Interesting quotes from Forbidden Signs…

…in light of recent conversations around here. (I do plan on a proper review, but I happened across this gem just now.)

From Forbidden Signs, pp 103:

Another measure of the oralist preoccupation with efficiency was the support they gave to a national movement to rationalize the spelling of English words. The late-nineteenth-century spelling reform movement was advocated with claims that it would increase efficiency and facilitate the Americanization of immigrants; at both points it intersected with the oralist movement. It is not surprising, therefore, to find calls for spelling reform coming from a convention of oralists in 1884: “speed the good work of the spelling reformers,” Emma Garrett exhorted her colleagues, for the benefit of “both hearing and deaf children.” Alice E. Worcester of the Clarke Institution lamented the “irregularities and inconsistencies” of English spelling, and suggested that all education would benefit “if words were spelled as they are pronounced, and pronounced as they are spelled.” J.H. Brown reproached the English language for its “orthographic irregularities of representing spelling.” Throughout the history of English, he complained, “there does not appear to have been any attempt at a scientific representation of sounds by letters.”

This entry was posted in books, review. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Interesting quotes from Forbidden Signs…

  1. jcortese says:

    As if every word has only ONE proper pronunciation! And then we come back around to eugenics through the backdoor, don’t we? *sigh*

    And it’s always people who haven’t the slightest interest in languages and linguistics who propose this. I’ve come to realize that the insanity of English spelling is actually quite useful. It codes sloppily for pronunciation, for etymology, for language or origin, for lots of things. As a Swiss army knife, it does a fairly good job. I mean if “come” and “succumb” are spelled alike, you’d never realize they have different paths of origin in the language. If “philology” were spelled with an “f” you’d lose the cue of that “ph” telling you it came from Greek. English spelling does a lot of jobs passably okay, as opposed to doing one job very well.

    But the idiots who propose this sort of uniformity never value that. These are people with a very blindered, very monochrome view of knowledge and the world. They take no joy in understanding, and they are suspicious of such a thing. Joy is uncontrolled and hence dangerous. Like ASL. *grumble*