Re: Common Errors in English

Subject: Re: Common Errors in English
From: Bruce Byfield <bbyfield -at- axionet -dot- com>
To: Mark Baker <listsub -at- analecta -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 22 Feb 2004 15:28:32 -0800

Mark Baker wrote:

Note that I am not arguing that correct spelling is not important.
Maybe you wouldn't, but I would.

Spelling is certainly important to our modern, educated sense of how to do things. I admit that I would feel squeamish about leaving it behind, and I was one of the lucky ones who was taught to read phonetically, so non-standard spelling probably disturbs me less than most people.

Still, the fact remains that the idea of fixed spelling is a relatively recent one. The lack of standardized spelling didn't seem to seriously bother anyone until well into the eighteenth century. In fact, the idea didn't become generally accepted until the mid-twentieth century. Yet that didn't seem to disturb anyone. Shakespeare seems to have been comfortable spelling his name several different ways, and Scottish and Irish immigrants to North America were perfectly comfortable in varying their names between Mc---, Mac---, and M'--- and having their names transmogrified (for example, "Huron" for "Kieran"). So, I can only conclude that standardized spelling isn't necessary for literature, and certainly isn't necessary for everyday reading and writing.

I mention these elementary observations because correct spelling can become almost as large a neurotic obsession as correct grammar. I believe that pointing out that our conventions are not laws of the universe can generally help us to get a better perspective on them, and let us focus on what is important..

In this case, for example, a historical perspective shows that standardized spelling is a convenience, not an absolute necessity. It's something you need to think about when you publish a document, but far from the most important consideration.

Bruce Byfield 604.421.7177

RE: Common Errors in English: From: David Locke
Re: Common Errors in English: From: Dick Margulis
Re: Common Errors in English: From: Mark Baker
Re: Common Errors in English: From: Dick Margulis
Re: Common Errors in English: From: Mark Baker

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