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Simpler Spelling
Word of the Day
Archive of Discussions
July-September 2016

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Friday, September 30, 2016:  "hollo" for "hollow"

Why is there a W at the end of today's traditional spelling? It confuses the issue of the sound, in that OW is commonly pronounced with the OU-sound, but here, the sound is only a long-O, which would be shown perfectly well if the W were not there. Let's just drop it, OK?:  "hollo".

Thursday, September 29, 2016:  "grajjual" for "gradual"

D does not spell the J-sound. J does. To show a short vowel before the J-sound, we will need a second J: "grajjual".

Wensday, September 28, 2016:  "goetee" for "goatee"

OA is ambiguous, sometimea being pronounced in two syllables ("boa", "coalesce", "coagulate"). Here, the sound is a simple long-O, which we could, before a single consonant, write as just O ("gotee"), but is better written OE: "goetee". 

Tuesday, September 27, 2016:  "gettup" for "get-up" and "getup"

Many words in English have more than one form. That is confusing. We have here an opportunity to clear a bit of confusion, by eliminating both earlier spellings and substituting a single unambiguous spelling: "gettup".

Munday, September 26, 2016:  "figyureen" for "figurine"

There are two problems with the traditional spelling of today's word. First, there is no way for the reader to know that there is supposed to be a Y-glide before the U. Second, INE should be pronounced with a long-I, as in "fine", "pine", and "wine", but here is actually supposed to be said with a long-E. If the sound is long-E, the spelling should be EEN: "figyureen".  

Sunday, September 25, 2016:  "in/fidellity" for "in/fidelity"

We  need a double-L to show that the preceding-E in both these words is short: "fidellity" and "infidellity".

Saturday, September 24, 2016:  "femminizm" and "femminist" for "feminism" and "feminist"

One of the most valuable conventions of traditional English spelling is showing a short vowel by doubling the consonant after it.  With a doubled consonant, short; without, (maybe) long  (There is no rule about when a vowel is long.).  Here, we need to show a short vowel by doubling the consonant that follows, the M.  We also need to replace S where it represents the Z-sound, with Z. We have a letter Z for that sound. Let's use it: "femminizm" and "femminist".

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

Friday, September 23, 2016:  "egzist" for "exist"

X has too many pronunciations for the reader to know which to use. That is especially the case with the BILLIONS of people outside the traditionally English-speaking countries who want to use this most important of all international languages.

X has the following well-established sounds:  (1) KS, as in "extension"; (2) its sound here, GZ ("existential"); (3) KSH, as in "luxury"; (4) GZH, as in "luxurious"; and (5) Z, as in "xylophone". Recently, a pharmaceutical company has insisted on using X for the S-sound, in the name of its drug "Farxiga". That is impermissible, and should be punished. We don't need SIX different pronunciations for the one letter X.

In any case, the sound here is GZ, which we should show, simply, by writing GZ: "egzist".

* Of course, all derivatives, such as "existential", will also change.

Thursday, September 22, 2016:  "eppidemmic" for "epidemic"

There are two short vowels in today's word, neither of which is shown clearly by the traditional spelling. We should double both the P and the M to indicate those short vowels: "eppidemmic".

Wensday, September 21, 2016:  "eet" for "eat"

Today's word is almost exactly like yesterday's, and the same argumentation applies, so I won't repeat it here. Just look for it there: "eet"..

Tuesday, September 20, 2016:  "eest" for "east"

EA is not the best spelling for a simple long-E, esp. in that in some words it is pronounced differently ("rhea", "area", "yea", "yeah", "Sean": rée.ya, áir.ree.ya, yae, yai, Shaun. EE is much better: "eest".

Munday, September 19, 2016:  "dynamizm" for "dynamism"

We have, again today, a situation in which an S stands in for a Z, the voiced pair to unvoiced-S. S and Z are different, so should be written differently. We have a letter Z for that sound. Why would we not use it?

A second issue arises as to whether we need a vowel between the Z and the following-M. The sound would indeed be clearer if we were to write, say, an A there, so the word would be shown as "dynamizam". But that might be seen as an unnecessary step too far by some readers, so let's not bother: "dynamizm".

Sunday, September 18, 2016:  "demmocrat/tic" and "democcracy" for "democrat/ic" and "democracy"

In these closely related words, we should show unambiguously which vowels are short, by doubling the consonant after each, and, as a byproduct of this consonant-doubling, show as well where the syllabic stresses fall. Plainly, the M should be doubled in "democrat" and both the M and the T should be doubled in "democratic". As to whether the C should be doubled in "democracy", arguments could be made either way. On the one hand, there are already two consonants following the O, which sophisticated readers might understand suggests tht the O is short . But on the other hand, a reader, especially a new reader, could see the O as long, and -CRACY as having a long-A. So let's play it safe and double the C: "demmocrat/tic" and "democcracy".    

Saturday, September 17, 2016:  "defficit" for "deficit"

We need a second-F here to show clearly that the first-I in today's word is short: "defficit".

Friday, September 16, 2016:  "declention" for "declension"

We should not have to memorize multiple ways of spelling what is most commonly written -TION- (compare "invention", "detention", "intentional"), and, on top of that, have to remember which spelling goes with which word. Let's just write -TION- everywhere until we can agree on a single phonetic way to write that syllable (e.g., "-SHON-", "-SHUN-", "-SHEN-", "-SHAN-", or "-SHIN-"): "declention".

Thursday, September 15, 2016:  "cursiv" for "cursive"

A few years ago, the educational establishment of the United States was seized by madness, and decided to stop teaching children cursive writing. How, pray, are people supposed to sign their name on legal documents if they don't learn how to write a signature? Where a form says "Print Name Here" and "Sign Here", are they to print in the first space and mark an X in the second?

