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Simpler Spelling
Word of the Day
Archive of Discussions
July-September 2015

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Wensday, September 30, 2015:  "swoddle" for "swaddle"

The traditional spelling employs the wrong vowel in the first syllable, an A for the short-O sound. Compare other words in which an A in the same location is correct, because the sound is short-A: "paddle", "saddle", "straddle". To show the correct pronunciation here, we need merely change the A to O: "swoddle".

Tuesday, September 29, 2015:  "spireea" for "spirea" and "spiraea"

Neither of the accepted alternate spellings for the name of this flowering bush is clear. The shorter spelling, "spirea" looks as tho the stress should fall on the first syllable. The longer spelling looks as tho the stress falls on the proper syllable, the second, but also looks as tho the vowel sound is long-A, whereas it is actually long-E. To show both that the second syllable is stressed and that its vowel sound is long E, we should spell this word: "spireea".

Munday, September 28, 2015:  "spinnet" for "spinet"

Why is there a single-N in this term for a type of uprite piano when the I before it is short? The N should be doubled to show that: "spinnet".

Sunday, September 27, 2015:  "spyna biffida" for "spina bifida"

The present spelling looks foreign, because it is Late Latin. Some readers would thus be inclined to give it a foreign pronunciation, spé bi.fée.da. In actuality, the pronunciation is fully anglicized, so should be spelled clearly in English spelling conventions to show that English pronunciation: "spyna biffida".

Saturday, September 26, 2015:  "sope" for "soap"

There are times when OA is an acceptable spelling for a long-O, because other spellings would not work in that location (for instance, "toast" and "approach". Here, however, we have an easy alternative spelling so we don't have to risk people's misreading the OA as representing two syllables, as in "boa" and "Roanoke": "sope".   

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

Friday, September 25, 2015:  "specter" for "spectre" and "specter"

We have today one of those words that have two accepted alternate spellings. That is one too many. "Spectre" is largely but not solely British. It is an absurd spelling, because it would require people to say an R-sound before a short-E, schwa, or even long-E sound, which is just, plain, STUPIDLY wrong. The E sound, whatever it might be, PRECEDES the R-sound, so that is the way the word should be written, E before R.

I don't understand why so many Britons are insistent on clinging to insanely stupid spellings that make their own lives but especially the lives of their children more difficult. Aren't parents supposed to make their children's lives easier than theirs were?

British intransigence doesn't much matter, however, as regards the use of this language by the wide world, not just tiny England. Britain is almost wholly IRRELEVANT to the future of English, and if Brits weren't so ARROGANT they would admit that what we laughingly call the "English" language is no such thing, but would now, far more sensibly, be called the "American" language.

Few people today know that the term "English" as regards the language has nothing to do with what we now term "England", but actually refers to the language of the Angles, a people from northern GERMANY, whose language was "Englisc". One prominent advocate of English spelling reform, the Swedish philologist Robert Eugen Zachrisson, wrote a book in 1930 in which he termed his proposed, reformed English, "Anglic". That might actually be a better name for Modern English, rather than either "English" or "American", and might salve Britons' pride in losing control of "their" language.

Today's word is one of multitudinous words in which a stupid British spelling hangs on even outside the British Isles. It should not, but should be abolished everywhere, INCLUDING the British Isles, and replaced with: "specter".

Thursday, September 24, 2015:  "slidesho" for "slide show" and "slideshow"

OW is very ambiguous, sometimes representing the OU-sound ("now", "crown", "plowshare") but other times representing only a long-O ("know", "crow", "wheelbarrow"). Here, the sound is long-O, without more. To show, or perhaps I should say "indicate", that, we need merely drop the W, which has the additional advantage of saving a letter, which is always to the good: "slidesho".

Wensday, September 23, 2015:  "scriptoreum", (regular plural) "scriptoreums" and (irregular plural) "scriptorea" for "scriptorium/s" and "scriptoria"

I encountered this unusual word in a television program about the history of printing. It refers to a room in which a number of scribes created handwritten copies of books from spoken dictation rather than by laboriously looking at an older book, then to the copy they were making, then back to the older version, back to the copy, over and over.

The only problem in today's long, base word is the IU, which should represent a long-I plus short-U (as in "triumph" and "diurnal") but in fact represents a long-E plus short-U. In the irregular plural, the traditional spelling is IA, which is supposed to represent a long-E plus schwa. If the sound is long-E, we should write E: "scriptoreum/s" and "scriptorea".

Tuesday, September 22, 2015:  "spectaccular" for "spectacular"

One big problem for readers of English, and esp. new readers, be they children in English-speaking countries or learners of English as a Second Language or merely foreign language, is knowing where the syllabic stress goes in long words. New readers could easily see the current spelling of today's word as representing the pronunciation spék.ta.kyùe.ler. That's wrong. The actual pronunciation is stressed on the second syllable (spek.táak.yoo.lèr). To show that pronunciation clearly, all we need do is double the second-C: "spectaccular".

Munday, September 21, 2015:  "Spannish" for "Spanish"

A single-N leaves unclear whether the A before it is long or short. The new reader might assume it to be long, as in the parallel spelling "Danish", esp. in that "Spanish" refers to "Spain". But the A is actually short. To show that, we need to double the N: "Spannish".

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

Sunday, September 20, 2015:  "rejjiment" for "regiment"

The same discussion as yesterday applies to today's word. See below: "rejjiment".

Saturday, September 19, 2015:  "rejjimen" for "regimen"

We have here, again, one of those absurd misuses of the letter G to represent a J-sound. Let us sweep away ALL such misused G's, and replace them with J's. In today's word, we need two J's, to show that the preceding-E is short: "rejjimen".

Friday, September 18, 2015:  "peenut" for "peanut"

This Food Friday, let's clarify the sound of what is now written in the very ambiguous letter sequence EA (compare "sea", "bread", "area", and "Sean", not to mention "lead" and "read", each of which has two pronunciations). The sound here is a simple long-E, which is most plainly written EE. So let's write that: "peenut".

My thanks to "space..." for suggesting reform of today's word (as "penut"), tho I chose a slitely different solution.

