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Simpler Spelling
Word of the Day
Archive of Discussions
October-December 2011

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Saturday, December 31, 2011: "dunn" for "done"

The end of a year seems a very appropriate time to fix today's word. -ONE should be pronounced with a long-O, oen, and in most places, it is ("cone", "phone", "alone"). Unfortunately, traditional spelling is so crazy that in three frequent words the letter sequence O-N-E is pronounce bizarrely. "Done" is "one" of them. "Gone" is the third.

This site offered "wun" for "one" on October 11, 2004. Now, let's deal with the other two, in alphabetical order, this New Year's Weekend (since there is no entry in the future-words list starting with F, so we can skip to G after tomorrow's E-word).

"Dun" is the obvious reform for "done", but it is already the spelling of two words, one a verb meaning to press people for payment of a debt, the other an adjective and noun meaning a dull, grayish-brown color. Dare we add a third sense to that three-letter spelling? That's probably not wise, if we can avoid it, and we can, by using the spelling "dunn", as in the uncommon but not rare surname "Dunn".

Ordinarily we should prefer the most frequent of homophones to have the shortest and simplest spelling. But to do that here, we would have to bump the present senses of "dun" to the spelling with two N's, and that would probably be fiercely resisted.

So let's just bite the bullet, reform this word to the less desirable spelling, and be 'done' with it: "dunn".

Friday, December 30, 2011: "cashue" for "cashew"

This Food Friday, let's reform the spelling of a popular edible nut. EW is a peculiar way to spell a long-U sound. If read as a short-E followed by a W-glide, EW actually spells a sort of long-O!

We could respell today's word as "cashoo", "cashu", or "cashue". "Cashoo" might be read as taking the stress on the second syllable, like "bamboo". Altho some people do say that, most don't.

"Cashu" would be fine for the singular, but would leave people wondering whether the plural is "cashus" or "cashues". Since the plural should be "cashues", to show a long-U sound, not short; and since the plural is more common than the singular, we should back-form the singular to: "cashue".

Thursday, December 29, 2011: "boogywoogy" for "boogie-woogie"

We don't need a hyphen or even one IE in this word: "boogywoogy".

Wensday, December 28, 2011: "ammethist" for "amethyst"

There are two problems with today's word.

First, AME should be pronounced with a long-A ("game", "tame", "blame"), but is actually pronounced in two syllables, the first with an unexpected short-A, the second a schwa. To show the short-A, we need merely double the M, which will as well show a syllabic boundary marking out two syllables, not one.

Second, Y midword is ambiguous. The reader should be entitled to see it as representing a long-A sound ("hybrid", "dynamo", "rhyming"), but the sound in today's word is short-I. If the sound is I, let's just write an I: "ammethist".

Tuesday, December 27, 2011: "weewee" for "wee-wee" and "weewee"

There are two forms of today's word, one with a hyphen and one without. Let's work to eliminate the worse of all alternate spellings — there are hundreds of words that have two or more spellings, and people shouldn't have to wonder which is preferred. Let's choose the better one and make that the ONLY acceptable spelling. In the case of today's word, that would be the one without a hyphen. English doesn't like hyphens, and if removing the hyphen would not produce confusion, that's the spelling that should and usually will prevail: "weewee".

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

Munday, December 26, 2011: "veeblefetser" and "veeblefeetser" for "veeblefetzer" and "veeblefeetzer"

You may not have encountered this word, or pair of similar words, from the computing world ("A purposely nonsensical sounding word applied to any sort of obscure or complicated object, e.g. a piece of computer code, model railroad equipment, auto parts, etc."), but it's good to learn something new, isn't it? These two silly words are sort of fun, and easy to remember.

The only problem in both spellings is the Z, which is supposed to represent a voiced S-sound, but here represents an ordinary S-sound because the preceding-T (a voiceless consonant) assimilates the following-S, so the speaker leaves the sibilant-Z voiceless. If the sound is S, we should simply write S: "veeblefetser" and "veeblefeetser".

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

The similar word "veeblefester", for "Any obnoxious person engaged in the (alleged) professions of marketing or management" does not require reform, because all its sounds are represented clearly and properly.

Sunday, December 25, 2011: "twelv" for "twelve"

This first day of Christmas, let's fix the spelling of the word that enumerates the entire period of Christmastide. The E at the end serves no purpose, but might make new readers, especially outside the oldline English-speaking countries, wonder (a) if it marks the E before the LV as long (it does not) or (b) if there is a second syllable to the word, with either a long-E (as with "recipe", "sesame", and "calliope") or a schwa sound at the end (there is not). Let's drop that silent-E and save ourselves a letter: "twelv".

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

Saturday, December 24, 2011: "speerit" for "spirit"

Altho some lexicographers pretend that we say a short-I before the R in today's word, no one in North America really says that. The sound is actually a long-E, and the clearest way to write that is EE, so let's use that: "speerit".

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

Britons who do say, or think they say, a short-I are free to retain the present spelling. It will join a few hundred other words spelled differently in the U.S. and Britain.

Friday, December 23, 2011: "restaront" for "restaurant"

This Food Friday, let's fix the name of a place from which we get fully-prepared food (that is better than most of us can make at home). There are two things wrong with the traditional spelling, as we see things in North America, and three as the word is regarded in Britain.

First, there is an AU, but no AU-sound ("haul", "cause", "taught"). Rather, the sound is schwa, which is most commonly shown by A-alone. So let's drop the U, which will also save a letter.

Second, the A in the third syllable does not take either of A's ordinary sounds, short as in "at" and long as in "ate". Rather, the sound is "broad-A", as in "father", which is the same sound as short-O, which would be much clearer here.

Third, but only in Britain, there is a T at the end of the word that is silent in general British use, which treats the word as tho it is still French, so drops the T-sound. But the word has been in English since, at latest, 1830. Isn't it time to treat it as English? If Britons wish to drop the T, that's fine with me, but since the great preponderance of the world's native speakers of English pronounce that T, we need to leave it in any reformed spelling: "restaront".

Thursday, December 22, 2011: "quizzle" for "qizzle"

Let's address what may be a dying slang term that means either "A question, in the 'izzle' vernacular" (Urban Dictionary) or "Q[:] a wild card word for words beginning with Q, such as question (Streets. Also for other words with initial Q.): I got a qizzle for you" ('s Slang Dictionary).

