Academic wants us all to talk like an AOL chatroom

By Mark O’Neill
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

A British academic is proposing that the English language be reformed so that people who are not perfect at spelling are not pressurised into feeling they have to do better.

John Wells, Emeritus Professor of Phonetics at University College London, wants English to take a “phonetic approach” so that it is spelt the way it is spoken.   So “give” would become “giv”, “river” would become “rivver” and so on.   He even wants to completely drop the apostrophe.  I think I feel seriously ill.

“Text messaging, email and internet chat rooms are showing us the way forward for English. Let’s allow people greater freedom to spell logically. It’s time to remove the fetish that says that correct spelling is a principal (principle?) mark of being educated.”

To hear this coming from a professor, a man of education, is staggering!   Is he really suggesting that we base the language of English, a language spoken by billions of people, the language of Shakespeare – on what we say in internet chat rooms? This guy is certifiable!

One thought immediately springs to mind – LOL & ROFL!

OK seriously, here’s a radical idea – how about educating those people who are not good at spelling to get better at it, instead of encouraging them to get even worse?    I find it unbelievable that when we see people who are not good at something, the solution that is immediately suggested is to accept the status quo and make the best of it.    Plus as I pointed out, the proposed solution comes from a man who is supposed to encourage education!

Spelling is a donkeys’ bridge we all must cross – Via The Register

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50 Responses to Academic wants us all to talk like an AOL chatroom

  1. lolz, i thinks this b a gr8 idea…

    and then, before you know it, we'll all live in a KurtVonnegut society where instead of helping those who can't help themselves (with spelling) we force everyone else to work at their level (of spelling).

    English is hard, that's true, but honestly. This professor doesn't have the right idea of how to fix the problem.

  2. Get over it.

    English has some seriously stupid spelling that needs to be fixed. I totally agree with this guy.

    Languages need to evolve.

  3. Get over it.

    English has some seriously stupid spelling that needs to be fixed. I totally agree with this guy.

    Languages need to evolve.

  4. lolz, i thinks this b a gr8 idea…

    and then, before you know it, we'll all live in a KurtVonnegut society where instead of helping those who can't help themselves (with spelling) we force everyone else to work at their level (of spelling).

    English is hard, that's true, but honestly. This professor doesn't have the right idea of how to fix the problem.

  5. I find that this solution is just the easy way out to far more important problem such as lack of education. And as for more phonetic languages like Spanish, I believe Spanish to be tougher to learn than English. BTW I speak Spanish as a first language so I do have an idea when I'm comparing both.

    Again this just shows how some people want their way out the mediocre way and specially coming from a professor it's even more disappointing.

  6. I find that this solution is just the easy way out to far more important problem such as lack of education. And as for more phonetic languages like Spanish, I believe Spanish to be tougher to learn than English. BTW I speak Spanish as a first language so I do have an idea when I’m comparing both.

    Again this just shows how some people want their way out the mediocre way and specially coming from a professor it’s even more disappointing.

  7. this may be mean, but this is the same as giving an overweight person a handicap placard. it's not really moving forward. it's moving backwards.

  8. this may be mean, but this is the same as giving an overweight person a handicap placard. it’s not really moving forward. it’s moving backwards.

  9. I'm somewhat of an academic myself, and I do pride myself on my vocabulary and my ability to spell the words that make it up. That being said, English has consistently evolved over time from Old English to Middle English to Modern English with all words, especially pronouns, becoming easier to both say and spell. I think there is at least a little credibility to this idea that English is again reforming, and maybe even should reform, to at least a hybrid of net-speak and Modern English.

    • I agree that this may be an evolution of English as we know it. Just because someone uses net-speak does not mean that they cannot use proper spellings and such. I know I often find myself typing more freely when I concern myself less with spelling.

      Also, I do not think this idea necessarily applies to acronyms such as LOL, LMAO, BRB, and whatever else you can think of. It's more a statement that is aimed at letting people talk/write with/to people without letting spelling be such a point of emphasis. However, I may be wrong with this statement.

    • English always evolves — it may be the fastest evolving language on the planet. We adopt words from other languages, we shorten words and simplify spellings, and we make up new words all the time.

      But there's a right pace for that in the eyes of a population. There will always be some who want it to not happen at all, and others who want it to happen faster. In the end, it's up to general usage to determine what achieves acceptance.

  10. I’m somewhat of an academic myself, and I do pride myself on my vocabulary and my ability to spell the words that make it up. That being said, English has consistently evolved over time from Old English to Middle English to Modern English with all words, especially pronouns, becoming easier to both say and spell. I think there is at least a little credibility to this idea that English is again reforming, and maybe even should reform, to at least a hybrid of net-speak and Modern English.

    • I agree that this may be an evolution of English as we know it. Just because someone uses net-speak does not mean that they cannot use proper spellings and such. I know I often find myself typing more freely when I concern myself less with spelling.

      Also, I do not think this idea necessarily applies to acronyms such as LOL, LMAO, BRB, and whatever else you can think of. It’s more a statement that is aimed at letting people talk/write with/to people without letting spelling be such a point of emphasis. However, I may be wrong with this statement.

    • English always evolves — it may be the fastest evolving language on the planet. We adopt words from other languages, we shorten words and simplify spellings, and we make up new words all the time.

      But there’s a right pace for that in the eyes of a population. There will always be some who want it to not happen at all, and others who want it to happen faster. In the end, it’s up to general usage to determine what achieves acceptance.