In any case, a lot of states have come to their senses, and are teaching cursive again. Now let us fix the spelling of the word "cursive" itself.

IVE should be said with a long-I, as in "hive", "jive", and "alive", but here, the sound is short-I. To show that, all we need do is drop the final-E, which offers the additional benefit of saving us a letter, which is always to the good: "cursiv".

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

Wensday, September 14, 2016:  "collej" for "college"

Why is there a G in this word? The sound is not G's own sound, represented by no other letter (as in "get", "gear", and "gewgaw"), but the sound of J, an entirely different letter. If the sound is J, we should write J: "collej".

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

Tuesday, September 13, 2016:  "crimzon" for "crimson"

The S in today's word represents not S's own, unvoiced sound, but Z's voiced pair to that sound. Alas, the presence of S in the traditional spelling has given rise to a spelling-pronunciation with an actual S-sound, which most dictionaries do not recognize. Once we replace the S with Z, that improper minority pronunciation should disappear: "crimzon".

Munday, September 12, 2016:  "compattible" and "compattibillity" for "compatible" and "compatibility"

We have in today's closely related words single consonants that do not give the reader clear guidance as to whether the vowel before them is long or short. They are both short-I. To show that, all we need do is double the consonants after them: "compattible" and "compattibillity".

Sunday, September 11, 2016:  "concepchual" for "conceptual"

T does not spell the CH-sound. CH does: "concepchual".

Saturday, September 10, 2016:  "comrad" for "comrade"

ADE should be pronounced with a long-A, as in "lemonade", "colonnade", and "cannonade", but here, the sound is short-A, or, for some people, a schwa. Some Britons say a long-A, but that is a minority pronunciation not used in the bulk of the English-speaking world. If Brits want to insist on using a long-A, they can leave the spelling as it has long been, and that will join a list of hundreds of words spelled differently in standard ([North] American) English and dialectal (British) English: "comrad".

Friday, September 9, 2016:  "consumay" for "consommé" and "consomme"

This Food Friday, let's fix three little problems with the originally French name of a thin soup (or, if cooled, jelly). English and French are, and have been for centuries, intimately connected, but are spelled very differently. After the takeover of Britain by William the Conqueror, French replaced English as the language of court (that is, of the monarchy), and English might well have disappeared for all time if there had been universal education in the new court language, French. Happily for those of us who love English, that did not happen. Still, French spellings have contaminated and complicated thousands of words in Modern English, and we need to sweep away those that confuse readers of English (esp. in places where people know nothing about French, e.g., China).

The spelling of French is almost as crazy as is the traditional spelling of English, except that in French you can usually know how things are to be pronounced, which you CANNOT know in English. In today's word, OMM in English should be seen as representing a short-O followed by an M-sound, as in "Communist". That is not the sound here, which is, rather, a schwa followed by an M-sound. And we certainly don't need, nor want, a double-M to show an M-sound after a schwa, because readers would be justified in seeing the preceding-O as taking its full short sound, which is just plain wrong.

The O is also the wrong vowel before the M-sound here, tho it is completely right before the N earlier in the word ("consommé"). Before the M, the vowel sound is schwa, but were we to choose which vowel the sound here most closely approximates, many readers might say "U". So let's replace the O with U.

At the very end of the word, the French has an E surmounted by an acute accent, but English does not employ written accents, so the accent has got to go. Leaving an unaccented-E, however, will not do to convey the sound, which is an English long-A. To show that, all we need do is substitute AY for the É.

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

Thursday, September 8, 2016:  "condominneum" for "condominium"

IU ought to be pronounced with a long-I, as in "triumph", "diurnal", and "diuretic", but is here pronounced as long-E. If the sound is E, we should write E.

A second and third issue/s occur in that there is only a single-N in this five-syllable word. Is the I before the N to be said long or short? Short. And where does the primary stress in this long word fall? On the third syllable, before the N-sound. If we double the N, we cue the reader not just to say the preceding-I short but also to place the word's main stress on the syllable before the N-sound. That would be very helpful: "condominneum".

Wensday, September 7, 2016:  "concommitant" for "concomitant"

A single-M leaves unclear whether the O before it is long or short. Many readers will see it is as long, and they'd be justified in seeing that. But it's actually short. To show that, we need merely double the M: "concommitant".

Tuesday, September 6, 2016:  "conceve" and "concevable" for "conceive" and "conceivable"

We have today a word in which appears the vowel sequence EI, for no reason. Apart from the ambiguity of how that is to be said, long-I or long-E (compare the two pronunciations of "either"), there is also the problem of people's having to remember the little rhyme "I before E except after C" (plus some exceptions). Here, we do have a C, so people who know that rhyme will know to write EI. But will they know how to pronounce it?

The sound is long-E, which is most simply written EE. In today's proposed reform, the EE is interrupted by a medial consonant, V. That's fine. The reader can deal with that.

In the adjective, we don't need a second-E before we add -ABLE, because a single-V lets the reader see the preceding-E as long: "conceve" and "concevable".

Munday, September 5, 2016:  "confettee" for "confetti"

At the end of a word, I is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced as long-I, in the English fashion ("pi", "alibi", "hippopotami"), other times being pronounced like an English long-E, in the fashion of Continental European languages (as in today's word itself, "beriberi", and "antipasti"). To make clear to readers of English that the sound in today's word is English long-E, we should use the clearest English rendering of that sound, EE: "confettee".

Sunday, September 4, 2016:  "companyon" for "companion"

ION, is a word to itself, pronounced with a long-I, which makes good sense. Here, however, the sound of the I is a consonantal-Y, and the last syllable is pronounced the same as the -YON in "canyon". Let's write that: "companyon".  