Q without U is ordinarily reserved for words of foreign origin, and the Q usually represents a K-sound without a W-sound. Here, the Q represents the combination of K and W, so should be represented in the standard way, with QU: "quizzle".

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

Wensday, December 21, 2011: "pekinese" for "Pekingese"

The NG in this name of a small dog is not pronounced as the reader would expect, as in "sing", "spelling", "bling"; or in "finger", "linger", "mingle"; or "binge", "cringe", and "singe". So why is there an NG in the word? Well, "Peking" is an outdated English term for the city now known as "Beijing" (with a J-sound as in "just", not ZH as in "rouge"), and this Chinese breed of dog was very popular in the imperial court based in "Peking". In the other sense of the word, "Pekingese" refers to that city's dialect, and the NG is pronounced, as in "thing". In the name of the dog, however, the sound is just that of N, without more, so let's write N, without more.

The other thing we can fix in the name of the dog is to lowercase it. We don't, after all, capitalize breeds like "poodle" or "schnauzer", nor types of dog like "hound" or "pointer", nor the name of the ancestor of all dogs, the "wolf", so why should we capitalize this breed's name? Lowercasing it has the added virtue of drawing a distinction between the name of the dog and other senses of the word: "pekinese".

Tuesday, December 20, 2011: "obbelus" for "obelus"*

A single-B suggests that the O before it is long, but in fact it is short. To show that, we need merely double the B: "obelus".

* An obelus is "a mark (— or ÷) used in ancient manuscripts to point out spurious, corrupt, doubtful, or superfluous words or passages."

Munday, December 19, 2011: "nouwadays" for "nowadays"

OW is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced as long-O, sometimes as the OU-sound ("know" but "now"). When the sound is OU, we should write OU, or, at the end of the word or before a vowel midword, OUW: "nouwadays".

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

Sunday, December 18, 2011: "macac" for "macaque"

QUE is a preposterous and inefficient way to write a K-sound. Here, we could more simply write C, CK, or K. C, without more ("maniac", "ipecac", "tarmac"), seems sufficient: "macac".

Saturday, December 17, 2011: "laniy" for "lanai"

I do not see any way in traditional English spelling conventions to make the sound of today's word clear. AI is ordinarily pronounced as long-A ("paid", "acclaim", "stain"); sometimes as flat-A ("air", "mail"), short-A ("plaid", "plait") short-E ("said"), in two syllables ("Ural-Altaic, "laity") and only rarely as in today's word, long-I ("bonsai", "balalaika").

How can we show a long-I sound at the end of a word clearly? Perhaps a final-I, alone, would work  ("alibi", "alkali", "cacti"). But there are many words in which -I is said as a long-E ("pastrami", "mariachi", "beriberi").

-Y won't do, because altho it may work in words like "fry", "deny", and "qualify", there are far more words in which a final-Y is pronounced long-E (or, in "clipped" British dialects, short-I): "quality", "geology", "amenity".

How about IE, as in "pie", "belie", and "hogtie"? Nope, there are many more words in which IE in final position is pronounced long-E (or, again, in "clipped" British dialects, short-I), like "movie", "genie", and "calorie".

So there is no standard way to write a long-I sound in final position unambiguously. Let's try a new spelling, using a Y after an I, as we sometimes write long-A or long-E with a following-Y ("way", "key"): "laniy".

Friday, December 16, 2011: "kauf" for "koph", "kof", and "qoph"

On November 30th, I offered "kof" for the name of the 21st letter of the Arabic alphabet, which represents a sound (a "uvular stop consonant" according to that is very similar to that of today's 19th letter of the Hebrew alphabet.* The English forms of the names of those similar letters are pronounced a bit differently. The Arabic has a short-O sound; the Hebrew, an AU-sound. So I suggested "kof" for the Arabic, and now suggest the Hebrew should be written: "kauf".

* The two languages have these two similar letters with similar names because they are both Semitic languages. Arabic is the largest Semitic language; Hebrew, third largest. Amharic is second largest, in number of speakers.

Thursday, December 15, 2011: "inishativ" for "initiative"

TI does not form the SH-sound. And IVE should be pronounced with a long-I sound; but here, the sound is short-I: "inishativ".

Wensday, December 14, 2011: "haloo" and "haloe" for "halloo", "hallo", and "halloa"

Let's simplify today an unusual term, mainly used to call dogs in a hunt, to reflect its two pronunciations, ha.lúe and ha.lóe, which are currently represented by three spellings. "Halloa" is not three syllables, tho its spelling suggests it is.

ALL is generally pronounced with an AU-sound ("hall", "ball", "call"), which is not the case here. Rather, the A is said as a schwa.

The double-L suggests that the word's stress falls on the first syllable, whereas it actually falls on the second.

There is no completely unambiguous way to write a lot of words that fall before the "liquids" R and L, but there are more-ambiguous and less-ambiguous ways to spell them. A single-L is less ambiguous here, so let's drop one of the L's and save ourselves a letter.

We can save another letter from the spelling "halloa" by dropping the second-A. But we can't just leave "halo", because that is already a word, pronounced háe.loe. No, we need to replace that A with E, which also suggests that the word's stress falls on the second syllable, which is all to the good: "haloo" and "haloe".

Tuesday, December 13, 2011: "gizer" (North American) or "gezer" (British) for "geyser"

There are two senses and two pronunciations in two different parts of the English-speaking world for today's word. The spelling is in any case wrong.*

EY is ambiguous ("they", "key", "eye": thae, kee, ie). The S in both geographic areas and senses is pronounced Z, so should be written Z.

In North America, we need merely take the Y out and change the E to I and S to Z to arrive at a simple, clear, phonetic spelling, "gizer".

For Britain, we need to take the Y out and change the S to Z, but can leave the first-E. The resulting "gezer" will remain distinct from the homophone "geezer".

So today's proposed reforms are: "gizer" and "gezer".

My thanks to "Clap..." for "gizer".

* In North America, "geyser" means only a natural hotspring that periodically sends up a jet of water. In Britain, it has that meaning plus a second: a home water heater.

Munday, December 12, 2011: "finnish" for "finish"

The single-N in this word leaves unclear the sound of the first-I. Is it long, as in "winish", or short, as in "diminish"? It's short, as in the homonym "Finnish". We should double the N to show that, even if in certain circumstances (at the start of a sentence or in block-capped text) it will become a homograph for the word that means someone from Finland. After all, we have the word "polish", which is a homograph but not homophone for a person from Poland ("Polish): "finnish".

