Purist or Revolutionist? Who Knew Spelling Could Be a Battleground?!

By June 11, 2008 culture, language No Comments

Do you consider yourself a spelling purist or a spelling revolutionist?

Revolutionists ache to simplify the spellings of many irregular words in the English language; purists prefer the current spellings and suggest that people start pulling out the dictionary.

This topic has been bobbing about for some time, but I’ve noticed it more than once in the past year, so it must be gaining momentum. Just this week, the results of a study on the topic were released in the United Kingdom. And the Spelling Society has pushed for language revolution since 1908.

You may think such a debate is irrelevant considering all that plagues the world today. I beg to differ! (And so I will.)

The English language is strange and tricky and unpredictable. I find it all the more fascinating because of it—sort of like an intriguing childhood friend. But like all characters, language too is impossible to change without stripping away its personality. (Here’s a short and interesting summary of how our language got its personality. Enjoy!)

In the clever novel Ella Minnow Pea, author Mark Dunn creates a world in which proper language and spelling are the highest value of society. It is so revered, in fact, that the council believes they are to remove certain letters from their speech and written works. Through humor and wit, Dunn provides a charming story of what happens when we tinker with language.

The fictitious society in Ella Minnow Pea willingly adjusted to the new language rules. But as the rules compounded, the more difficult it became to be linguistically correct. That’s when it all fell apart!

If such changes were made to our language today, many people would have to retrain their brains to align with the new linguistically correct code. And where would we look to make sure our new spelling patterns fell in line with popular opinion? To the dictionary, no doubt!

Correct spelling is correct only when society agrees upon it. And when a word’s spelling is in doubt, the only way to confirm correctness is by cracking open the dictionary.

Novel idea.

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