  11. OK, let's say we accept that it's easier to just spell it the way you say it.

    How are you going to account for the fact that people from the North speak differently from the South? Or the fact that people in the West Country speak very differently from those in London? And the fact that no one understands what most Geordies are saying, including some people born and bred there?

    We had this crazy idea back in the 70's and it failed then. As a teacher (and someone with dyslexia) I prefer the concept of providing better education and support instead of dropping to the lowest common denominator.

    • Not to mention the problem of not being able to read older books unless you learn all the old spellings anyway. We have this problem now with Old and Middle English and even early Modern English — why exacerbate it?

      Pronunciation and vocabulary always evolve, which results in the various dialects you mention. Even if we could get them all on the same page at one time, they'd soon branch again. People use language creatively, which results in change.

  12. OK, let’s say we accept that it’s easier to just spell it the way you say it.
    How are you going to account for the fact that people from the North speak differently from the South? Or the fact that people in the West Country speak very differently from those in London? And the fact that no one understands what most Geordies are saying, including some people born and bred there?
    We had this crazy idea back in the 70’s and it failed then. As a teacher (and someone with dyslexia) I prefer the concept of providing better education and support instead of dropping to the lowest common denominator.

    • Not to mention the problem of not being able to read older books unless you learn all the old spellings anyway. We have this problem now with Old and Middle English and even early Modern English — why exacerbate it?

      Pronunciation and vocabulary always evolve, which results in the various dialects you mention. Even if we could get them all on the same page at one time, they’d soon branch again. People use language creatively, which results in change.

  13. So you want to punish people who don't know how to spell correctly? That sounds completely…..logical. We can't just bend over and throw dictionaries out the window because of a generational trend of idiocy. Hell, people are murdering others more often (actual numbers, not per capita), but we can't tell the police to just bugger off in those situations. How about we try smart things like pushing for more money directed towards education and quota based teaching systems, so piss poor teachers don't ruin thousands of atudents throughout their 30 year service.

    • Quota based systems? My experience with teachers is that most of them are doing a great job on limited resources. Quota systems merely artificially reshape the curriculum to make more students pass whatever test the quotas are based on, rather than increasing real learning. I have yet to see the standardized test that can tell the difference between someone who knows the subject and someone who knows how to take the test. In fact, they favor the latter.

  14. So you want to punish people who don’t know how to spell correctly? That sounds completely…..logical. We can’t just bend over and throw dictionaries out the window because of a generational trend of idiocy. Hell, people are murdering others more often (actual numbers, not per capita), but we can’t tell the police to just bugger off in those situations. How about we try smart things like pushing for more money directed towards education and quota based teaching systems, so piss poor teachers don’t ruin thousands of atudents throughout their 30 year service.

    • Quota based systems? My experience with teachers is that most of them are doing a great job on limited resources. Quota systems merely artificially reshape the curriculum to make more students pass whatever test the quotas are based on, rather than increasing real learning. I have yet to see the standardized test that can tell the difference between someone who knows the subject and someone who knows how to take the test. In fact, they favor the latter.

  15. You guys made some good points, and I guess I have some additional comments. Geek Girl, I haven't seen any regional specific dialects in chat rooms or other internet outlets. I think netspeak is just netspeak (so far). And Chip, books are reprinted in other languages and other forms of English all the time. The Bible being a pretty good example of that. There's even a ridiculous lolcat Bible now… Just saying. Basically, I'm saying we shouldn't just stop the evolution of language and make everyone learn the cyrrent system. It's going to shift, and we have to roll with the punches. I'm also not advocating a shift to chat room style conversation, but it is going to gradually infiltrate our language.

    • I agree with you, Phillip.

      BTW, I had to laugh at your spelling of "cyrrent". Our letter "y" came from the Greek upsilon, which many scholars think was once pronounced like our letter "u". Coincidental typo.

  16. You guys made some good points, and I guess I have some additional comments. Geek Girl, I haven’t seen any regional specific dialects in chat rooms or other internet outlets. I think netspeak is just netspeak (so far). And Chip, books are reprinted in other languages and other forms of English all the time. The Bible being a pretty good example of that. There’s even a ridiculous lolcat Bible now… Just saying. Basically, I’m saying we shouldn’t just stop the evolution of language and make everyone learn the cyrrent system. It’s going to shift, and we have to roll with the punches. I’m also not advocating a shift to chat room style conversation, but it is going to gradually infiltrate our language.

    • I agree with you, Phillip.

      BTW, I had to laugh at your spelling of “cyrrent”. Our letter “y” came from the Greek upsilon, which many scholars think was once pronounced like our letter “u”. Coincidental typo.

  17. It isn't about catering to the "lowest common denominator".

    The "lowest common denominator" in this case would be keeping an inefficient and costly writing system because it's 'traditional' and you're too lazy to learn a new (easier) way to write.

    Think of the money and time that schools could save if they didn't have to teach spelling for so many years.

    Why not return Latin to it's place as the language of the educated if you thnk an attempt like this to streamline language is "regression"?

  18. It isn’t about catering to the “lowest common denominator”.

    The “lowest common denominator” in this case would be keeping an inefficient and costly writing system because it’s ‘traditional’ and you’re too lazy to learn a new (easier) way to write.

    Think of the money and time that schools could save if they didn’t have to teach spelling for so many years.

    Why not return Latin to it’s place as the language of the educated if you thnk an attempt like this to streamline language is “regression”?

  19. I don’t know. This reminds me too much of 1984. I like the current pace of language evolution as well, I don’t think there’s a need to speed up.

  20. I don't know. This reminds me too much of 1984. I like the current pace of language evolution as well, I don't think there's a need to speed up.