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

Saturday, September 3, 2016:  "celeschal" for "celestial"

The present spelling is ambiguous, and causes some people to pronounce it in four syllables, sa.lés.tee.àl. It is actually said in three syllables, sa.lés.chal. So let's spell it much like that: "celeschal".

Friday, September 2, 2016:  "cocovan" for "coq au vin"

This Food Friday, let's write in English conventions this term in English but from French cookery: "cocovan".

Thursday, September 1, 2016:  "compoze" for "compose"

S is the wrong consonant here. The sound is that of Z, but the S could be  read as having its own sound, as in "dose", "glucose", and the adjective "close". We need to change the S to Z: "compoze".

Wensday, August 31, 2016:  "chuf" for "chuff"*

We don't need a double consonant at the end of a word to indicate a short vowel. One will do: "chuf".

* a rustic; a boor; churl; a miserly fellow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016:  "controvershal" for "controversial"

Today's word is frequently mispronounced in five syllables (kòn.tra.vér.see.âl), whereas it is actually only four (kòn.tra.vér.shal). To show the correct pronunciation, we need to replace the I with H: "controvershal".

Munday, August 29, 2016:  "cayman" for "caiman" and "cayman"

There are two accepted spellings for today's word. That is one too many. Oddly, the preferred spelling is the worse, "caiman". Let's banish the worse spelling and employ only the more reasonable:

Sunday, August 28, 2016:  "burroe" for "burrow"

As mentioned two days ago, OW is ambiguous, sometimes being pronounced as a simple long-O ("slow"), other times as the OU-sound ("plow"). Here, the sound is long-O. To show that, we could drop the W, but that would make the spelling the same as "burro", a donkey. In the alternative, we can write OE, which works fine: "burroe".  

Saturday, August 27, 2016:  "boole" for "boule"*

Oddly, today's word has an OU, but no OU-sound. Rather, the sound is long-U without an initial Y-glide, as in "pool", "tool", and "fool". OO is, however, ambiguous, sometimes being given its short-sound, as in "good", "book", and "crook". This ambiguity has led to a number of words being pronounced with the two different sounds by different people: "room", "hoof", "oops", and such. To show plainly that the long-OO sound should be said here, we can add a silent-E at the end of the word, as in "loose" and "goose": "boole".

* Microsoft Encarta dictionary: "a pear-shaped imitation gemstone made in a furnace from synthetic aluminum oxide corundum".

Froday, August 26, 2016:  "bouwel" for "bowel"

OW is ambiguous, sometimes being said as long-O ("show", "know", "overthrow") but other times being given the OU-sound ("now", "frown", and "upside-down"). Here, the sound is that of the diphthong OU. To show that clearly, we need to add a U to the spelling, before the W, which should remain to separate the OU from the E, in that "bouel" will seem confusing and uncongenial to many people: "bouwel".

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016:  "bilj" for "bilge"

Here again we have a GE standing in for a J-sound. That is not only irrational but also inefficient. Why would we use a G for other than G's own sound but also write two letters to represent a sound that is much more sensibly written with one?: "bilj".

Wensday, August 24, 2016:  "asimmilate" for "assimilate"

We have today a word in which the wrong consonant is doubled. A followed by two S's should be pronounced as a full short-A (as in "ass" (donkey), "mass", and "grass"), but it is actually said as a schwa. Meanwhile, at the boundary between the second and third syllables, a single-M leaves the reader uncertain as to whether the preceding-I is long or short. It's short. To show that, we need merely double the following-M. Now, having undoubled one consonant and doubled another, we end up with a spelling of the same length in letters, but clear: "asimmilate".

Tuesday, August 23, 2016:  "arest" for "arrest"

ARR should be pronounced with a full short-A sound, as in "carrot", "barrel", and "marrow", but the sound here is schwa. To show that, we need merely drop one of the R's, which has the additional virtue of saving us a letter, which is always to the good: "arest".

Munday, August 22, 2016:  "arpejjeo" for "arpeggio"

This is an oddity: a word with two G's but no G-sound (as in "gift", "gilt", and "gearhead"). Rather, the sound is that of the altogether different letter, J. We have a J. Let's use it.

In today's word, we will need two J's to show that the E before that sound is short.

There are two other issues. First, IO should pronounced with a long-I, as in "Iowa" and "bio", but here the I is pronounced long-E. If the sound is E, let's write E.

The last issue today is that there is an alternate, puristically Italian pronunciation, with no E-sound before the O, but that is an affectation. The four major online dictionaries that offer recorded pronunciations (, Merriam-Webster, Oxford, and Cambridge) all show that pronunciation in print but play only the pronunciation with an E-sound. So let's ignore the affected pronunciation: "arpejjeo".

Sunday, August 21, 2016:  "asention" for "ascension"

Why is there a silent-C in this word? It adds nothing but length, and confuses the issue of the sound of the A, because two consonants following should mark a vowel as short. But here, the sound is schwa, not short-A. More generally, if a letter is silent, it shouldn't be in a word.

The other issue in today's word is SION for the sound most commonly written TION. Let's use the most common spelling:  "asention".

Saturday, August 20, 2016:  "astrinjent" for "astringent"

There are two reasons to change the G to J. First, we should never write the J-sound with a G. G has its own sound, which no other letter conveys. Second, there is an N before the G, and N+G ordinarily combine to form the NG-sound, as in "sing" or the NGG sound, as in "finger". Once we change the G to J, no one will wonder about the sound: "astrinjent". 