Thursday, September 17, 2015:  "obsoless/ent" for "obsolesce/nt" and "obsolescence"

The C in today's triad of related words is silent, and merely stands in for a second-S. Why not just put a second-S in these words?: "obsoless", "obsolessent", and "obsolessence".

Wensday, September 16, 2015:  "nyolla" for "nyala"

Today's word* contains the ambiguous letter sequence NY. It is supposed to be pronounced like the same sequence in "canyon", "lanyard", and "banyan", a sound that in Spanish is shown by N/n with a tilde over it (Ñ/ñ) . However, in English, Y has both a consonantal sound, as is intended here, and a vocalic sound, which could be said as either long-E or long-I. This ambiguity has led to the English mispronunciation of the capital of Japan, Tokyo, which is supposed to be said in two syllables (tóek.yo), but is read from its spelling as three (tóe.kee.yòe).

There is no way to clarify this in writing, and the standard spelling of today's word is as clear as to that sound as it can be made.

The sound we can make clearer is that of the first-A, which is supposed to be pronounced as "broad"-A, the same sound as short-O. It could, however, be seen as a long-A (as in "say") or flat-A (as in "airmail"). To show that it's actually supposed to be pronounced as short-O, we need, first, to change the A to O and then to double the L (as in "holler", "follow", and "collar"): "nyolla".

* A Central African antelope, mispronounced as nie.yól.a by Jack Hanna on television.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015:  "moheeto" for "mojito"

This Booze Tuesday, let's change the Spanish spelling of a minty cocktail to English. J in English is never pronounced as H, its pronunciation in standard Spanish. The English spelling of that sound is H.

Further, the I in the Spanish spelling represents an English long-E. The simplest and clearest English spelling of that sound is EE.

Putting these two little changes together, we get a spelling that hundreds of millions of people who know or are learning English but not Spanish can read easily: "moheeto".

Munday, September 14, 2015:  "mocho" and "mochoewizm" for "macho" and "machoism"

We have here a base word whose spelling is that in its original language, Spanish. But English and Spanish have very different sound systems, so a Spanish spelling is not clear in English. This is especially the case in Britain, where some people assign English values to Spanish vowels, such that the first syllable in words like "macho" and "nacho" is said to rhyme with "batch" or "hatch". That's not the sound it is given in the United States, however, because Americans are much more accustomed to Spanish due to the geographical location of the U.S. alongside Spanish America.

To show everyone, including those hundreds of millions of people learning English in places like China and Kazakhstan, how to pronounce today's base word, we should change the A to O.

In the unusual derivative, "machoism" — which is almost never heard, the Spanish version, "machismo", being the noun generally used — the letter sequence OI occurs, which can confuse people, because that is ordinarily pronounced as in "hoist" and "foist" but that is not the sound here. Rather, the sound sequence is long-O + short-I. How would we write that clearly? "OWI"? That could be read as OU + short-I. "OEI"? Three vowels in a row is visually confusing, and some readers, esp. new readers outside the old-line English-speaking countries, might not know how many sounds are intended, nor where they divide.

No, we need a more cumbersome spelling to be clear.

The last issue in the noun is that an S appears where the sound is actually Z. If the sound is Z, we should write Z.

So the proposed reforms for today's words are: "mocho" and "mochoewizm".

My thanks to "space..." for "mocho".

Sunday, September 13, 2015:  "lentijjineez" for "lentigines"

This word is the bizarre and bizarrely spelled plural of "lentigo", a formal word for a freckle, 'liver spot', or other pigmented area on the skin. "Lentigo" is OK for its pronunciation (len.tíe.goe), but the plural is very unclear. We can make it clear, tho: "lentijjineez".

Note: Z is a better spelling for the sound at the end of this word than S, especially in that with an S, the spelling would suggest that the singular is "lentijjinee", which is wrong.

Saturday, September 12, 2015:  "kimchee" for "kimchi", "kimchee", and "gimchi"

We would ordinarily reserve a food word for Food Friday, but we have only two K-words left at present, and K's turn fell on Saturday this time, not Friday. In any case, there are three accepted spellings for this traditional Korean side dish. That's two too many spellings. We should adopt the best of them, which does the job nicely and unambiguously: "kimchee".

Friday, September 11, 2015:  "joyus" for "joyous"

There is an OU vowel sequence in this word, but no OU-sound.  If we drop the misleading O, what remains will be clear: "joyus".

Thursday, September 10, 2015:  "indivijjual" for "individual"

D does not spell the J-sound. J does. In this word we need a double-J to show that the I before the J-sound is short: "indivijjual".

Wensday, September 9, 2015:  "hobbanaira" for "habanera"

This name of a Cuban dance is spelled perfectly in Spanish, but very imperfectly in English. The presence of an H has caused speakers of English to pronounce an H-sound, whereas in Spanish, H is always silent. It's silent in some words in English too ("honor", "hour", "vehement"), but such words are so rare that most readers of English who encounter an H will be inclined to pronounce it, and they should. The correct pronunciation of today's word in English does have a sounded-H. That's not a problem area.

The problem areas are the "broad"-A sound that immediately follows the H, which is the same sound as short-O. Since that is so, we can make the sound plain by changing that A to O, and doubling the following-B.

The last issue is the -ERA at the end, which is pronounced not like the two possible pronunciations of the English word "era" (éer.a and ér.a) but with an AI-sound. So let's rewrite it as -AIRA.

There is an occasional English mispronunciation of the N as tho it were an Ñ, and thus said like NY in "canyon". But the Spanish word does not have a tilde, so does not take that sound but rather an ordinary N-sound.

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2015:  "jemollojy" for "gemology" and "gemmology"

We have here another of the multitudinous stupid spellings of a J-sound with G. If the sound is J, let's just write J, OK? There is one J-sound at the very beginning of the word, and a second J-sound toward the end of the word. Both should be represented by J, not G.

A second issue is whether a single-L is enuf to show a short-O before the L-sound. This is confused by words like "roll", "poll", and "toll", in which even two L's do not mark the preceding-O short. Still, the rule for marking short vowels is to double the following consonant, so that is a better practice ("collagen", "hollow", "dollar"): "jemollojy".

