UCL News


Y speling proplee is so ovar8ted

19 July 2006

No wun cairs if ve chavs cant spel or doan no how to punkt - ah fuk it, doan no wair to put commerz - but shorely ve toffs kan do al vat, innit? A parent lee not.

A cord ing 2 an artikal in ve Harro skool magazeen, pew pills r ge ting top marx in Ingerlish at GSCE d spite beeung unabul 2 spel simpul words corektlee. …

Haro, wich introd, nah, star ted a litracy test 4 sixff formaz aftah teecherz notisst mega erraz in vair wurk as foun vat too thurds - aka quit a lot - wot faild ad allredy go a NA or NA* a CSGE. "Cant spel simpul wordz or punkty8 a simpul sen10ce, bui kan stil geh a NA?" sed Tom Wikcson, Ingerlund teech. "Vat karn b write. Wel, yeh like, a Tarot wee freekwentlee fine vat kan b ve kase." …

Just how much trouble did you have reading the first two paragraphs? Very little, I would guess. In fact, I could almost certainly have made things far trickier and you would have still had no problem. …

So if I can still make myself clearly understood by misspelling every word, why do so many people get so hung up on the precision of language? What makes English sacred? The language of Chaucer and Shakespeare bears only a passing resemblance to Martin Amis and Julian Barnes, and none at all to James Kelman.

"Correct spelling is only concerned with disciplinarianism and archaeology," says John Sutherland, Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor of Modern English Literature at UCL (a title that would not be undermined if you spelt it wrong). "It merely tells us whether a word has a Latin, French, Germanic or Gothic derivation. I'm with George Bernard Shaw, who left his fortune to the quixotic cause of rationalising the English language.

"English is just a dumpbag of loan words and we should be aiming to be like the Spanish, who alter every word to fit the sound of their language. The Guardian could create a precedent by renaming itself the Gardien." Wel, it wuld maek er chaynj fum the Grauniad

John Crace, 'The Guardian'