THE PYONEER OV SIMPLIFYD SPELING.
VOL. VI, No. 2. JOON 1917. Prys 2d. pp17-32.
[The Pyoneer was published in A5 size paper, pp17-32 with additional text on the colored cover pages.] SSS membership was noted as being 2848 (p29). The spoof examination paper is amusing (p25).]
PUBLISHT BY THE SIMPLIFYD SPELING SOSYETI, London.
The traid suplyd by SIMPKIN, MARSHALL, HAMILTON, KENT, & CO., London
[The 1942 edition Braeking dhe spel, in Nue Speling, is avalable as a pdf file.]
BRAIKING THE SPEL.
MŒST ov our memberz, if not aul, ar familiar with the litel book entyteld
Simplified Spelling: an Appeal to Common Sense. A neu edishon haz reesentli
been publisht, tu which we hav given the neu tytel, Breaking the Spell, for
which we ar indeted tu the injeneuiti ov our sumtym Sekretari and konstant frend,
Mr. Sydney Walton. The tekst haz been revyzd and improovd; sum pasijez hav been
reeriten. We hav omited the laast 32 paijez, which kontaind John Gilpin and a
short stori from Dickens; this haz enaibeld us tu redeus the prys from 6d. tu 4d. We
hav aulso reprinted the stori, The Star, which our Vys-Prezident, Mr. H. G.
Wells, aloud us tu poot intu Simplifyd Speling.
A nœtwerthi feeteur ov Breaking the Spell iz a Prefais, veri kyndli kontribeuted tu it by Dr. R. W. Macan, Maaster ov Euniversiti Kolej, Oxford. We think it so valeuabel that we ar shoor our reederz wil be graitfool tu us for reeprodeusing it heer:
Spelling should be the simplest of all arts: as easy as A, B, C, with nothing to remember but the names, or sounds, of the letters; and, for reading, their shapes or appearance. In some living languages - Spanish, Italian, Welsh, Dutch - and in dead Greek and Latin (if properly taught) reading and spelling are as easy as that. But English - a tongue in the simple spelling of which one quarter at least of the human race is directly interested, and the rest would gladly learn to spell it if they could; English, with its grammar the simplest, with its vocabulary the richest of living languages - presents in its orthography, or orthodox spelling, a mass and maze of anomalies and difficulties, which make the acquisition of the correct pronunciation and the conventional spelling an insoluble problem to native and foreigner alike. The majority of our own people never acquire mastery of the language. Even the educated man of business writes with a dictionary at his elbow. Correct spelling and pronunciation are the aristocratic privilege of the few. The orthodox spelling of English has, in course of time, owing to well known historical causes and for want of authoritative readjustment to the unconscious but inevitable changes always at work in pronunciation, come to have so little relation to the audible speech that every man, woman, child, who would fain read, write, and speak tolerable English must set out to learn two distinct and independent languages - the one, English as spoken; the other, English as printed. Our spelling has become a mystery, a convention, without rules or reason; a constant exercise of memory, a constant recourse to the dictionary, a perpetual setting of conundrums, a tiresome game of hide and seek, an exasperating waste of time and material and energy, which might be very much better employed. No mortal can tell at sight how an English word is to be pronounced, nor how to write an English word, heard for the first time. The chaos of English orthography is unscientific, inartistic, unbusinesslike; and every competent judge, be his interests educational, or scholarly, or simply commercial; be he teacher, or student, or manufacturer and merchant, is in favour of reform. Why, then, tarry the wheels of the Reform-chariot?[It iz not uninteresting tu nœt that Braiking the Spel has eeven nokt at the dor ov "The Times" suksesfooli. Its "Literary Supplement" ov Mai 31 kaulz it "a plee for reform ov a singeularli reezonabel karakter." The "Educational Supplement" ov Mai 24, in kwyt a long reveu, sez it iz riten throo-out "in a tœn ov sweet reezonabelnes." The saim number kontainz wun ov a seereez ov ekselent artikelz on "The Reediskuveri ov English," which konkloodz with the folœing werdz:- "Praktikal konsideraishonz klamor for standerdizaishon - ov the spœken langwij - and tordz this, no dout, haitfool az it must be tu meni tu admit it, rektifikaishon ov English Speling wood pouerfooli kontribeut."]