Munday, September 7, 2015:  "fassil" for "facile"

The traditional spelling of today's word has confused some people into mispronouncing it. They see it as tho it is written "face isle". It is not. Some Britons say the first syllable right, with a short-A, but the second syllable wrong, with a long-I. If they want to continue to use that pronunciation, they can certainly retain the present spelling, or adopt a compromise spelling of "fassile" to show that the A is in any case short. In either case, this word would then join a fairly large group of words that differ in both spelling and pronunciation between standard English and British dialect.

The great preponderance of speakers of Engish should not be held back by British dialectals. The bulk of native speakers of "English" are in the United States, and English Canadians say almost everything as do Americans. People outside the old-line English-speaking countries rarely want to learn British dialect, but want instead to achieve maximal intelligibility when they speak English, so feel they need to learn correct (American or "North American") speech. Reforming today's word will help them with its correct pronunciation: "fassil".

Sunday, September 6, 2015:  "encyclopedea" for "encyclopedia"

There is only one problem with this six-syllable word, the IA at the end, which should be pronounced with a long-I, as in "trial", "friar", and "dialog". Instead, the I, peculiarly, represents a long-E. That's dopy. If the sound is long-E, let's write E, as in "area", "idea", and "apnea": "encyclopedea".

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

Saturday, September 5, 2015:  "demmolition" for "demolition"

The prefix DE- is commonly pronounced with a long-E ("demote", "demoralize", "determination"). Some pretentious lexicographers show a short-I in these DE-words, but there is absolutely no reason to shorten the sound from long-E, which is perfectly easy to say, to short-I.

In today's word, the sound is short-E. To show that, all we need do is double the M after it: "demmolition".

Friday, September 4, 2015:  "chillee / con carnee" for "chili / con carne"

There are two I's in the base word of this pair of Food Friday terms. The two I's represent two different sounds. The first is the English short-I; the second, the Spanish-I, or English long-E. To show that the first-I is short, we need to double the following-L. 

As regards the second-I, the one after the L, I in final position commonly, tho not always — when does ANYthing in traditional English spelling always represent only one sound? — represents the English long-I ("cacti", "stimuli", "octopi"), so let's replace the final-I in "chili" with EE, the clearest spelling of the long-E sound.

In the term "chili con carne", the Spanish pronunciation of the -E is like that of English long-A (as in "day", "stray", and "caraway"). That is not the way it is pronounced in English, which is, instead, English long-E, which is best shown, again, by EE. We might also have shown it with a -Y or -EY, except that both "carny" and "carney" (as well as "carnie"!) are already taken for the term for a person who works in a carnival. So EE it should be: "chillee / con carnee".

My thanks to "Firewall..." for "chillee".

Thursday, September 3, 2015:  "cowwabungga" for "cowabunga"

OW and NG are both ambiguous. OW often takes the sound of long-O, without more ("glowing", "narrowest", "follower"). At other times, it represents an OU-sound ("shower", "howitzer", "powerful"). To indicate that in today's word the sound is OU, we could write OUW or OWW. OUW, tho perfectly sensible a spelling, is not found in any commonly encountered word today. OWW is found in one: "powwow". So let's use OWW.

As regards the NG toward the end of today's word, NG before a vowel can be seen as either the NG-sound alone ("ringer", "flinging", "hangout") or the NG-sound plus a "hard"-G ("finger", "bongo", "flamingo"). If only NG is written, there is no way the reader, esp. someone in a non-English-speaking country who is trying to learn this most useful of all international languages, can know which sound to say. But if we add a G, we plainly indicate that the sound is NG + "hard"-G.

The result of making these two changes is a word two letters longer, but a lot clearer. This project is about making spelling simpler and clearer, not shorter: "cowwabungga".

Wensday, September 2, 2015:  "cilleum" and (plural) "cillea" for "cilium" and "cilia"

Today's mainly-scientific word* has two minor problems. First, a single-L leaves unclear the sound of the preceding-I, which could be read as long-I, short-I, or even, given the word's Latin form, long-E. To show that it is pronounced as a short-I, we need merely double the L.

IU is a bad spelling for a combination of long-E, not long-I, + a schwa (compare "triumph" and "triumvirate"). Similarly, IA is a bad spelling for the same combination, long-E + schwa (compare "hiatus", "psoriasis"). If the sound is long-E, let's write an E: "cilleum" and "cillea".

* American Heritage Dictionary:  A microscopic hairlike process extending from the surface of a cell or unicellular organism. Capable of rhythmical motion, it acts in unison with other such structures to bring about the movement of the cell or of the surrounding medium. 2. An eyelash. 3. Botany. One of the hairs along the margin or edge of a structure, such as a leaf, usually forming a fringe.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015:  "cazurnn" for "casern" and "caserne"

Today's unusual word, for a (temporary) barracks, is pronounced ka.zérn, with a Z-sound where now appears an S, and stress on the second syllable. To show the Z-sound, we can of course simply replace the S with Z. To show stress on the second syllable, traditional spelling in its alternate spelling "caserne" put an E at the end, but that's not clear. It could represent nothing, one of the uncountable silent-E's that litter traditional spelling, or a pronounced long-E in a final syllable (as in "psyche", "troche", and "calliope").

How would we make plain an unexpected stress on the final syllable? We could write "cazernne" or "cazurnne". Or we could drop the needless final-E and write "cazernn" or "cazurnn". U would seem clearer, in that an E could be read as representing an AI-sound: "cazurnn".

Munday, August 31, 2015:  "cartrij" for "cartridge"

DGE is a dopy and inefficient way to write a simple J-sound. G should always represent only its own, unique sound, represented by no other letter (as in "get", "geese", and "geyser"). DG should be pronounced as the separate letters D and G ("handgun", "headgear", "mudguard"). So let's replace the DGE with the much more sensible and compact J: "cartrij".

Sunday, August 30, 2015:  "clarreon" for "clarion"

AR is misleading as regards the sound in today's word, which is short-A, whereas most readers will probably see it as representing "broad"-A (the same sound as short-O) of words like "far", "star", and "archibishop". The conventional way to show short-A before an R-sound is to write ARR. So let's do that.