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

Sunday, December 11, 2011: "ettimollojy" and "ettimolojjical" for "etymology" and "etymological"

The E in today's words is short, but the single-T after it makes that unclear. So let's double the T.

Y midword should be reserved to the long-I sound ("dynamite", "myopic", "cycle"). Here, the sound is short-I, so let's use an I.

The single-L leaves unclear the sound of the preceding-O. Let's double the L (as in "follow", "pollen", "holly") in the noun, where the word's stress will also be cued by the double-L.

G is the wrong letter in these words. The sound is J, so we should use J.

In the adjective, the L goes with the following syllable, so we don't need to double it. Rather, the word's stress falling on the fourth syllable renders the second-O short. To show that, we need to double the J, which will also suggest that the syllable before it takes the word's stress.

Putting this all together, we get: "ettimollojy" and "ettimolojjical".

Saturday, December 10, 2011: "dillatory" for "dilatory"

The single-L in today's word suggests that the preceding-I is long (as it is in "dilate" and "silage"), whereas it is actually short. To show that, we need merely double the L: "dillatory".

Friday, December 9, 2011: "caje" and "cajy" for "cage", "cagy", and "cagey"

There is no reason to use a G to represent the J-sound. We have J. Let's use it. Once we do use J, we don't need to put an E after it before adding the Y in the adjective: "caje" and "cajy".

My thanks to "yaora..." for "caje".

Thursday, December 8, 2011: "bakdor" for "backdoor" and "back-door"

OOR is a peculiar and inefficient way to spell what is most commonly spelled OR. So let's drop one of the O's.

CK is not necessary to express the K-sound in the middle of a word before another consonant, so we can drop the C ("bakdor") or the K ("bacdor"). In that the sound at issue is the K-sound, retaining the C (which has no sound of its own, but only K's or S's) would be a bad choice.

And plainly we don't need a hyphen for this compound word.

Putting this all together, then, we get: "bakdor".

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

Wensday, December 7, 2011: "aloy" for "alloy"

ALL is ordinarily pronounced with an AU-sound, as in "all" itself, "ball", "call", and many other words. In today's noun, the sound is not AU but short-A, which is perhaps most commonly written AL (that is, with one-L), as in "Al" (short for Alan, Albert, Aloysius, and, often, Alfred), "Alabama", and "alimony". Alas, there are, with a following-L or -R, various spellings for the same sound, and no consistency. But the short-A sound before an L-sound is better shown by AL than by ALL.

The verb "alloy" is best said with a schwa in the first syllable and the word's stress on the second (following the normal rule that, in general, nouns take stress at the beginning of the word, but verbs at the end). The traditional spelling in no way suggests that pronunciation, but the reform offered today does.

In no event, with either the noun or the verb, is ALL a good spelling: "aloy".

Tuesday, December 6, 2011: "wyt" for "wight"

IGH — with two silent consonants — is a preposterous, cumbersome, and inefficient way to write a long-I sound, so we should get rid of it everywhere, even in words that are largely dialectal or obsolete, as is today's. Mid-word, Y is a far better way to write a long-I ("hybrid", "dynamo", "myopia"): "wyt".

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

Munday, December 5, 2011: "violinn" for "violin"

Altho English does not always indicate syllabic stress, it does sometimes, and that is helpful to readers, especially new readers from outside the old-line English-speaking countries. "Violin" takes stress on the last syllable, which is unusual for a noun. We can show that simply by doubling the N. Double consonants at the end of a word are commonplace in English ("inn", "ebb", "buzz"). Most such doubled consonants serve no purpose. This one would: "violinn".

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

Sunday, December 4, 2011: "eutopea" for "utopia"

The U in today's word is ambiguous. It could be pronounced long-U with an intial Y-glide, long-U without an initial Y-glide, or even short-U. In fact, it takes the long-U sound with an initial Y-glide, and EU is a much clearer way to write that ("euphemism", "euphonious", "eulogy"). Besides, EU- has the sense of "good" or "well" in other words, so fits the concept of utopia — tho in this word the U comes from a different Greek word, meaning "no", which combines with "topos", meaning "place", so that the full word "utopia" means "no place": there can be no perfect place on Earth, tho we might usefully aspire to create one.

The other thing we might fix in today's word is the IA ending, which employs an I for a long-E or Y-sound. Indeed, IA in other positions than final can have a long-I sound ("dial", "diagram", "diameter"). The usual English pronunciation of the female given name "Maria" in earlier times had a long-I near the end, like the present spelling "Mariah".

EA is not completely clear, given that the two-syllable pronunciations "area", "rhea", and "cornea" alternate with the one-syllable pronunciations "pea", "sea", and "tea". But EA is somewhat better. Why would we use an I to represent an E-sound?: "eutopea".

Saturday, December 3, 2011: "terjiversate" for "tergiversate"'s Hot Word Blog chose this very rare word as its word of the year for 2011. It means "to change repeatedly one’s attitude or opinions with respect to a cause, subject, etc.; equivocate."'s rationale for choosing this weird word is "The stock market, politicians and even public opinion polls have tergiversated all year long." I doubt very seriously that it will catch on as to become commonplace. But, since it is in the spotlite at the moment, let's fix it.

The word's stress is very odd, on the first syllable of four, with a secondary stress on the last syllable: tér.ji.ver.sàet. There's no way to show that thru spelling, so we shouldn't even try. But what we can show is that the G does not take G's own, unique sound, but J's. We need to show that because the present spelling incorporates the words "give" and "giver", both of which do take G's own ("hard") sound, which is not the sound here: "terjiversate".

Friday, December 2, 2011: "saultceller" for "saltcellar"

This Food Friday, let's fix the name of a little dish or, less commonly, shaker for salt that is put out on the table in some formal dining situations. The current spelling suggests a room below ground level devoted to the storage of salt. A quick replacement of the A with E fixes that, and makes plain that the vowel sound in the last syllable does not rhyme with "star", "bar", or "car".

We also need to change the AL to clarify its sound, which here is the vowel sound commonly spelled with AU (aura, laud, fault): "saultceller".

