Set Your Speling Free

| May 24, 2002 Issue

W herever there's been written language, there have been people who want the letters and sounds to correspond more directly. Now with the increased number of small screens in the world, such as palm pilots and cell phones, these spelling reformists might finally have an audience for their cause.

Ry Rivard, writing in the progressive youth Web site Wiretap, talks with Richard L. Wade, founder of, where each month site visitors can vote on the new reformed spelling of 15 words. This month, for instance, the alternative spellings include knolej, nolej, knoledge, nollij, noledj, and nollege.

Wade argues that English is the hardest European language to learn to read and write. With a little spelling reform, perhaps it would be more accessible, which could create opportunities for immigrants and the illiterate. And there is a historical precedent for reformed spelling. Rivard cites the example of Noah Webster, who was responsible for dropping the u's in colour and honour when he created the American Dictionary of the English language. In fact, the English language is already in the process of reform as a result of Internet chat rooms and instant messaging. Such constructions as BRB ("be right back") and LOL ("laughing out loud") were meaningless combinations of letters 15 years ago.

Language purists shouldn't be afraid just yet, however. "Words are units of communication," Rivard writes, "and 'hyte' isn't yet one used to communicate. But, if enough people type it into their pagers and PDAs, cell phones and PCs and put it on a memo or two (thousand), 'hyte' may find itself in Webster's between 'hysterical' and 'HZ'."
--Maria Opitz
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