A second problem is that IO is a misleading way to write the sequence long-E + O. IO should represent a long-I plus O, as in "ion", "diode", and "Iowa". If the sound sequence is long-E followed by an O-sound (or, here, a schwa written with an O), it should be spelled EO: "clarreon".

Saturday, August 29, 2015:  "casha" for "cassia"

The spelling for this name of a tree with aromatic bark is misleading. Many readers will see it as being pronounced in three syllables, káa.see.yà, whereas it is actually said in two syllables, káa.sha. To show that, we need merely replace the SS with SH: "casha".

Friday, August 28, 2015:  "caiseus" for "caseous"

This Food Friday, let's simplify a word that means "of or like cheese" and is pronounced ká* The traditional spelling has an OU but no OU-sound. So let's drop the O. That would leave "caseus", which might be read right by most people but might be seen by other people as roughly parallel to "gaseous", with a short-A. If we write AI before the first-S, everybody will be clear that the sound is long-A: "caiseus". 


Thursday, August 27, 2015:  "cacoggrafy" and "caccograffic/al" for "cacography" and "cacographic/al"

These formal words for "bad handwriting" or "misspelling" present a couple of problems. First, they all employ the contemptibly stupid spelling PH for a simple F-sound. We need to replace the PH's with F.

Second, the noun and adjectives differ in syllabic stress. We should show that by doubling the consonant at the end of stressed syllables: "cacoggrafy" and "caccograffical".

Wensday, August 26, 2015:  "cobault" for "cobalt"

ALT is ambiguous (compare "salt", "altitude", and "admiralty"). Here, the vowel is the AU-sound as in "fault". To show that, we should add a U between the A and T: "cobault".

Tuesday, August 25, 2015:  "bleek" for "bleak"

EA can be said in various ways (as in "eat", "bread", "area", "rhea", "Sean", etc.). Here, the sound is a simple long-E, which is much better written EE: "bleek".

Munday, August 24, 2015:  "benevvolent" for "benevolent"

BE at the beginning of a word is commonly pronounced with a long-E. ENE is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced in a single syllable ("scene") and at other times being pronounced in two syllables ("scenery", "energy"), with the first-E being either long or short. In today's word, the vowel sound in BE is either short or a schwa. The second-E is said as short-E in a separate syllable. To show that, all we need do is double the V, which will cause the other sounds to fall into place: "benevvolent".

Sunday, August 23, 2015:  "aspersoreum" for "aspersorium"*

Today's word* has an IU in which the I takes neither of I's sounds, long as in "I" itself or "high", and short as in "it", but, rather, E's long sound. IU should be pronounced as in "triumph". The pronunciation here, by contrast, should be written EU: "aspersoreum". 

* "a vessel for holding holy water" or the same as "aspergillum", "a brush or instrument for sprinkling holy water". The irregular plural "aspersoria" becomes "aspersorea"; the regular plural "aspersoriums" becomes "aspersoreums".

Saturday, August 22, 2015:  "anabbasis" and (plural) "anabbasees" for "anabasis" and "anabases"

The current spelling of today's unusual word* looks as tho it should be pronounced áan.a.bàe.sis, whereas it is actually pronounced a.náab.a.sìs. To show that pronunciation, all we need do is double the B: "anabbasis".

* "any military expedition or advance", but esp. "from the coast into the interior".

Friday, August 21, 2015:  "ajjita" for "agita"

This Food Friday, let's reform a term for an occasional digestive mishap from foods we eat, this originally-Italian term for "heartburn". There are two things wrong with the traditional spelling. First, an initial-A followed by a single consonant often represents a schwa ("afar", "ajar", "about" and "around"). That is not the sound here, which is a full short-A (as in ("abs"). To show that, we need to double the following consonant.

Unfortunately, the consonant that follows in the traditional spelling is ambiguous, G. Is it "hard" (G's own unique sound) as in "gibbon" or "soft" (the J-sound) as in "gibbet"? It's "soft", which is much better shown by the letter J, which was brought into English to convey that sound. So we first need to replace the G with J, and then double the J.

A double-J eliminates another ambiguity, the pronunciation of the I as either a long-I or a long-E, since a long vowel after a stressed syllable will be understood by most native speakers (readers) of English to be unlikely: "ajjita".

Thursday, August 20, 2015:  "adjectiv"  and "adjectyval" for "adjective" and "adjectival"

The first issue in these paired words is whether DJ is really necessary to show that the A before it is short, or if there is not really a D-sound, so we should write JJ instead of DJ. That's easy. JJ is almost never written in English (but only in the word "hajj" and its derivatives). It's a perfectly reasonable spelling that is available to us when we need it. But we don't need it here. DJ is also a perfectly reasonable spelling, so let's leave it.

The 3-letter sequence IVE should be seen as having a long-I sound ("hive", "thrive", "alive"), but here, the sound is short-I. To show that, all we need do is drop the final-E, which has the added advantage of saving us a letter, which is always to the good.

In the adjectival form of today's lead word, the pronunciation of the I in IVAL is unclear. Is it long, as in "rival" and "survival", or short, as in "carnival" and "festival"? It's long. To show that, let's change the I to Y: "adjectiv" and "adjectyval".

Wensday, August 19, 2015:  "anona" for "annona"

The present spelling of this word* makes it look as tho the stress should fall on the first syllable, whereas it actually falls on the second. If we drop the second-N, the actual stress pattern will be clear to everyone: "anona".

* "any of various trees and shrubs of the genus Annona, native to tropical America, and grown for their edible fruits".

Tuesday, August 18, 2015:  "ammaretto" for "amaretto"

This Booze Tuesday, the first in a long time, let us make the pronunciation of this term, from Italian, perfectly clear. It is thoroughly anglicized, with the first-A said as an English short-A (as in "at"). To show that, we need merely double the M: "ammaretto".