Thursday, December 1, 2011: "ressiprossity" for "reciprocity"

RE is commonly pronounced with a long-E, as in the related words "reciprocal" and "reciprocation". Here, the E is short, so we need to show that. We cannot double the following consonant, which is the way we generally show a short vowel, because it is C, and CC before the following-I would he pronounced KS. So we need to replace the C with S and double that. Indeed, we need to do that after the O too, because it too is short, but can be read as long before the single-C toward the end of the word: "ressiprossity".

Wensday, November 30, 2011: "kof" for "qaf"*

The rule in words originally from English is that Q is not to be used without a following-U, but borrowing from other languages has brought in words in which Q is used without a U. Tho it might be intended that such uses will be read as a different sound from the ordinary English K, they in fact are not read any such way by speakers of English, but only as K. If the sound is K, let's just write K.

The vowel is also wrong, being a short-O that is written with an A. If the sound is short-O, we should plainly write O: "kof".

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

* "Qaf" is the name of a letter in Arabic, which takes a sound that does not exist in English, a type of K said far back in the throat.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011: "farmacopeea" for "pharmacopoeia" and "pharmacopeia"

There are two bad areas in today's five-syllable word. The first is at the very beginning, which uses a preposterous PH to represent an F-sound. Not only is that cumbersome and unreasonable, but it is also ambiguous, since PH is sometimes pronounced like an ordinary P, at least by some people ("diphthong", "naphtha", "diphtheria"), but it is also sometimes pronounced as it looks, like a regular P-sound followed by a regular H-sound ("uphold", "uphill", "upholstery"). So let's change it to F.

The second problem is the odd spelling of the last two syllables. One contains OE. Why? How is that supposed to be pronounced? Long-A, as in the (mis)pronunciation of the last name of the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, John Boehner? Like OI? If it is just to be said as a long-E, why is there an O? The alternate spelling "pharmacopeia" is little better, since EI can be pronounced long-A ("freight", "weigh", "beige"), long-I ("sleight", "height", and "n/either" as many people say it), and long-E ("deceive", "weird", and "n/either" as other people say it). Here, the sound is long-E, and the clearest way to write that is EE. Let's use that, which has the added advantage of suggesting that the word's primary stress falls on that syllable, which it does: "farmacopeea".

Munday, November 28, 2011: "obzerv" and "observation" for "observe" and "observation"

We have today a pair of words that are plainly related but pronounced differently at one key point, the S. In "observe", the sound is Z, so should be written Z. In "observation", the sound is S, so the S can remain.

The other problem with "observe" is that the final-E serves absolutely no purpose. It does not, as some final-E's do, mark the vowel ahead of the preceding consonant(s) long, because the ER-sound is invariable. Nor is it pronounced as long-E, as some other final-E's are ("abalone", "epitome", "calliope"). So why is it there? Let's drop it and save ourselves a letter.

"Observation" has the silly -TION ending, with an SH-sound, but that is so well established and is learned so early that we needn't alter it. Ultimately, we should get rid of it, and replace the TI, which does not spell the SH-sound, with SH. But that will await another day: "obzerv", but still "observation".

Sunday, November 27, 2011: "nuby" for "newbie"

There are two ambiguous areas in today's short word. First, EW is an odd way to spell a long-U sound, with no U in sight; and some of the words spelled that way have a long-U sound with an initial Y-glide ("few", "hew", "askew"), whereas most people do not employ an initial Y-glide in "new" (nor in "flew", "grew", or "cashew"). U before a single consonant, as in the case of the B here, will be read as long, and the individual reader can decide whether to say an initial Y-glide (which is far more common in Britain than in North America) or not.

The second problem today is the ambiguity of the final-IE. It is not possible, with standard spelling conventions, to make the sound completely clear, since both likely spellings, -IE and -Y, can be pronounced as either long-I ("magpie", "hogtie", "belie"; "deny", "quantify", the verb "multiply") or long-E ("cookie", "pixie", "bourgeosie"; "brawny", "quality", the adverb "multiply").  -Y is rarely pronounced long-I in words of more than one syllable, however, so that is the better choice. And it saves a letter: "nuby".

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

Saturday, November 26, 2011: "morg" for "morgue"

The UE at the end of the traditional spelling serves absolutely no purpose, in that both letters are silent. So let's just drop them, OK?: "morg".

Friday, November 25, 2011: "lazer" for "laser"

The sound of the S in today's word is Z, so we should write Z: "lazer".

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

Thursday, November 24, 2011: "inishal" for "initial"

Why would we use TI to represent an SH-sound?: "inishal".

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

Wensday, November 23, 2011: "huvver" for "hover"

OVE should be pronounced with a long-O ("rove", "stove", "cove"), but here and in a number of other words ("love", "above", "covenant") it is actually pronounced with a short-U. I have no idea how so bizarre a sound attached to this spelling or, in the alternative, how so bizarre a spelling attached to this sound,* but it's time to disconnect them and show the actual sound, clearly: "huvver".

* Possible explanations for this oddity appear in the blog "Hidden nuggets in the language we speak", but I cannot vouch for the plausible explanations given for the mistaken-O and misleading-E.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011: "gize" for "guise"

There are two things wrong with this word. First, there is a silent-U; second, there is an S, even tho the sound is Z. Fortunately, there are two quick fixes, to drop the U (and save ourselves a letter) and change the S to Z: "gize".

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

Munday, November 21, 2011: "fanattic" for "fanatic"

A single-T leaves unclear the sound of the preceding-A. Is it long? Is it short? It's short, and the conventional way to show that is by doubling the following consonant. Here, that's the T: "fanattic".

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

Sunday, November 20, 2011: "espouz" for "espouse"

Why is there an S toward the end of this word, when the sound is Z? Given that there is a well-known word "spouse" that does have an S-sound there, it is especially important that we not have an S in "espouse".

Once we replace the S with Z, we don't need a final-E, because it would be completely silent, in that it would not in any way alter the perception of the OU before the Z. So let's save ourselves a letter and just drop it, OK?: "espouz".

Saturday, November 19, 2011: "derassinate" for "deracinate"

This uncommon word for "pull up by the roots, eradicate, or remove from one's culture" looks as tho the first-A should be long, since it plainly relates to "race" (in the sense of "root"), and "race" has a long-A. But altho the RAC is indeed related to "race", in this word is has a short-A. To show that, we would ordinarily double the following consonant, but that wouldn't work here, because CC before an I would be pronounced like KS, which is not the sound here. We need to replace the C with S, and double that: "derassinate".