Friday, August 19, 2016:  "asperin" for "aspirin"

I is the wrong letter before the R. The sound is the one most frequently written ER, so let's use that. There is a second good reason to change it here, because the first part of the traditional spelling is ASPIR, which is the largest part of a very different word, pronounced very differently, with a long-I. So let us instead write: "asperin".

Thursday, August 18, 2016:  "arjuus" for "arduous"

D does not spell the J-sound. J does. A second problem is that the traditional spelling contains an OU letter sequence but no OU-sound. All we need do to fix that is to drop the O: "arjuus".

Wensday, August 17, 2016:  "aray" for "array"

ARR should be pronounced as a full short-A, as in "arrow", "barrel", and "carrot". That's not the sound here, which is a schwa. To show that, all we need do is drop one of the R's, which has the added advantage of saving us a letter: "aray".

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

Tuesday, August 16, 2016:  "arteest" for "artiste"

The vowel sound in the second syllable of today's word appears to be a short-I but is actually a long-E. A new reader would also wonder if today's word has an additional syllable at the end, pronounced as long-E, as in "abalone" and "recipe". It does not, and we can show that clearly simply by dropping the present final-E: "arteest".  

Munday, August 15, 2016:  "az" for "as"

Why would we write S where the sound is Z? We have a Z. Let's use it: "az".

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

Sunday, August 14, 2016:  "arkitrave" for "architrave"*

There's only one problem with today's word, a CH for a K-sound. Before an I we cannot simply replace the CH with C, because that would be seen as representing an S-sound. So we need to replace the CH with K: "arkitrave".

* "1. the lowermost member of a classical entablature, resting originally upon columns.

"2. a molded or decorated band framing a panel or an opening, especially a rectangular one, as of a door or window."

Saturday, August 13, 2016:  "ambroazha" for "ambrosia"

SI does not spell the ZH-sound. ZH does. So let's replace the SI with ZH. A second problem is that a long-O sound before two consonants needs to be shown within the spelling of the vowel sound itself, not by what follows it. There are three ways we could do that: OA (as in "oak" and "roast"), OE (as in "toe" and "aloe"), and OH (as in the word "oh" in itself and "kohl" and "kohlrabi"). OH within a word is unusual, tho plainly not unheard-of, so either OA or OE would probably be better. Neither is perfect, but OA seems the wiser choice: "ambroazha".

Friday, August 12, 2016:  "anggwish" for "anguish"

There are two little problems with today's word. First, the NG is ambiguous. Does it have a hard-G sound after the NG-sound, or not? It does. To show that, we need merely add a second-G. The second problem is that the U repesents not a U-sound, long as in "rude" or short as in "rut", but the sound of W. If that's the sound, let's write W: "anggwish". 

Thursday, August 11, 2016:  "aluveal" for "alluvial"

ALL should be pronounced with the AU-sound as in the word to itself "all", and similar words, like "call" and "tall". That is not the sound here, which is a schwa. To show that, we should drop one of the L's. The other problem with today's word is the IA, which should be pronounced with a long-I, as in "trial" and "denial", but is actually pronounced with a long-E. To show that, we should replace the I with E: "aluveal".

Wensday, August 10, 2016:  "acchuate" for "actuate"

T does not spell the CH-sound, as in "church" and "chaffinch". CH does. So let's put CH where now appears a T. That's all we need do in today's word, one little change. How nice: "acchuate".

* Naturally, all derivatives, such as "actuation" and "self-actuated", take the same changes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016:  "zoajennic" for "zoogenic"*

There are two things quite wrong in today's spelling. First, ZOO powerfully suggests that those three letters repesent one syllable, as in the shorthand term for a zoological park, pronounced with a single vowel sound, long-U without an initial Y-glide. That's not the sound here at all. Rather, there are TWO vowels within that three-letter cluster, the first a long-O, the second a schwa. So the letter sequence should be (Z)OA, as in "boa" and "protozoa".

The second issue is that a G stands in for J. But G should NEVER stand in for the J-sound. It should instead always be given its own sound, conveyed by no other letter, as in "get", "gear", and "gecko". So let's use, for the J-sound here, a J. What a concept!

There is a third issue, a single-N after the GE. The sound is not long-E, as in "genome", but short-E, which we need to show by doubling the N. Now the whole word is easily interpreted: "zoajennic".


"1. produced or caused by animals.

"2. pertaining or related to animal development or evolution."

Munday, August 8, 2016:  "vicoonya" for "vicuña", "vicuna", and "vicugna"

Some people might object to my choice of reformed spelling today, on a couple of grounds. To begin with, altho the first two words of today's trio refer to the same animal (a "camelid" of South America related to the llama and then outward to the one- and two-humped camels of the Middle East and Central Asia), they are pronounced differently. The puristic Spanish form has a written Ñ (énye), and the word's pronunciation obeys the rules of Spanish as regards énye, so is given the sound of English NY or NI in "canyon", "onion", and "opinion".

There is an anglicized form, however, without the énye and which is pronounced with a plain N-sound. My personal preference is to retain original pronunciations but make them clear in English conventions. For instance, I would be very hostile to people in English-speaking countries dropping not just the énye character but also substituting an ordinary N-sound in "piñata": say, pi.nót.a.  Let's retain the NY sound in today's words.

The second issue today is that the Italian form "vicugna" is more narrowly the name of the genus to which the vicuña and alpaca belong. Probably most people in Anglo-America today are familiar with Ñ as representing the English NY-sound. I suspect that far fewer know that GN is the Italian spelling for the énye sound. So I think it would be good to subsume that spelling into the more familiar words "vicuña" and "vicuna", as reformed.