Munday, August 17, 2015:  "asperjillus" and (plural) "asperjilli" for "aspergillus" and (plural) "aspergilli"

Yesterday, we reformed a word very similar in form but very different in meaning, "aspergillum". Today's word* takes the same reform, substitution of J for G, in that the sound is that of J, not ("hard"-)G. The sound of the final-I in the plural remains a bit ambiguous, because some people might see the word as scientific Latin rather than English, and thus the final-I being pronounced like long-E, rather than the English long-I. But there are lots of English words of Latin origin in which a final-I in the plural takes the English long-I sound ("stimuli", "cacti", "alumni"), so the mere fact that we cannot make the sound clear in spelling isn't very consequential: "asperjillus" and (plural) "asperjilli".

* "any fungus of the genus Aspergillus, having sporophores with a bristly, knoblike top".

Sunday, August 16, 2015:  "asperjillum/s" and "asperjilla"  for "aspergillum/s" and "aspergilla"

Today's unusual word* has an unexpected pronunciation. The word contains the syllable "gill", which is a well-understood word pronounced with a "hard"-G, that is, G's own, unique sound (as in "give", "giddy", and "gimmick"), which is expressed by no other letter. That is not, however, the pronunciation of GILL in today's word, which takes a "soft"-G, the customary sound of J. To show that, we need merely change the G to J: "asperjillum" (singular), "asperjillums" (regular plural), and "asperjilla" (alternative plural).

* "a brush or instrument for sprinkling holy water"

Saturday, August 15, 2015:  "airofyte" for "aerophyte"

There are two things wrong with today's word for a plant that rests on another but does not draw any nutrition from it. First, AER sounds exactly like "air", which is the more sensible spelling. And second, PH is a preposterous way to spell a simple F-sound, esp. in that PH represents, as it should, the sequence of the separate consonants P and H in some words, such as "uphill" and "uphold". So we should replace the moronic spelling PH with the intelligent spelling F. Everything else can stay the same: "airofyte".

Friday, August 14, 2015:  "acordeon" for "accordion"

The double-C after A should be seen as marking the A short (as in "accede", "accent", and "access"). In actuality, the sound is schwa, so a double-C after the initial-A is improper. Let's just drop the second-C, and save ourselves a letter.

The second problem in today's word is an IO for the sound sequence long-E + schwa. IO should be pronounced with a long-I, as in "Iowa", "iodine", and "iota". Since the sound here is long-E, we should write it with an E: "acordeon".

Thursday, August 13, 2015:  "accenchuate" for "accentuate"

T does not spell the CH-sound as in "chipmunk". CH does: "accenchuate".

Wensday, August 12, 2015:  "wersted" for "worsted"

Today's unphonetic word for the name of a fabric derives from an English village spelled even more unphonetically, "Worstead". Dropping the A but leaving OR is scant improvement, in that most people will see OR as being pronounced as in the word "or" itself and in many other words (tho not the word "word" itself), as tho written AUR. We need to change the O to something else, either E or U. "Wursted" looks as tho it should have something to do with sausage, such as "liverwurst", so let's write E instead: "wersted".

Tuesday, August 11, 2015:  "uric" for "uric"

The sound of the U in today's word is unclear. It could be short-U ("burial"), long-U but without an initial Y-glide ("alluring"), or long-U with an initial Y-glide ("curia"). It's the third. To show that, we can write EU rather than just U: "euric".

Munday, August 10, 2015:  "timmothy" for "timothy"

This word for a type of grass widely used as fodder has an interesting origin, in the name of one man, Timothy Hanson, an American farmer who introduced the grass to the Carolinas in 1720. Be that as it may, the personal name "Timothy" and the name of the grass are both ambiguous because an I before a single-M could be pronounced as long-I, as in "Simon" and "primogeniture", or long-E, as in "demimonde" and "coatimundi". To show that the sound is actually short-I, we need merely double the M: "timmothy".

Sunday, August 9, 2015:  "spiggot" for "spigot"

The I in today's word is short. To show that, we should double the G: "spiggot".

Saturday, August 8, 2015:  "souw" for "sow" (a female pig)

There are two words of the same spelling but different meanings and pronunciations. As a verb meaning to scatter seeds, "sow" is pronounced with a long-O. But as a noun, meaning female hog, the vowel is the OU-sound. To show that sound, we should incorporate an OU into the spelling. But if we simply replace the W with U, we get "sou", which is already a word, pronounced with a long-U without an initial Y-glide, meaning a former French coin of very little value (known in English in expressions such as "not worth a sou"). So we can't write "sou" for the female animal. If, however, we insert a U between the O and the W, we get a formulation that, altho not found in present spellings, is clear as to sound: "souw".

My thanks to "Fire W..." for this suggestion.

Friday, August 7, 2015:  "sohpressotta" for "soppressata"

This Food Friday, let's fix the name of a type of Italian sausage that has not yet become well-known in English. The double-P will mislead readers of English into thinking the O before it takes the English short-O sound, as in "choppy", "copper", and "opportunity". But in Italian, it doesn't matter what follows an O; it always has a sound very like English long-O, as in "nope", "topiary", and "antelope". So we should drop one of the P's.

Unfortunately, that would still leave a two-letter consonant cluster, PR, after the O, which readers of English will see, again, as marking the preceding vowel short. We need to write the long-O in an unambiguous fashion within the spelling of the vowel itself. We could write OE, OA, or OH. With both OE and OA, there is the possibility that some readers will see two syllables rather than one. OH would not be seen as two syllables. OH, representing only a long-O, is unusual in English, found in few words (such as "oh" itself, "kohl", "kohlrabi", and "ohm"). But the fact that it is so used justifies our using it here.

Everything else in this long word is OK except the A after the double-S, which some readers of English could see as having one of A's own sounds, long as in the word "a" itself when stressed, and "rating", or short-A, as in "at". Some Britons and Canadians, for instance, pronounce "pasta" with a short-A, whereas standard English (and Italian, from which the term derives) uses an English short-O (conceived, here, as "broad"-A). To show that sound before a double-T, we should write O, not A: "sohpressotta".

Thursday, August 6, 2015:  "speedommeter" for "speedometer"

A new reader will see the present spelling as being pronounced spée.doe.mèe.ter, whereas it is actually pronounced spee.dóm.a.tèr. To show that pronunciation, all we need to do is double the M, whereupon everything else falls into place: "speedommeter".