Every attempt at reform, in this department, encounters two tremendous obstacles. In the first place, spelling reformers are up against the apathy, the ignorance, and the prejudice of the adult population, the grown-ups, educated or semi-educated. Those who have acquired the technical trick of spelling, and forgotten, or never considered, what their proficiency has cost them, are apt to say, with becoming modesty, that what they have done others can do likewise; are apt to protest, having learnt to spell after the one fashion, against being asked to to unlearn the lesson and start afresh; are apt to declare that, to reprint English prose and poetry in a new fashion, however simple and scientific, would destroy for them all the charm of reading and all facility of writing the language. They will seldom consider the educational interests of the rising generation, or the commercial interests of the nation twenty years hence. Having no desire or intention to amend their own way of spelling, they fail to appreciate the damnosa hereditas - the costly and ruinous legacy - they are bequeathing to their children and their children's children.
The educational argument for a reform of our spelling ought alone to carry the day. Every child who learns to spell correctly has, on the average, wasted a thousand hours of school-time in acquiring this precious accomplishment. That figure, multiplied throughout the nation, the Commonwealth, the Empire - to say nothing of other lands and peoples - might give some idea of the sheer waste of time and energy in the education of the young. The indirect reaction of an irrational spelling upon growing and inquiring minds should not be forgotten. The proverbial incuria of the English mind - its indifference to the application of scientific intelligence and method to the problems of life - is, in my opinion, not unconnected with the irrationality of our spelling. If we had had a reform in our spelling we should not still be clamouring for the adoption of the metric system in our weights and measures. Our orthography defeats the attempts of foreigners to learn English; it is a bar to the wider, perhaps the almost universal, employment of English in the intercourse, commercial and spiritual, of mankind.
Spelling reform becomes, from this point of view, a businesslike proposition, if not for to-day, at least for tomorrow and every day after. Economy of time, substance, and labour, facility of communication as well without as within the strictly English-speaking world, contain a promise of wealth "passing the dreams of avarice," if not for this or that individual, yet for the nation, as such, and for the generations to come. English men of business, the merchant, the manufacturer, have incurred many reproaches of late for their want of faith in science, in up-to-date methods, for their short sight, and failure to adapt themselves to the needs of the market, actual and potential. Can one defend them from such reproaches, in view of the fact that the English business world has not yet insisted on the adoption of the metric system and on the simplification of English spelling?
But here crops up the second chief difficulty encountered by Spelling Reform: the Reformers ire not agreed among themselves as to the reforms to be adopted; there are half a dozen or more competing schemes, and the plain man is driven back upon the established dictionary. But at least all Reformers agree in condemning the existing orthography; and it has been well said that any one of the competing schemes would be more scientific and more satisfactory than the present muddle. Every expert must admit that for a completely adequate and truly phonetic reform a good many letters must be added to the alphabet; and this prospect is one of the most alarming features of some of the proposed solutions. It is just here that the scheme of the Simplified Spelling Society comes in. Few, if any, members of the Society would deny that, for a fully scientific orthography, which would also be the simplest orthography, of English, some increase in the alphabet is necessary; but, for such a reform, Governmental and Parliamentary authority will be necessary, and such authority is hard to obtain. There are no votes in phonetic spelling is an electioneering cry. Meanwhile, Simplified Spelling makes a good beginning with the existing alphabet, and has come wonderfully near the phonetic canon: "one sign, one sound." It gets rid of most of the anomalies and confusions of the established tyranny; it offers a fairly self-consistent method; it is rational, economical, and easily acquired; it can be adopted in toto or by degrees; it has been proved a success in school teaching. Should it but serve ultimately as the pioneer of a still more complete and radical reform, should it succeed in dissolving some of the prejudice against every reform, by the sweet reasonableness and moderation of its claims, it will more than justify the pains and labour which its promoters have bestowed upon it. To the printer it makes a special appeal, for it asks him merely to economize; he need neither scrap nor multiply his types. To the child it opens a short cut to literature and learning, for actual experiment has shown that the child who starts on Simplified Spelling arrives at reading even the current hieroglyphics of English more easily and quickly than his fellow who has been nurtured solely on conundrums and enigmas of orthography. It lightens and brightens the teacher's labours. It reduces writer's cramp. It abbreviates the rappings of the typographer. It saves time, money, and toil. It appeals to common sense. Shall it appeal wholly in vain?
An Irish Elefant.
Wun eevening I remember too ov the mœst kulteurd literari men in Ireland wer at werk in a Dublin ofis, and wun ov them aaskt the uther, "Hou meni f's ar thair in 'elefant'"? The reply woz: "I'm not shoor, but I think thair'z œnli wun." - (Relaited bv Serjeant Sullivan, the distingwisht Irish K.C.)
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