I seldom write about the English spelling system. When I taught linguistics, I always told my students to never feel guilty about making spelling errors, they are not the writer’s fault. English has an atrocious spelling system.
In fact, it is even worse than Gerald Nolst Trenite demonstrated in his now famous poem, The Chaos. This fact was impressed upon me when I briefly misinterpreted rheumy as roomy when I recently heard it. How can a language that spells words that are pronounced identically like these in two such radically different ways?
Why don’t we do something about it?” many have asked over the past century. The Simplified Spelling Society was established in 1908 and has had no impact over the past century. Over the same period, the orthography of Russian (1918), French (2004), German (1996), and Portuguese (2009), among other languages, have been reformed. Why not English?
Languages whose spelling systems have been updated are generally spoken in a nation with an Academy of Science with a language that oversees the “purity” of the language. Spelling reforms usually originate there, though the governments of these countries also show far more interest in language than those of most English-speaking countries.
English is spoken in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and is an official language of India. Changing the spelling would probably require the involvement of the governments of at least a half dozen countries.
Governments have to be involved since there is always a backlash from those who prefer the status quo. In fact, most of the reforms mentioned above are today only partially accepted despite laws in some countries attempting to enforce reforms.
English, as readers of our daily Good Word well know, has borrowed most of its words from other languages, languages spoken around the world, wherever the British and Americans asserted their power. A reform that would cover all the various spellings of English sounds from its entire vocabulary—or even a siginificant part of it—would be very difficult, to say the least
All we can do is struggle with the English spelling system as it stands. We all hope our efforts here at alphaDictionary help our readers with that task.