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

Wensday, August 5, 2015:  "sooveneer" for "souvenir"

Why is there an OU in this word? There's no OU-sound. Rather, the sound is long-U without an initial Y-glide, which can also be seen as the long-OO sound. OO would be much better. OO is, in some circumstances, ambiguous as to whether it is meant to represent the short-OO, as in "good" or the long-OO, as in "food". In today's word, that ambiguity is diminished by the presence of an E in the following syllable, which many readers will see as the "silent-" or "magic-E" that marks a vowel before a preceding-consonant as long. So many readers will see the OO we should substitute for the present OU, as long, which is correct.

In the third syllable, there is a highly ambiguous IR. Does it stand for the ER- or UR-sound in "bird"? The short-I sound in "irrational"? A long-I followed by an R-sound, as in "irate". Or the long-E sound followed by an R-sound as in "irritate"? Yes! — that's the sound, and that sound is much better shown by the unambiguous spelling of long-E, EE, plus R.

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2015:  "sofistikit" for the noun "sophisticate"

We have here another of those indefensibly stupid spellings in which PH stands in for a simple F-sound. We have an F. Why on Earth would we use twice as many letters and introduce ambiguity (compare "upheaval" and "uphill", in which the P and H represent their own individual sounds), if we can simply write F?

ATE should be seen as having a long-A, as in the word "ate" itself and the verbal form of today's word, to become "sophisticated". That's not the sound in the noun, which is short-I. If the sound is short-I, let's write an I, and drop the E at the end of the word: "sofistikit".

Munday, August 3, 2015:  "sherk" for "shirk"

The IR here represents the sound most commonly written ER, not other sounds that IR is also used for (long-E as in "irrigate"; short-I as in "irascible"; long-I as in "ironic" or "environmental"). Let's write the much clearer ER instead: "sherk".

Sunday, August 2, 2015:  "shenannigan" for "shenanigan"

Today's word, which is ordinarily used in the plural, has only single consonants midword, which leaves the sound of the various vowels, and the word's stress/es, unclear, especially to people who live outside the traditionally English-speaking countries. Let us always remember that there are many MORE people trying to learn and use English for its utility in international commerce and discourse, science, etc., than there are native speakers of English. Native speakers may feel some tug of loyalty to ancient ways of spelling English, and therefore (foolishly) put up with the huge hassle that Traditional Orthography presents to all users of English, but people who have no personal identification with the history of English have absolutely no reason to indulge the STUPIDITY of Traditional Spelling.

In today's word, a child in an English-speaking country or a sophisticated ádult in a non-English-speaking country could see the present spelling as being pronounced shèn.a.níe.gan, which is not remotely right. (Compare the stress pattern of "Canandaigua" one of the Finger Lakes in Upstate New York: "kàáe.gwa".) The actual pronunciation is sha.náàn. To show that pronunciation clearly, we need merely double the N in the middle of the word: "shenannigan".

Saturday, August 1, 2015:  "savery" for "savory" and "savoury"

OR is problematic(al), in that many people nowadays insist on seeing OR as always being pronounced as in the conjunction "or". In today's word, however, it represents a schwa-plus-R or the ER-sound. The chiefly-British spelling "savoury" presents a different problem, an OU that does not represent the OU-sound. Let's fix both problems by substituting ER for the OR / OUR: "savery".

Friday, July 31, 2015:  "saurean" for "saurian"

IA is a dopy spelling for the sequence long-E followed by schwa. Why would we write a long-E with an I? IA should be reserved to a vowel sequence in which the first sound is long-I (e.g., "hiatus", "iambic" "vial"). If the first vowel is long-E, we should write an E: "saurean".*

* "resembling a lizard".

Thursday, July 30, 2015:  "sashae" for "sachet"

Why is the SH-sound spelled CH in this word? If the sound is SH, let's write SH. The second issue is that the ET in this word's very-French, not English, spelling represents not an ET ("wet") or even IT sound ("spinet"), but, bizarrely, a long-A with a silent-T! If the T is silent, it shouldn't be written. And if the vowel sound is long-A, it should be spelled (at the end of a word) either AY ("Thursday") or AE ("sundae). There already is a word "sashay", so we shouldn't use that. There is not yet, but should be, a spelling: "sashae". 

Wensday, July 29, 2015:  "raucus" for "raucous"

There is, in today's word, an OU but no OU-sound. Instead, the sound is schwa, which the reader will provide if we drop the O. This word rhymes with "caucus", so should be spelled like it: "raucus".

Tuesday, July 28, 2015:  "plutoneum" for "plutonium"

Why is the spelling IU when the pronunciation is EU?: "plutoneum".

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

Munday, July 27, 2015:  "plite" for "plight"

Two silent letters in a row, GH, is ridiculous. If the sound of the IGHT is long-I followed by a T-sound, and it is, we have a conventional pattern that shows that perfectly well, with only a "silent-E" that isn't really silent because it alters the quality of the vowel before the T: "bite", "despite", "appetite". Let's use that here: "plite".

Sunday, July 26, 2015:  "pleeyay" for "plié" and "plie"

English doesn't use accents, so the acute accent in the French spelling of this move in ballet has got to go. Without it, however, the word looks like a typo for the past tense of "ply" without its D, and would be pronounced with a long-I. The IE letter sequence actually represents two vowels, pronounced in separate syllables, a long-E followed by a long-A, after a Y-glide between the two sounds. To show that plainly, we need a radical rewrite: "pleeyay".

Saturday, July 25, 2015:  "plebeean" for "plebeian"

EIA is a very odd vowel sequence, and its pronunciation is not clear. The sound is a stressed long-E followed by a Y-glide and then a schwa (which is always unstressed). There is no I sound in this word, not long as in "bite", not short as in "bit". So let's drop the I. That would leave "plebean", which is not quite clear, especially as regards syllabic stress. But if we replace the I with a second-E, we cue the reader to stress the long-E sound, which is correct: "plebeean".