Friday, November 18, 2011: "chiwawa" for "Chihuahua"

The name of this little dog is spelled sensibly in Spanish, but this is English, and the Spanish spelling makes absolutely no sense here. There are two silent-H's! That's absurd. The two HU's merely express, in Spanish spelling conventions, what is conventionally spelled in English with a W. Let us substitute W in both places.

We probably don't need to substitute OW for the first-A ("chiwowwa"), and it might be confusing, since OW is sometimes pronounced with the OU-sound. So let's leave A's in the ending (-WAWA).

Altho "Chihuahua" is a Mexican state, and in that use should have a capital-C, the tiny dog does not need a big-C: "chiwawa".

Thursday, November 17, 2011: "boalster" for "bolster"

The three-letter consonant cluster LST should surely mark the preceding-O short, but in fact that O is long. In that we cannot change the LST consonant cluster, since all its sounds are needed and shown as short as possible, we need to mark the long-O sound within the representation of the vowel. Before a consonant cluster, there are two ways to do that, OE and OA. Both are less than fully clear, but words like "poet", "coed", and "macroeconomics" argue against OE, whereas words like "coast", "approach", and "goal" argue for OA. I'm persuaded:  "boalster".

Wensday, November 16, 2011: "ahedd" for "ahead"

EA is a very bad way to spell a short-E sound, so we should eliminate all occurrences of EA as short-E. In today's word, there is a problem, because of the word "ah", which can be seen to start today's word, even tho it is actually unrelated. If we drop the A in the middle, "ahed" would seem to be the past tense of a verb "ah", and tho the dictionary may regard "ah" as an interjection only, usage does not, and we have the expression "oohing and ahing", which shows that "ah" does have a verbal form. So "ahed" would not work for "ahead". There is, however, a solution, which gets rid of the misleading EA but still distinguishes the resulting reform from the past tense of a verbal "ah", a double-D at the end of the word. We have two other common words that end in DD, "add" and "odd". Now we'll have three: "ahedd".

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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011: "yeer" for "year"

EA is ambiguous ("ear", "area", "bread", "yea", "yeah", and "Sean" are pronounced eer, ái.ree.ya, bred, yae, yai, and shaun). Here, the sound is long-E, and the clearest way to write that is EE: "yeer".

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

Munday, November 14, 2011: "winno" for "winnow"

OW is ambiguous, usually being pronounced as tho written OU and thus having the OU-sound ("how", "now", "brown"), but other times being pronounced as an ordinary long-O ("flow", "show", "glow"). It is thus impossible to know how an OW is to be pronounced, so we should endeavor to respell all words that now have OW in them: "winno".

Sunday, November 13, 2011: "ve" for "vee"

We don't need two E's to show a long-E sound at the end of a word ("be", "he", "she"). One will do very nicely: "ve".

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

Saturday, November 12, 2011: "europathojennic" for "uropathogenic"

There are three problems with today's medical word. First, UR is ambiguous ("urgent", "urine", "urology", pronounced ér.jant, yúe.rin, yoo.ról.a.jèe). Here, the sound is short-OO with an initial Y-glide, which is much more clearly shown by EUR.

Second, the G does not take G's own, unique sound (sometimes called "hard-G"), but J's sound. We have the letter J for that sound, so why would we use G?

And third, the E in the fifth syllable could be long, given that there is only a single-N after it, and the word "gene", with its long-E, might be thought part of this medical term. To show that the E is short, we should double the N.

Putting this all together, then, we get: "europathojennic".

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

Friday, November 11, 2011: "tanjible" for "tangible"

There are two problems with the traditional spelling of today's word. First, there is an N-G sequence that does not form either of the usual NG-sounds, as in "singer" and "finger" (pronounced and ng.ger). Rather, the N is said as an ordinary N, and the G starts the following syllable.

The second problem is that the G does not represent G's own, unique sound (as in "give", "gift", and "gibbon"), but J's sound. We have a letter J. There is no reason not to use it. Quite the contrary, there is very good reason not to use G in this location, right after an N: "tanjible".

Thursday, November 10, 2011: "sevveral" for "several"

The single-V leaves unclear the sound of the preceding-E, especially in that there is also an E after the V, as powerfully suggests that the first-E is long. In actuality, the first-E is short, and the second does not connect in any way with the first syllable. To show this, we need merely double the V.

As regards actual pronunciation, most people, most of the time, do not pronounce a middle syllable, but 'mute' that E. Still, in formal speech all three syllables are pronounced, so we should retain the middle-E in the spelling. In informal speech, native speakers of English will continue to drop the middle syllable: "sevveral".

Wensday, November 9, 2011: "lol" for "loll"

OLL is ambiguous, often being pronounced with a long-O ("boll", "poll", "toll"), but other times being pronounced with a short-O ("Bollywood", "polliwog", "follow"). Ordinarily, a double consonant would indicate a short vowel before it, and in inflected verb forms, we would double the L here too (lolled, lolling), because that is the rule as regards adding a suffix that might confuse the sound if the final consonant were not doubled.

Here, however, the L is final, so would of course render the vowel before it short even if single. We have the term "pol" (for a politician, esp. one inclined to make dubious deals) as model for how to treat current "loll": "lol".

Note: The Internet abbreviation "lol" or "LOL", for "laugh out loud", is far more commonly said as letters (el oh el) than as a word, like "loll", with a short-O. This project concerns words, not abbreviations, so the existence of that abbreviation does not argue against reforming this word to "lol". Still, the spoken form of the Internet abbreviation has a short-O, so provides support for today's suggested reform.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011: "korma" for "qorma"

"Qorma" is a variant of "korma" that employs the letter Q in an un-English way. Tho in Urdu, this word for a kind of Indian cooking* might be pronounced with a sound different from the standard English K, in English, no such exotic sound is employed, but only a simple K-sound. So we should banish the needless and un-English variant spelling with Q altogether and permit only the standard spelling: "korma".

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

*  "any of a variety of Indian dishes consisting of meat or vegetables braised with water, stock, yogurt, or cream".

Munday, November 7, 2011: "fial" for "phial"

"Phial" is a variant of "vial", and both are homonyms (for "file" and "vile") that should probably be banished from the language. But as long as "phial" remains in use, it should at least be spelled sensibly, with an F for the F-sound: "fial".

Sunday, November 6, 2011: "ofthalmollojy" for "ophthalmology"

There are three problems with today's word. First is the absurd, inefficient, and ambiguous PH for an ordinary F-sound. If the sound is F, let's just write F.