The issue of pronunciation is actually more complicated than the Ñ, N, and GN difference. shows all these pronunciations (here copied from that site, not respelled in my Fanetik for Pronunciation Keys notation: "vahy-koo-nuh, -kyoo-, vi-, vi-koo-nyuh".  That's a list of five pronunciations, where differing syllables are flanked by hyphens ("-kyoo-" and "vi-". does not trouble to show all the syllables in each pronunciation, but only the syllable that differs.

Americans would be very unlikely to use the "-kyoo-" syllable, with a leading Y-glide before the long-U sound. In that 70% of all native speakers of English reside within the United States, it is American speech that must control the spelling of English worldwide. Thus, we can drop the initial Y-glide, shown by Y in the second spelling above. But let's retain the Y-sound before the A. That yields a single spelling for these related words of: "vicoonya".

* While researching the spelling of the name of the Ñ character, I chanced to find "Project ñ": "An 'ñ' is a first-generation American-born Latino who has at least one parent from a Spanish-speaking country."

Sunday, August 7, 2016:  "Eutah" for "Utah"

"Utah" could be seen as (Brooklyn) dialect for "utter", because there are many words in which a single consonant follows a short vowel sound. In actuality, the U is pronounced long, with an initial Y-glide.  That sound is written more clearly as EU, for instance in "euphemism", "eulogy", and (another geographical term) "Europe". Let's write that in the first syllable of today's word.  The second syllable is fine as-is:  "Eutah".

Saturday, August 6, 2016:  "timmorus" for "timorous"

The I in today's word takes its short sound (as in "it"), but there's no way the reader can know that, in that there is only a single-M after it. That is especially problematic in that there is a geographic entity, "Timor", pronounced tée.maur, in Southeast Asia, an island split between Indonesia and an independent entity.

It is easy for people to see a short-vowel occurring when it's followed by two or more consonants, so let's double the M.

The other problem today is that the last syllable contains the apparent digraph OU, but that two-letter sequence does NOT form a digraph and does NOT represent the OU-sound. Rather, the sound is schwa, which will become plain if we simply drop the O. Here, less would definitely be more. It would save us a letter, which should always be welcome, and the spelling with the O dropped would be clearer as to sound: "timmorus".

Friday, August 5, 2016:  "tarteen" for "tartine"

This Food Friday, let's fix the name of a fancy open-faced sandwich. The name is French; the language in which it appears here is English. English words should be spelled in English fashion. In French, INE is pronounced with the English long-E sound. In English, INE is given different pronunciations (e.g., "magazine", "adrenaline", "sine" and "cosine") but the most reasonable has a long-I sound, as in "fine", "tine", and "quinine". To show long-E in English, we should use the simplest and clearest spelling, EE: "tarteen".

Thursday, August 4, 2016:  "treet" for "treat"

We don't need an A in this word. It muddies the issue of how many vowel sounds there are, one or two (compare "creation", "theater", "beatitude"). Here, there is a single vowel sound, long-E, and that is better written EE: "treet". 

Wensday, August 3, 2016:  "taranchula" for "tarantula"

T does not spell the CH-sound, as in "church". CH does. So let's replace the T in the middle of today's word with CH. We can leave the rest. Some people might urge that we change the U before the L to A, a more common spelling for the schwa sound, but perhaps the least change is the best change: "taranchula".

Tuesday, August 2, 2016:  "tappestree" for "tapestry"

The present spelling of today's word might be seen by new readers of English, be they children in English-speaking countries or people of any age outside the English-speaking countries, as having two syllables, "tape" and "stry", whatever "stry" might mean or however it might be pronounced, with a long-I (as in "spry") or long-E (as in "pastry"). Actually, this word has three syllables. To disconnect the first part of the word from the rest, as will indicate three syllables, we need merely double the P. That would still leave unclear the sound in the last syllable, in that -Y could be pronounced as long-I ("rely") or long-E ("pony"). Let's eliminate all possibility of confusion by replacing the Y with EE, the clearest spelling of the long-E sound: "tappestry". 

Munday, August 1, 2016:  "stepp" for "steppe"

We do need to distinguish this word for a vast, treeless plain from the ordinary word for an individual member of a flite of stairs. What we do NOT need, however, is a spelling that causes the reader to wonder if the word has one syllable or two. English has well over 100 words in which a final-E is pronounced as a syllable to itself, such as "Comanche", "aborigine", and "vigilante".  How is a reader to know that in "steppe", the E is NOT pronounced? Let's just drop it, OK?  That will leave this word distinct from "step", but not mislead anyone into thinking it has two syllables: "stepp".

Sunday, July 31, 2016:  "stine" for "stein"

This term, for a large beer mug, sometimes with a movable cover, is not presently much used in the United States (except by tourists to, for instance, Germany, where they might buy a souvenir stein), but might still be used outside the U.S. In any case, the vowel sound is improperly represented by the highly ambiguous EI. The sound is long-I, which here is readily shown by replacing the EIN with INE: "stine".

Saturday, July 30, 2016:  "squeemish" for "squeamish"

Why is there an A in this spelling? The sound is a simple long-E, which is best shown by EE: "squeemish". 

Friday, July 29, 2016:  "squosh" for "squash"

As with yesterday's word, A is the wrong vowel for today's word, which is, similarly, short-O: "squosh".

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

Thursday, July 28, 2016:  "squollid" for "squalid"

There are times when I wonder if the present spelling really could be so stupid. This is one of those times. Why on Earth would we use an A for the vowel sound here, which is plainly short-O, not long-A (as in "ate") or short-A (as in "at). I had to double-check the dictionary to see that it really is presently an A. In any case, no matter how it happened, correcting that idiotic mistake is easy. All we need to do is replace the A with an O.