Friday, July 24, 2015:  "orzhat" for "orgeat"

This Food Friday, let's reform an unusual word* whose odd, French spelling leaves its sound essentially unguessable by speakers of English. It's not áur.geet, nor áur.jeet, nor áur.gee.yòt, nor áur.jee.yòt, nor áur.gaet (with the EA of "break" and "great"), nor áur.jaet. What IS it? Áur.zhaat. A clear spelling for that combination of sounds in English conventions would be: "orzhat".

* "a syrup or drink made originally from barley but later from almonds, prepared with sugar and an extract of orange flowers."

Thursday, July 23, 2015:  "nebbulus" for "nebulous"

A single-B leaves unclear whether the E before it is long or short. It's short. To show that, we should double the B. The second problem with today's word is that there is an OU but no OU-sound. If we drop the misleading-O, the reader will read correctly the U remaining: "nebbulus".

Wensday, July 22, 2015:  "mountabank" for "mountebank"

"E" is the wrong letter for the sound here. It suggests a long-E sound, as in "[three-card] monte". The actual sound is a schwa, and the most common spelling for that is A. Let's use that: "mountabank".

Tuesday, July 21, 2015:  "meliffluus" and "meliffluant" for "mellifluous" and "mellifluent"

The double-L in both of today's words is wrong. It suggests that the words' primary stress falls before it, on the first syllable, whereas in both cases it falls after the double-L, on the second syllable. To show that most clearly, we should not just drop one of the L's but also double the F, which gives the reader two cues as to where the words' stress actually falls.

There are, in addition, two other problems with today's words, one in each. In the first, we have an OU but no OU sound. That is easily fixed by dropping the O.

In the second, the UE[NT} might be seen as representing a simple long-U sound, in one syllable, rather than two sounds in two syllables, which is the actual case. UAwould show that more clearly.

Putting this all together, we get: "meliffluus" and "meliffluant".

Munday, July 20, 2015:  "joalt" for "jolt"

A vowel followed by two consonants should be short, but here, the O is long. To show that, we need merely place an A after the O, as in "coal", "foal", and "goal": "joalt".

Sunday, July 19, 2015:  "imperrativ" for "imperative"

A single-R leaves unclear whether the E before it is long, as in "imperial" and "imperious", or short, as in "imperil" and "imperishable". It's short, and we can show that by doubling the R.

The other issue in today's word is the IVE at the end, which should be pronounced with a long-I, as in "jive", "strive", and "alive". It's actually short. To indicate that, we need merely drop the final-E, which will have the additional virtue of saving a letter, which will make up for the letter we added in doubling the R!: "imperrativ".

Saturday, July 18, 2015:  "havvuc" for "havoc"

Here,again, we have a single consonant where a double consonant would be a better indicator of the short value of the vowel before it. So let's double the V. The other issue is that an O in the second syllable might be read as a full short-O, whereas the sound is actually schwa. Often, A is the best spelling for schwa, but here, U would be clearer: "havvuc".  

Friday, July 17, 2015:  "grennadeen" for "grenadine"

This Food Friday, let's fix the term for pomegranate syrup.* There are two problems with the current spelling. First, a single-N permits the reader to see the E as long, whereas the sound here is short-E. The second problem is that the INE at the end is very ambiguous, in that that formulaic spelling is regularly pronounced in three ways, with short-I ("adrenaline"), long-I ("asinine"), and long-E (as in "magazine" and today's word). If the sound is long-E, and it is, we should write that as clearly as possible, which is with EE: "grennadeen".

* There is a second word of the same sound, for "a gauzy silk or woolen dress fabric" (Microsoft Encarta Dictionary), which should also take this reformed spelling.

Thursday, July 16, 2015:  "fasheeyitis" for "fasciitis"

Today's word has a very peculiar spelling, the pronunciation of which is nearly impossible for most people to guess. To show the pronunciation, we need a radical respelling: "fasheeyitis".

Wensday, July 15, 2015:  "eenunceate" for "enunciate"

Why is there an IA in this word? The sound is long-E plus long-A, so should be spelled EA. At the beginning of the word, we have a long-E that is not clear from a single-E. Adding a second-E would make that clearer: "eenunceate".

Tuesday, July 14, 2015:  "diurettic" for "diuretic"

A single-T permits a misreading of the sound before it as being a long-E. The actual sound, short-E, would be much clearer if the T were TT: "diurettic".

Munday, July 13, 2015:  "deroggatory" and "derrogation" for "derogatory" and "derogation"

As so often in English, we have here another situation in which a single consonant leaves unclear whether the preceding vowel is long or short. In the first word of today's pair, we should indicate that the O is short, by doubling the G. In the second word, we should inicate that the E is short, by doubling the R. This is especially appropriate in that the prefix DE- is often pronounced with a long-E, as in "decide", "delay", and "denote": "deroggatory" and "derrogate".

Sunday, July 12, 2015:  "cellibit" and "cellibacy" for "celibate" and "celibacy"

A single-L leaves unclear whether the preceding-E is long or short. It's short. Doubling the L would make that plain.

At the end of the first of today's words, -ATE should be pronounced with a long-A, as in the word "ate" itself, "spate", and "berate". Here, however, it represents a schwa so close to short-I that we might better spell it -IT.

In the related word "celibacy", we have the same ambiguity caused by a single-L, and have at hand the same quick fix, doubling the L. We also have the issue of how best to write the sequence schwa/ S-sound/ long-E. The present spelling is -ACY. That's fine: "cellibit" and "cellibacy".

Saturday, July 11, 2015:  "cloash" for "cloche"

There are two things wrong with the spelling of this name for a woman's hat. First, the CH is not pronounced as every reader has the right to expect, as in "choo-choo", but as if it were SH. We should change it to the proper expectation, SH.

The second issue is that the O precedes two consonants, so the reader should be able to expect it to be short. But it is long, which the silent-E (also sometimes called "magic-E") at the end of the word is supposed to show. But jumping two consonants is stretching the concept and readability of a silent-E. We should instead show the long-O within the spelling of the O-sound itself. We could write OE, "cloesh", but some people might see that as comprising two syllables, "clo-esh", on the model of words like "poet" and "noel". Because of that, OA is the better spelling: "cloash".