The second problem is the single-L, which leaves unclear the sound of the O before it, which could be seen as long, whereas it is actually short. There is, alas, sometimes no way to be completely clear as regards sound by using traditional spelling conventions, and some words with OLL are pronounced with a long-O ("boll", "toll", "poll"). But the wider convention that a doubled consonant marks the prior vowel short seems the better choice, and does work with other words ("follow", "hollow", "holly"). So let's double the L.

Third, the G represents a J-sound. Why? We have the letter J for that sound. Let's use it.

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

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

Saturday, November 5, 2011: "neet" for "neat"

EA is ambiguous, often being pronounced long-E, as here; other times, as short-E ("bread", "head", "homestead"); yet others, as two adjoining vowels ("creation", "area", "rhea"). The clearest way to show a long-E is EE, so let's use that: "neet".

Friday, November 4, 2011: "mycrofone" for "microphone"

The two-letter consonant cluster CR renders unclear the sound of the vowel before it, in this case, the I. Ordinarily, two consonants in a row mark the prior vowel as short, but here it's long. We need to show the vowel's sound in the spelling of the vowel itself. Fortunately, we have an easy way to show long-I midword: Y ("hybrid", "dynamite", "cycle"). Let's use that.

The second problem in today's word is the ridiculous, inefficient, and ambiguous PH ("uphold", "diphthong", "upholstery")". Here, the sound is supposed to be F, not P, and not the two sounds P and H in sequence. So let's write F: "mycrofone".

Thursday, November 3, 2011: "likewize" for "likwise"

ISE is ambiguous. It should be pronounced with an S-sound (since it has an S), as it is in "vise", "precise", and "paradise". That is not the sound here, which is the Z-sound. If the sound is Z, let's write Z: "likewize".

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

Wensday, November 2, 2011: "insectivor" and "insectivvorus" for "insectivore" and "insectivorous"

As with yesterday's word, we don't need a final-E on today's noun, so let's just drop it, OK? With the adjective, we should double the V at once to show clearly that the I is short and that the word's stress shifts to the third syllable. Moreover, there is no OU-sound in the last syllable, so we can drop the O: "insectivor" and "insectivvorus".

My thanks to "garden..." for "insectivor".

Tuesday, November 1, 2011: "hornblend" for "hornblende"

The final-E of today's word is entirely silent. It doesn't even indicate a long-E before the ND, because that E is short. Nor does it distinguish "hornblende" from any other word, since there is no word close to it. "Blende" is an entirely different mineral, and we don't need to change that, since the final-E there does serve to distinguish that word from "blend". We do not need a final-E here, tho: "hornblend".

Munday, October 31, 2011: "gruf" for "gruff"

We don't need a second-F here, any more than we do on "if", "chef", or "deaf": "gruf".

The comparative and superlative, "gruffer" and "gruffest", would need a double-F, but they occur rarely, and that doubling follows standard rules of English spelling. I used as samples only words that have a short vowel before the final-F, since the only sensible justification for doubling the F would be to show that the preceding vowel is short. But that's not really necessary, because a final consonant would always mark a single vowel before it as short. The only way you can show a long vowel before a final consonant would be within the spelling of the vowel sound, e.g., "brief", "aloof", and "reef".

Sunday, October 30, 2011: "flouwer" for "flower"

OW is ambiguous, and there is a word "flow" for which "flower" could be the agent form (something that flows). That's not what a flower is. To show that the sound is OU not long-O, we need merely add a U before the W: "flouwer".

My thanks to — appropriately — "garden..." for this suggestion.

Saturday, October 29, 2011: "emerritus" for "emeritus"

A single-R makes the pronunciation of the preceding-E unclear. It might be long; it might be part of the sound most commonly written ER; it might be a schwa before a third syllable that starts with the R. Let's make plain, by doubling the R, that the sound is ER and the word's stress falls on the second syllable: "emerritus".

Friday, October 28, 2011: "dayvanoggary" for "Devanagari"

Today's word is the name of the script in which most languages of the Indian Subcontinent are written. Most readers of English are likely to think it is pronounced da.vòn.a.gó, but it is actually pronounced dàóg.a.rêe. The way to write that so most readers in English-speaking countries will know how to say it is: "dayvanoggary".

I don't think it needs to be capitalized, since it derives from "alphabet of the gods, from deva god + nagari an Indian alphabet", not from a placename or person's name. If you prefer to capitalize it, that's fine.

Thursday, October 27, 2011: "chuckra" for "chakra" and "cakra"

Today's word, from Hindu spiritualism, has two ridiculous spellings in English. The original word is written in Devanagari script, and the dopy present English spellings are clumsy transliterations that pay little heed to the sounds of English. "Cakra" is particularly stupid, since there is not so much as a hint of the CH-sound in the spelling, even tho the word starts off with an English CH-sound (as in "church"). The spelling "chakra" has the proper CH, but uses A to represent a short-U sound. Why? Let's write the word as it is said: "chuckra".

Wensday, October 26, 2011: "bullavard" for "boulevard"

Why is there an OU in today's word? There's no OU-sound. The actual pronunciation of the first syllable by most people is the same as that of "bull", so let's spell it that way. People who use a long-U (or long-OO, the same sound) where most use a short-OO, can perfectly well see the ULL as permitting that, even as a double-L gives clearer guidance toward the short-OO sound than would a single-L. The vowel of the middle syllable is schwa, which is better written A than E. The last syllable, however, is fine just as it is: "bullavard".

Tuesday, October 25, 2011: "aijent" for "agent"

There are two problems with today's word. First, an initial A- is often pronounced as schwa ("about", "around", "anonymous"). Here, however, the sound is long-A. At the end of a word, AY is the clearest way to write that. In other locations, AI is probably most common if the convention of vowel-consonant-E ("make", "bane", "tame") is not available, which it is not, here.

Second, G is ambiguous, having three sounds even before E: (1) its own, unique sound that no other letter represents, sometimes called "hard"-G ("gecko", "geisha", "gestapo"); (2) a "soft"-G, which is nothing but J's sound ("germane", "gestation", "gentleman"); and (3) a ZH-sound, mainly in words from French ("genre", gendarme", "garage"). In today's word, the sound is that of J, so we should just write J: "aijent".