That is not enuf, however, to fix the ridiculous present spelling. A single-L leaves unclear whether the preceding vowel is long or short. It's short, which we can and should show clearly by doubling the L: "squollid".

Wensday, July 27, 2016:  "speureus" for "spurious"

The first part of today's word is SPUR, which as a word to itself is pronounced with a short-U. That is not the sound here. This is part of what makes English so hard to learn, especially for people outside the traditionally English-speaking countries. We need to make all spellings clear to everyone, inside and outside the traditionally English-speaking countries. In the case of today's word, that means showing that the vowel sound in the first syllable is not just long but also includes an initial Y-glide, which we could show by either Y itself or E. EU is more common in English, and should thus be more easily accepted.

The second issue in today's word is the OU where there is no OU sound. Rather, the sound is only a schwa, which can be readily shown if we simply drop the O, which will have the additional benefit of saving ourselves a letter: "speureus".

Tuesday, July 26, 2016:  "spunjiform" for "spongiform"

There are two problems with today's word. First, the vowel in the first syllable is wrong. It should be U, whereas it now suggests a short-O. That's a quick fix: just change the O to U. The second problem is a G that represents not G's own, unique sound, represented by no other letter (as in "get", "gear", and "gallivant" (or "galavant"!). Who came up with the idea of using G to represent the sound of J? We have a different letter for that sound: J. Let us always use it for that sound; never G: "spunjiform". Using J here would have the additional virtue of uncoupling the N from a G, which most commonly would be pronounced as either the NG-sound (as in "ring") or NGG (as in "finger"). Here, there is no NG-sound, much less an NGG-sound, but the separate sounds N and J: "spunjiform".

Munday, July 25, 2016:  "skatebord" for "skateboard"

This compound word has two elements, the first of which is fine. "Skate" follows English conventions. The second element, however, has the odd spelling OA for what should simply be O. Let's fix that: "skatebord".

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

Sunday, July 24, 2016:  "sfincter" for "sphincter"

Many people may not not know this word for a biological structure indispensable to civilization. Wikipedia says: "The human body has over 50 kinds of sphincters located throughout it. A sphincter is a ringed structure that relaxes and contracts to allow passage of solids and liquids from one section of the anatomy to another." The most important sphincter is the one that prevents us from defecating until we intend to, as on a toilet. The only problem with the spelling is the idiotic PH for an F-sound. If the sound is F, let's just write F: "sfincter".

Saturday, July 23, 2016:  "sonnic", "supersonnic", and "subsonnic"  for "sonic", "supersonic", and "subsonic"

This is easy. The only thing wrong with these three spellings is that the N should be doubled, to show that the preceding-O is short: "sonnic", "supersonnic", and "subsonnic".

Friday, July 22, 2016:  "Slov/vic" for "Slav/ic"

Few people know this, but the English term "slave" derives from a time in history when large numbers of Slavs, from the Balkan region of Europe, were forced into slavery. In any case, the sound of "Slav" is not like that of the word "slave". Rather, the A represents neither of A's ordinary sounds, long as in "atrium" and short as in "at". Rather, it is the "broad"-A, which is better thought of as short-O, the same sound.

To show a short-O before a single consonant at the end of a word, we need only write O, so that neatly takes care of the noun "Slav", which should be written "Slov".

To show the adjective, we need to double the V before adding the -IC: "Slov" and "Slovvic".

Thursday, July 21, 2016:  "syzmic", "syzmollojy", and "syzmolojjical"  for "seismic", "seismology", and "seismological"

We have in this trio of words RIDICULOUS spellings. To begin with, there is, in all three words, one S that represents not an S-sound but a Z-sound. Why? There are in fact two S's in each of these words. The first is pronounced as S, but the second is not. Why do we do these things to people, esp. little children and people in foreign countries who want to learn English? We have a Z for the sound of that second-S. Let's use it.

The second problem with all three words is that EI is used to represent a long-I sound. But EI is ambiguous, as shown most strikingly by the words "either" and "neither", in which the EI can be said as a long-I or a long-E.* Not good enuf. There are also other sounds that EI is sometimes used for, such as long-A + short-I ("spontaneity" as some people say it) and long-E + short-I (as in "deify"). Let's not use EI here. What shall we use, tho? The long-I sound is followed by two consonants, S (or Z, as respelled) and M, and a two-letter consonant cluster should be seen as marking the preceding vowel as short. But here it's long. Again, we need to write the long-I sound within the spelling of the vowel, not by what follows it. Y would do that nicely, as in "tyro", "hydro", and "dynamo". Let's use that.

In the inflected forms, we confront an oddity of English spelling, the absurd assumption that if we don't spell the first part of inflected forms the same as they are spelled in the base form, people will not know that the words are related. Come on! Spelling should guide us to the pronunciation of each and every one of the various — sometimes many — inflected forms. Today, I deal with three forms, but there is at least one more I did not trouble to set out, "seismologically". There might be more. But you get the picture from the forms I do deal with.

Those forms are pronounced quite differently, and the spellings should reflect that, not hide it.

In (traditionally spelled) "seismology", some new readers could see it as being pronounced síòe.jee, or even síòe.gee, given the word "logy" (sluggish; with a G-sound, not J-sound) whereas it is actually pronounced sìez.mól.a.jeê, and so the G is inappropriate, in that it does not bespeak a G-sound (as in "given", "grant", and "logy"). but a J-sound. If the sound is J, why on EARTH would we write G? It makes no sense.

