absolutely have to include a final-E, debonair(e). But if retaining that one letter makes clearer how the word is to be pronounced, why not retain it?: " partaire".

Sunday, April 3, 2011: "mannij" and "mannijer" for "manage" and "manager"

-AGE- is ambiguous, sometimes being said with a long-A, as in the word age itself and other similar words, such as sage and assuage; or it can be said with a ZH-sound, as in collage, garage, and fuselage; or as it is said in today's words, with a schwa that so closely approximates a short-I as to be regarded as a short-I. When the sound is short-I, let's write an I.

The sound of the first-A in today's word is unclear from the presence of only a single-N after it. It could be long (mania, cranium, geranium) but is in fact short. To show that clearly, we need merely double the N: "mannij" and "mannijer".

Saturday, April 2, 2011: "lobeelya" for "lobelia"

-IA is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced in two syllables (phobia, cilia, egomania), but other times as one (ammonia, camellia, dahlia). In "lobelia", it's one syllable, which is better shown by -YA. Were we to write "lobelya", the sound of the E would be unclear, so let's double the E to make plain that it is long: "lobeelya".

Friday, April 1, 2011: "hermaffrodite" for "hermaphrodite"

PH is a ridiculous and inefficient way to spell the ordinary F-sound, so let's just write F. And since the vowel before it is short, let's double that F to show that the A is short: "hermaffrodite".

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

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