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

Munday, October 24, 2011: "wheet" for "wheat"

EA is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced long-E, as here, but other times as short-E ("head", "bread", and, most relevantly, "threat") or two syllables ("creation", "area", "rhea"). Let's make plain that the sound here is long-E: "wheet".

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

Sunday, October 23, 2011: "eurollojy" and "eurolojjical"for "urology" and "urological"

UR is ambiguous: "urn", "abjure", "pure", "azure" are pronounced ern, aab.júer, pyuer, and áa.zher. Here, the sound is long-U with an initial Y-glide, which is much better shown by EUR.

GY is ambiguous. In "gynecology", the first GY has a "hard"-G and long-I sound, but the second, a "soft"-G (the J-sound) and long-E. If the sound is J, let's write J.

A single-L in both of today's words at once leaves the sound of the first-O unclear, since it could be long, and does not cue the reader as to which syllable is stressed. In "urology", the second syllable is stressed, which we can show by doubling the following-L. In "urological", the third syllable is stressed, which we can show by doubling the J: "eurollojy" and "eurolojjical".

Saturday, October 22, 2011: "transfiction" for "transfixion"

XION is found in only 4 common English words. That's 4 too many, since its spelling is odd and pronunciation unclear, especially to a new reader: "transfiction".

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

Friday, October 21, 2011: "signacher" for "signature"

TURE is a misleading way to spell the third syllable of today's word. TU does not make a CH-sound, which is the initial sound of that syllable.  And URE should be pronounced with a long-U, as in "allure", "pure", and "sure". That is not the sound here: "signacher".

Thursday, October 20, 2011: "rizzible" for "risible"

Is the first-I in today's word long or short? A reader encountering the word for the first time may compare it to "rise", which has a long-I. But the I is actually short. To show that, we need merely double the consonant after it. What consonant should that be? The sound is Z, so the consonant to be doubled should be Z: "rizzible".

Wensday, October 19, 2011: "kursh" (and plural, "kuruesh") for "qirsh","qursh", "gursh", "girsh", "ghirsh", and plural "qurush"

Today's word is the name of a coin in Saudi Arabia. That does not exempt it from following English spelling conventions in English. Its actual spelling is in Arabic script, so there is no "correct" Roman-alphabet spelling, just a transliteration. If a transliteration is misleading or un-English, we should fix the spelling to fit into English seamlessly.

The sound is what counts, and the sound is most simply written: "kursh" for the singular, "kuruesh" for the plural.

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011: "fayaton" for "phaeton"

This is a term for a type of carriage or early motorcar, so will not come up often, but that very rarity should make it hard to argue against fixing it. PH is a preposterous and inefficient way to write a simple F-sound. AE is an odd, very unclear way to write two syllables, long-A followed by a schwa (tho some people in Britain say only a long-A). We can show the actual sounds much better: "fayaton".

Britons who wish to show their two-syllable pronunciation can write "fayton" or "faiton", and this word will join the few hundred other words spelled differently in Britain and the United States.

Munday, October 17, 2011: "onwerd" for "onward"

WARD is a word to itself, pronounced with an AU-sound (as in "aura", "haul", and "caustic"). That is not the sound here, which is, instead, the sound most commonly written ER. Let's use that: "onwerd".

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

Sunday, October 16, 2011: "neer" for "near"

EA is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced, as here, as long-E; other times being pronounced short-E ("bread", "homestead"); yet other times being pronounced in two syllables ("creation", "apnea"). In today's word, the EA represents a simple long-E, which is most clearly written EE: "neer".

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

Saturday, October 15, 2011: "mennopauz" for "menopause"

There are two problem areas in today's word, the first-E, which could be long or short, given that there is only a single-N after it, and the SE at the end, which should be pronounced with an S-sound ("concise", "morose", "profuse") but is actually pronounced as tho Z. We can show that the first-E is short simply by doubling the following-N. And we can show the Z-sound by replacing the S with a Z and either leaving or dropping the final-E. Why retain a needless, silent letter? Let's drop it, and thus make up for the N we added: "mennopauz".

Friday, October 14, 2011: "lyceeum" for "lyceum"

English spelling does not usually strive to show syllabic stress, but when syllabic stress is unusual and unexpected, having a way, in spelling, to indicate that is a plus.

The stress of English words is more regular than people might think. In general, nouns take stress at or near the beginning of the word, and verbs, at or near the end. We can see this in words that are both nouns and verbs: pé for the noun; per.mít for the verb; cóm.bat for the noun, com.bát for the verb. Other parts of speech have similar patterns. Adjectives tend to take stress toward the front (él.e.gant, glám.or.ous, hánd.some); adverbs, toward the back (a.bróad, out.síed, up.stáirs). (Adverbs formed by adding -LY to other words, however, take the stress of the base word.) Prepositions (a.bóut, be.twéen, un.der.néath) and interjections (a.lás, a.hém, wa.hóo), toward the back.

These are only tendencies, not absolute rules, and when adjectives and nouns of the same form have different stresses, the noun tends to keep its first-syllable stress, while the adjective yields, to take stress on a later syllable (cón.tent for the noun, con.tént for the adjective).

Today's word is a noun, and we would thus expect its stress to be on the first syllable (lý But it is actually on the second (ly.cé.um). Sometimes when we have an unexpected stress, we do show it in spelling, for instance "kitchenette", "largesse", "comedienne". Such spellings are helpful to readers, esp. new readers or readers from outside English-speaking countries, who have only writing to show them how things are pronounced. So let's create another spelling that clarifies where an unexpected syllabic stress occurs: "lyceeum".

Thursday, October 13, 2011: "kumiss" for "koumis", "koumiss", "koumyss", and "kumiss" itself

We have today a case in which there are multiple spellings for an unusual word*, one of which is clearly best. We should choose that one spelling, make it standard, and banish all the others. "Kumiss" is forthright, and shows all the sounds clearly. All the others have problems. The ones with OU confuse the issue of the sound of that vowel, which is long-U without an initial Y-glide, not the OU-sound. The one with Y is dopy, because the Y represents a simple short-I, not a long-I, so just plain I would do. "Kumis", with a single-S, could be read as the plural of a hypothetical (but nonexistent) word "kumi", with the S being pronounced as Z. The one spelling that makes best sense is: "kumiss".

* "fermented mare's or camel's milk, used as a beverage by Asian nomads."