What to do with the OL is debatable. Ordinarily, a single consonant after a vowel (with a further syllable following on) can be seen as permitting either a long or short pronunciation of that vowel, tho long is generally preferred. But a double consonant is generally regarded as a marker that the preceding vowel takes its short sound ("preferred", "embedded", "vetted"). There is, however, a problem with OL as against OLL, with which, if anything, the rule is reversed ("poll", "roll", "scroll"), but at least with which no clear pattern can be discerned and followed by the reader, esp. a reader outside the traditionally English-speaking countries: "politics", "frolic", "abolish" as against "Polish" (relating to Poland), "cold", and "holiness". Still, OLL, for being more like other letter combinations, in which a double consonant signals that the prior vowel is short, seems the better choice ("follow", "holler", "collagen").

In the inflected form/related word "seismological", the stress moves to the third syllable, and the J-sound needs to be shown by a double-J, because the O before it is short.

Putting this all together, we get: "syzmic", "syzmollojy", and "syzmolojjikal".

* My mother, who was half-Irish (and half-German) joked about those two pronunciations, in saying, 'Why do they say ée.ther and íe.ther, when náe.ther is correct?"

Wensday, July 20, 2016:  "sebaishus" for "sebaceous"

There are entirely too many irrational ways to spell a suffix that sounds like -SHUS (e.g. -TIOUS, -CIOUS, and, here, -CEOUS). None of those spellings makes any sense. If it sounds like -SHUS, let's write -SHUS. Here, however, the SH that would start that phonetic sequence comprised a two-letter consonant cluster, which would ordinarily signal that the vowel just before it is short, whereas here, the vowel (A) is long. To show that, we need to indicate it in the spelling of the vowel itself, not by what follows it. For a long-A, we could write AE or, more commonly, AI or AY. AY would probably be seen as standard at the end of the word. But this long-A falls in the middle of the word, where AI is far more common. So let's write that: "sebaishus). 

Tuesday, July 19, 2016:  "relliquerry" for "reliquary"

There are two problems with today's word. First is the RE-, which is a prefix that is ordinarily said with a long-E, but is here pronounced with a short-E. To show that, we need to double the consonant after it, here, the L.

The second problem is that the -ARY at the end of the word is not clear. The word could be pronounced rèe.lík.wér.êe, whereas it is actually pronounced rél.i.kwè To show that, we need to indicate more stress on the second syllable from the end: "relliquerry". 

Munday, July 18, 2016:  "regailya" for "regalia"

IA is ambiguous, and could be pronounced as two syllables, either long-I plus schwa or long-E plus schwa. Here, however, the sound is one syllable, pronounced as tho written YA. So let's write that. Another problem is the sound of the GAL, which as a word to itself is said with a short-A. Here, however, the sound is "flat"-A, which is often written AI. So let's use that too: "regailya".

Sunday, July 17, 2016:  "reffeujee" for "refugee"

The prefix RE- is ordinarily pronounced with a long-E. That is not the case here, where it contains a short-E, which we should indicate by doubling the F after it.

A second issue is the sound of the U. Does it entail an initial Y-glide, as in "pure", or not (as in "poor")? As it happens, a long-U after P at the beginning of a word essentially always does entail a Y-glide, but you shouldn't have to know that to know how to pronounce this word. Spelling, in an alphabet, is always supposed to tell the reader how to say a word. There are other ways to write, such as ideographs in Chinese and Japanese. But an alphabet is intended to convey speech.

In any case, we should indicate a Y-glide if there is one. Within a word, it is customary to show a Y-glide in a long-U sound not by writing a Y but by writing EU, so let's do that. A Y would be clearer, but might be regarded as less acceptable. English, tho the most modern of languages in many ways, is old-fashioned in some.

The last problem with today's word is the G toward the end, which represents NOT G's own sound, conveyed uniquely by that letter and no other, but the sound that should ordinarily be written as J. If the sound is J, let's write J: "reffeugee".

Saturday, July 16, 2016:  "pollygraf" for "polygraph"

A vowel followed by a single consonant is often read as long, but here, the O is supposed to be seen as short. OL or OLL is a special case, because the O can be read as either short ("follow", "holler",  "pollen") or long ("boll", "roll", "poll"). Still, conformity to the rule that a double consonant signals a short vowel beforehand argues for doubling the consonant.

The second issue with today's word is the preposterous PH at the end, which is supposed to represent a simple F-sound. If the sound is F,why would we write anything but F?: "pollygraf".

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

Friday, July 15, 2016:  "palute" for "pollute"

Why are there two L's in today's word? The reader would be justified in thinking that the O before the double-L is short. It's actually a schwa, and the most common spelling for schwa is A. And we shouldn't write two L's. One is enuf: "palute".

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

Thursday, July 14, 2016:  "poal" for "poll"

A reader should be able to rely on a vowel followed by two consonants taking its short sound. Here, however, the sound is long-O, despite there being two L's after it. To show that, we need to write the vowel's sound within its spelling, not by what follows it. The spelling most likely to be read correctly is OA, as in "goal", "toast", and "approach": "poal".

Wensday, July 13, 2016:  "pollish" for "polish"

We have today a word that, if written with an initial capital, would be pronounced with a long-O: "Polish". That is what a reader would expect, whether there is a capital letter or not, because a single-L leads the reader to believe that the O is long. In the ordinary word, meaning a substance used to make something clean or shiny, the O should be short. Alas, before L, or LL, an O could be read as either long or short. Still, a double-L does signal a short-O in some words ("hollow", "pollen", "folly"), and a double consonant's signaling a short vowel accords with the usual pattern, so let's use that here: "pollish".  

Tuesday, July 12, 2016:  "paleese" for "police"

Altho any vowel can be read as a schwa in unstressed position, O is not the best choice here, esp. given the dialectal pronunciation póe.lees, which we should make plain is incorrect. The most common spelling for schwa is A, so let's use that.