Friday, July 10, 2015:  "chopeeno" for "cioppino"

This Food Friday, let's reform the spelling of a fish stew. The name derives from Italian, which uses CI where English uses CH, to express the sound in "church"). We thus need  to change the first I to H.

There is a second I in today's Italian spelling, which takes the sound of English long-E, which is most clearly and simply written EE. Once we make that change, the word's sound should be clear. Oh, some people might see CHOP and pronounce that part of the word that way. Tho that wouldn't be quite right, it wouldn't be startlingly wrong either. We could change the O to A to avoid that, but some people could see CHAP in "chapeeno" as being pronounced with a short-A, as in the word "chap" itself. In that there would now be an EE in the following syllable, most readers will understand that the word's stress falls on the second syllable, so whatever vowel is in the first syllable is likely shortened to a schwa (as it is indeed), so we don't need to change the O to anything: "chopeeno".

Thursday, July 9, 2015:  "clym" for "climb"

Why is there a B in this word? It's not pronounced, so shouldn't be there. Let's just drop it, OK? We would then be left with "clim", which would be pronounced with a short-I, whereas the actual sound is long-I. We could indicate that by adding a "silent-E" after the M, but there already is a word "clime".*

A backup plan, then, would be to replace the I with Y, which, midword, should be pronounced as long-I ("hydro", "myna", "pyrite"). Using Y would efficiently convey the long-I, in one letter rather than two (for instance, I_E to write "clime" or the redundant Y_E, "clyme"): "clym".

* Microsoft Encarta dictionary: "a place with a particular type of climate".

Wensday, July 8, 2015:  "clik" for "click"

We don't need CK to express a simple K-sound. One might make a case for retaining CK when the word is used as a verb, so that inflected forms like -ED and -ING would not be seen as changing the I midway in the base word from short to long. But conventional spelling already has a way to mark retention of a short-I in a word that ends in a single consonant, by doubling that consonant before adding a suffix ("tip/ping", "pin/ned", a "dim/mer"). Therefore, "clik" would, by a long-established rule, simply double the K before adding a suffix ("clikked", "clikking", "clikker"): "clik".

Tuesday, July 7, 2015:  "clak" for "claque"

QUE is a ridiculous and inefficient way to spell a simple K-sound. It is also ambiguous, given the informal spelling "barbeque" (pronounced -kyu) for "barbecue" and the name of the largest city in New Mexico, "Albuquerque" (pronounced -kee). Let's replace the QUE with K. We could replace it with CK, but there is no reason to do so, in that K conveys the sound perfectly well and the word is only a noun, so its only inflected form is the plural, which would entail only adding an S. Were it a verb, an argument (not very persuasive) might be made that CK would be better as regards adding inflected forms, such as -ED and -ING: "clak".

Munday, July 6, 2015:  "ceelacanth" for "coelacanth"*

OE for a long-E sound is a bizarre spelling rarely used. Let's get rid of it. If the sound is long-E, the clearest way to show that is by writing EE, so let's do that. Everything else can stay the same. We could change the C to S, to simplify people's remembering how to spell the word, but there are many words that start with an S-sound that is spelled with a C ("cease", "celebrity", "censor") and in regard to spelling simplification, the least change is probably the best change: "ceelacanth".

* Microoft Encarta dictionary: " large fish once thought extinct".

Sunday, July 5, 2015:  "corister" for "chorister"

Why is there a CH here but no CH-sound, as in "church"? The actual sound is that of K, which is also sometimes conceived of, as here, as "hard"-C. The H is both unnecessary and misleading, so let's just drop it, OK?: "corister".

Saturday, July 4, 2015:  "climet" for "climate"

MATE at the end of today's word should be pronounced with a long-A, as in the word "mate" itself, "animate", and "amalgamate". That is not the sound here. Rather, the vowel sound in the second syllable is a schwa. Altho A by itself is the most common spelling for schwa, almost any vowel letter can represent that sound. Here, to show the long-I sound in the first syllable, we can use an E after the M, then immediately add only a T to end the word. The E will then represent a schwa in the second syllable, as well as marking the I in the first syllable as long: "climet".

Friday, July 3, 2015:  "seveechay" for "ceviche" and "seviche"

This Food Friday, let's fix a word* from Spanish with two spellings, neither of which is good in English. In the more-Spanish form, the C represents an S-sound, and an S is used in the less-Spanish form, "seviche".

The I represents neither of I's sounds in English, long as in "kite" and short as in "kit", but its standard Spanish pronunciation, like English long-E. The clearest representation of that in English is EE, so let's use that.

At the end of the word, in both spellings, is an E that, again, represents neither of E's sounds in English, long as in "we" and short as in "wet". Instead, the sound is as in standard Spanish, like an English long-A. At the end of a word, the clearest spelling of that sound in English is -AY.

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

* MS Encarta dictionary: "a Latin American dish of raw fish or shrimp marinated in lemon or lime juice and served as a type of salad with chopped onions and tomatoes".

Thursday, July 2, 2015:  "bunyon" for "bunion"

The traditional spelling of today's word could be a compound of "bun" and "ion", which would be pronounced bùn.íe.yon. What would it mean? We don't have to worry about that, because that is not the pronunciation of today's word, because it is not a compound of two smaller words. Rather, it is a single word for a medical condition of the foot, pronounced bún.yan, parallel in sound to [Damon] Runyon. Let's make the spelling parallel too: "bunyon".    

Wensday, July 1, 2015:  "biorithm" for "biorhythm"

There are two bizarre features to today's spelling. First, there is a silent-H. Why? If it's silent, it shouldn't be there. Second, there is a Y midword, which should ordinarily be pronounced as a long-I ("dynamite", "pyorrhea", "cytoplasm"). Here, the sound is short-I, which would much better be written with an I.

There is one other oddity in this word, a syllabic-M, in which a brief schwa sound is only implied rather than written with any vowel letter. That is a bad spelling, but conventional (as in all those words that end in -ISM), so we don't need to decide on whether to put an A, E, I, O, or U between the TH and the M: "biorithm".

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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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