Wensday, October 12, 2011: "jeen/s" for "jean/s"

EA is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced as short-E ("bread", "head", "thread"), and sometimes in two syllables ("react", "area", "diarrhea"). For a simple long-E sound, as here, EE is much better:  "jeen/s".

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

Tuesday, October 11, 2011: "indeterminit" for "indeterminate"

The ending ATE should be pronounced with a long-A, as in the word "ate" itself, "spate", and "gyrate". That is not the sound here, which is a schwa that so closely approximates a full short-I that we can write it with an I, which will be pronounced short once we drop the final-E: "indeterminit".

Munday, October 10, 2011: "horseshue" for "horseshoe"

Why is a long-U sound spelled with an O?: "horseshue".

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

Sunday, October 9, 2011: "garilla" for "guerrilla" and "guerilla"

There are two spellings for today's word, largely because speakers of English couldn't remember whether there are two R's or only one. The word is Spanish, for "little war", and people who know Spanish will know there are supposed to be two R's, from "guerra", the regular word for a regular war. But English use has already partly simplified this word, dropping one of the R's as many people write it. Let's finish the job, by getting rid of the silent-U and replacing the E with an A, since the sound is schwa, and schwa is most commonly written with an A. That will retain a difference from "gorilla" but make it easier for people to remember how to spell the word for irregular warfare: "garilla".

Saturday, October 8, 2011: "frizbe" for "Frisbee"

Why is there an S in today's word? There is no S-sound. The S represents a Z-sound, but we have a letter Z for that. Let's use Z.

We don't need two E's to show a long-E sound in final position. One will do quite nicely (be, he, she).

And we don't need a capital letter just because the term originated as a trademark. When used generically, the word should be phonetic and lowercase unless it starts a sentence: "frizbe".

Friday, October 7, 2011: "essoterric" for "esoteric"

There are two issues in today's word. First is the sound of the vowels, given that there are no double consonants or consonant clusters, which might imply that all the vowels in the first three syllables are long. They are not. The first-E is short, so we should double the S to show that. The O is a schwa, so we can leave it as-is. The second-E is part of the ER-sound, but we need to double the R to show that. The I is fine, since it is closed by the C at the very end of the word.

The second issue is syllabic stress. English spelling does not strive to show syllabic stress, but if we can do so without confusing other issues, so much the better. Today's four-syllable word takes primary stress on the third syllable and secondary stress on the first (ès.a.tér.ik). That is not self-evident. Compare "phenomenal", another four-syllable word, in which there is only one stressed syllable, the second.

Fortuitously, in clarifying the vowel sounds by doubling the following consonant, we also indicate the two stressed syllables: "essoteric".

Thursday, October 6, 2011: "dialisis" for "dialysis"

Why is there a Y in this word? Y doesn't have any sound of its own as a vowel, only as a consonant (yes, yacht, young). But if we look at the various uses of Y as a vowel, it is most sensibly used for long-I midword (hybrid, dynamite, pyromaniac) or long-E at the end of a word (sensibly, quality, orthography). Here, however, the sound is short-I. We don't need Y for that sound. We have I. Let's use it: "dialisis".

Wensday, October 5, 2011: "cugar" for "cougar"

The OU in the traditional spelling of today's word does not represent the OU-sound, but a simple long-U sound, without an initial Y-glide (the distinction between "poor" and "pure" is that "pure" has an initial Y-glide, while "poor" does not). We could respell today's word as "coogar" or "cugar". Let's save a letter and drop the O rather than add a second-O in place of the U: "cugar".

Tuesday, October 4, 2011: "bolairo" for "bolero"

ER ordinarily has the sound in ermine, person, and better. That is not the sound here, which is the AI-sound of air, mail, and stairs. Let's write AI in place of the E: "bolairo".

Munday, October 3, 2011: "aigyue" for "ague"

-GUE is ambiguous, usually being pronounced as a simple G-sound (or "hard"-G, another way of saying the same thing): vogue, catalogue, and, most relevantly to today's word, plague. That is not the sound here. Rather, the -GUE represents an entire new syllable, exactly as in argue, the only other word in English in which -GUE is pronounced -gyue. Plainly, we need to spell that syllable differently to make plain its unusual sound. We could write -GYU, but -GYUE would be less odd as most people regard things, -U being an odd way to end a word in English (without more, like -OU, -AU, or -EAU). Words like haiku, ecru, and kudzu have a distinctly un-English look to them (compare "haikue", "ecrue", and "kudzue", which most people raised in English-speaking countries would probably find more 'Englishy').

Now, how shall we write the long-A sound of the first syllable? AY is the clearest way to write long-A at the end of a word, but AI is more common earlier in the word (aid, maim, raiment). Let's use that: "aigyue".

Sunday, October 2, 2011: "zoacor" for "zoochore"

There are two things (very) wrong with the traditional spelling of this word from science.* First, OO has two common pronunciations, long-OO, as in bamboo, loon, and, especially, zoo; and short-OO, as in good, book, and neighborhood. The sound here is neither, but a long-O followed by a schwa. That sound is much better written OA (boa, inchoate, Samoan).

The second problem with today's word is the CH, which represents not the English CH-sound, as in church, but a simple K-sound. If the sound is K, we could write K ("zoakor") except that OAK is a word, with a simple long-O, so "zoakor" would probably be read wrong, as having only two syllables instead of its actual three. How else might we write a K-sound? Before an A, O, or U, we can use C. Let's do that: "zoacor".

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

* "a plant whose structure adapts it for dispersion by animals". This is another of those dopy words created by scientists who have no regard for how difficult they make life for people, with their antiphonetic coinages.

Saturday, October 1, 2011: "wheelbarro" for "wheelbarrow"

OW is ambiguous, perhaps equally often being said with an OU-sound (cow, frown, sow [female pig]) or a long-O sound (show, knowing, grown). Sometimes, both sounds are found in the same word:  knowhow (pronounced nóe.hou). Thus we cannot "know how" to say OW when we encounter it in an unfamiliar word. For new learners, within English-speaking countries or, especially, outside traditional English-speaking countries, all words are unfamiliar. We need to make the pronunciation clear in distinctive spelling.

Here, the sound is long-O. The W is not just superfluous. It is actually confusing. We can save ourselves a letter and clarify the sound at the same time. For the plural, we should follow the customary rule of adding E before the pluralizing S: "wheelbarro" and "wheelbarroes".

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

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

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