The second issue today is that LICE is a word to itself, pronounced with a long-I, for unpleasant insect parasites. The vowel sound here is long-E, which is most simply written EE.

A third issue is whether we should retain a C for the S-sound. If the sound is S, we might think S a better spelling, except that there are only two common words in English that end in -EESE, and altho one is said with an S-sound ("geese"), the other ("cheese") is said with a Z-sound. So C would be better after all: "paleece".

Munday, July 11, 2016:  "poewetry" for "poetry"

The present spelling of this term for a literary form (rhyming or not) looks like a two-syllable combination of the last name of the American poet who wrote "The Raven", Edgar Allan Poe, and the word for an attempt, "try", which is pronounced with a long-I. In actuality, today's word is three syllables, and the sound of the -Y is pronounced as long-E. To show the actual sounds, we should insert WE after the POE. We could also change the -Y to -EE, but that's probably not necessary, given how often a final-Y is pronounced as long-E: "poewetry".

Sunday, July 10, 2016:  "poewet/ess" for "poet/ess"

See the discussion above for most of the points pertinent to today's paired words. "Poetess" will seem to feminists as dated and even condescending, but not everyone is a feminist: "poewet" and "poewetess".

Saturday, July 9, 2016:  "poewem" for "poem"

Here we have a term related to those in the discussions for July 9th and 10th, so I need not repeat those texts here: "poewem".

Friday, July 8, 2016:  "plumm/er" for "plumb/er"

Why is there a B in today's words if it's not pronounced? Let's drop it, OK? We can't just drop it, however, because we already have a word "plum". But we can distinguish today's base word by changing the B into a second-M: "plumm" and "plumm/er".


My thanks to "Dogs..." for "plummer".

Thursday, July 7, 2016:  "playrite" for "playwright"

A "playwright" writes plays. "Write" is bad enuf, in having a silent-W. We certainly don't need a silent-G and silent-H too! Let's get rid of all three of those needless letters: "playrite".

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

Wednesday, July 6, 2016:  "planjent" for "plangent"*

There are two things wrong with the traditional spelling of this word. First, a G represents not its own sound, which no other letter does, but the sound of J. If the sound is J, we should write J. The second problem is closely connected with the foolish use of a G, because the letter right before it is N, and N + G commonly combine to form a distinct sound, or more than one sound, as in "hang" and "anger", neither of which occurs in this word. If we replace the G with J, however, the reader will no longer be tempted to use either of those NG- or NGG-sounds: "planjent".

* "1. resonant: making a loud and resonant or mournful sound

" 2. expressing or suggesting sadness: expressing or suggesting grief or sadness (literary)". (Microsoft Encarta dictionary)

Tuesday, July 5, 2016:  "peenya colodda" for "piña colada"

We have here one of our few remaining Booze Tuesday terms, for a cocktail "made from pineapple juice, rum, and coconut" (Microsoft Encarta's dictionary). The conventional spelling is Spanish, and employs a tilde over the N to indicate the NY sound as in "canyon". English does not use a tilde (or any other written accent, one of its strengths), and the great preponderance of computer users in the English-speaking world have no idea how to place a tilde over a letter (tho it's easy to do if you use, in MS Windows, the "United States-International" logical keyboard; but few people know how to install or select any such logical keyboard). We thus need to replace the Ñ with NY.

We should also replace the I and the A before the D with their English equivalents, EE and O; and double the D to show that the O takes its short sound. In the United States, a substantial majority of people have a pretty good sense of the sounds of Spanish vowels, due to the enormous number of Hispanics in the population and the proliferation in recent decades of words from Spanish that appear around them. But the same cannot be said for all the people trying to learn English outside the United States because it is the most useful of all international languages, esp. in countries where the roman alphabet is not used for their own language, such as China, Japan, and India.

We must always remember that making the spelling of English simpler is not just for the convenience of people for whom English is their native language, but is also, and perhaps more importantly, to make it easier for English to serve as the world's foremost means of communication among people from multitudinous other language communities.

We must not impose upon those billions of people the obligation to learn the sounds of SPANISH in order to read ENGLISH. The changes proposed here will show plainly to anyone who already reads or is learning to read English how to say the name of this cocktail: "peenya colodda".

Munday, July 4, 2016:  "perriwig" for "periwig"

A single-R leaves unclear whether the sound before it is that most commonly written ER ("perfect") but also UR ("urge"), IR ("bird"), OR ("bettor"), and AR ("library"), or a long-E, as in "period". It is the sound in "perfect". To show that plainly, all we need do is double the R: "perriwig".

Sunday, July 3, 2016:  "perfiddeus" for "perfidious"

A single-D at once leaves unclear whether the I before it is long or short, and gives no guidance as to where the primary stress in this four-syllable word falls. If we double the D, we at once show plainly that the I takes its short sound and that the word's main stress falls on the second syllable.

One problem remains, an OU in the last syllable,but no OU-sound. The sound is schwa, which we can indicate more clearly with one less letter, the needless and misleading O: "perfiddeus".

Saturday, July 2, 2016:  "payfone" for "payphone"

This is a slitely antique term from an era in which public telephones that people could use to make calls upon inserting coins, were readily available in many locations, within businesses and on streets. Given that the term remains in literature and film, we should bring it into accord with general respellings: "payfone".

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

Friday, July 1, 2016:  "paperwerk" for "paperwork"

OR is most commonly seen as representing a combination of the AU vowel, followed by the R-sound (as in the word "or" itself, "dormant", and "formation"). The sound here, however, is the one most commonly written ER. So let's replace the O with E: "paperwerk".

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

Click here for today's suggestion.
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Click here for the principles that govern the selection of words.

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

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