Phonetics Reformers Buzzing at Spelling Bee

Revitalized movement wants to simplify the language
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted May 30, 2008 11:15 AM CDT
Phonetics Reformers Buzzing at Spelling Bee
President Bush, left, meets 2007 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion Evan O'Dorney, from Danville, Calif., Monday, Sept. 17, 2007, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Every year, the National Spelling Bee sparks a protest from an 800-year-old movement that aims to simplify spelling by using phonetics, the Wall Street Journal reports. (Think thru vs. through.) “We have 42 different sounds in English, and we spell them 400 different ways,” says the 102-year-old founder of the movement’s modern phase, which blames the high rate of illiteracy on the idiosyncrasies of English spelling.

“I have always known it would not happen, but I worked for it anyway, because it should happen,” he says. In recent years, the ranks of groups in America and Britain dedicated to the cause have swelled, and with the birth of Internet shorthand, they believe the time may be ripe for change. During the 20th century, languages such as French, German, and Spanish saw spelling reform. So, asks one advocate, “Why not English?” (Read more spelling stories.)

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