English is Dumb… er, Dum!

Last week, we had an article about how a British Academic wanted to reform the English language using a phonetic approach. Unsurprisingly, the whole thing brought quite a stir in the comments section, with some people agreeing, and others disagreeing with the proposal.

So when I stumbled on this video today, I immediately thought of all of you who were fighting to determine if a reform was actually in order. Check it out.

Believe it or not, the man you just saw is 103 years old. His name is Ed Rondthaler and he used to be President of the American Literacy Council. He makes quite a point of showing why the English language needs to be reformed, but the question is, do you agree with him? Let us know, along with any commentary that you feel may be relevant to the issue, in the comments section.

[Via Neatorama]

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24 Responses to English is Dumb… er, Dum!

  1. That is how you spell come ;-). I dont think he knows about that one, though. I remember Gallagher using those exact same comparisons years ago.

  2. That is how you spell come ;-). I dont think he knows about that one, though. I remember Gallagher using those exact same comparisons years ago.

  3. funny? yes.

    practical? no.

    Hey! Why not at the same time, cut out synonyms and antonyms, to shorten up the dictionary as well. Maybe George Orwell was on to something here.

    I double plus Duckspeak!

    HA! Who needs progression. Regression is the new thing now!

  4. funny? yes.
    practical? no.

    Hey! Why not at the same time, cut out synonyms and antonyms, to shorten up the dictionary as well. Maybe George Orwell was on to something here.

    I double plus Duckspeak!

    HA! Who needs progression. Regression is the new thing now!

  5. I Take It You Already Know…

    Of tough and bough and cough and dough.

    Others may stumble, but not you,

    On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through.

    Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,

    To learn of less familiar traps.

    Beware of heard, a dreadful word

    That looks like beard and sounds like bird.

    And dead – it's said like bed, not bead.

    For goodness sake, don't call it deed!

    Watch out for meat and great and threat.

    They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.

    A moth is not a moth in mother,

    Nor both in bother, broth in brother,

    And here is not a match for there,

    Nor dear and fear for pear and bear.

    And then there's dose and rose and loose –

    Just look them up – and goose and choose.

    And cork and work and card and ward.

    And font and front and word and sword.

    And do and go, then thwart and cart.

    Come, come, I've hardly made a start.

    A dreadful language? Man alive.

    I'd mastered it when I was five!

  6. I Take It You Already Know…
    Of tough and bough and cough and dough.
    Others may stumble, but not you,
    On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through.
    Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
    To learn of less familiar traps.
    Beware of heard, a dreadful word
    That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
    And dead – it’s said like bed, not bead.
    For goodness sake, don’t call it deed!
    Watch out for meat and great and threat.
    They rhyme with suite and straight and debt.
    A moth is not a moth in mother,
    Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
    And here is not a match for there,
    Nor dear and fear for pear and bear.
    And then there’s dose and rose and loose –
    Just look them up – and goose and choose.
    And cork and work and card and ward.
    And font and front and word and sword.
    And do and go, then thwart and cart.
    Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start.
    A dreadful language? Man alive.
    I’d mastered it when I was five!

  7. He makes a valid point, all the languages I know of have set rules about spelling and pronunciation with little or no exceptions. However, knowing how to spell is a significant symbol of someone's education, and if the structure of English spelling was to be changed to be phonetic, there would have to be a complete official change, and we shouldn't allow people to phonetically interpret words however they want to.

  8. He makes a valid point, all the languages I know of have set rules about spelling and pronunciation with little or no exceptions. However, knowing how to spell is a significant symbol of someone’s education, and if the structure of English spelling was to be changed to be phonetic, there would have to be a complete official change, and we shouldn’t allow people to phonetically interpret words however they want to.

  9. An excellent presentation, however I disagree with his point. The English language is fine just as it is, despite previous attempts to rationalise it, and doesn't need wholesale tinkering with. I believe that Esperanto was an attempt to rationalise language without any irregular verbs and with phonetic spelling and we know how well that worked.

  10. An excellent presentation, however I disagree with his point. The English language is fine just as it is, despite previous attempts to rationalise it, and doesn’t need wholesale tinkering with. I believe that Esperanto was an attempt to rationalise language without any irregular verbs and with phonetic spelling and we know how well that worked.

  11. "Cum" isn't really an English word, so I don't know why people spell it that way. Even if you're talking about ejaculating it should still be spelled "come." If you look up the word "come" in the dictionary you'll see that one of its meanings is a vulgar slang meaning "to experience an orgasm."

    It's a shame that the internet has made this misspelling so widespread that "cum" may as well be a word now, since it has been assigned a meaning that seems to be understood by many people. But at least use the word "came" for the past-tense, I beg of you. When people say "cummed" I get just about as angry as when they say "all of the sudden" or "should of." If you don't know what's wrong with those, sign off of MSN and read a book, please.

    Of course, "cum" is also a Latin word.

  12. “Cum” isn’t really an English word, so I don’t know why people spell it that way. Even if you’re talking about ejaculating it should still be spelled “come.” If you look up the word “come” in the dictionary you’ll see that one of its meanings is a vulgar slang meaning “to experience an orgasm.”

    It’s a shame that the internet has made this misspelling so widespread that “cum” may as well be a word now, since it has been assigned a meaning that seems to be understood by many people. But at least use the word “came” for the past-tense, I beg of you. When people say “cummed” I get just about as angry as when they say “all of the sudden” or “should of.” If you don’t know what’s wrong with those, sign off of MSN and read a book, please.

    Of course, “cum” is also a Latin word.

  13. While there are a great many problems with the English language with spelling and pronunciation inconsistency, I really would hate to see it moved toward a phonetic spelling. Every language has some way of twisting or playing on a feature of itself to impart extra meaning to it's phrases, and in English one of the most important ways of doing this is through different pronunciations. English has also become a de-facto lingua franca for international business, and as such it's cross-pollinating with other languages world-wide on a regular basis. Trying to set up a council like the one that manages the Spanish language would be a nightmare since there is no one country that holds power or is seen as linguistically superior that other countries would listen to.

    I think it's best to simply allow nature to take it's course. If over time it becomes needed for English to pare down it's more arcane features then it will be done as it's needed organically. Trying to shove such things onto the world-wide stage it working against too much momentum to be practical.

  14. While there are a great many problems with the English language with spelling and pronunciation inconsistency, I really would hate to see it moved toward a phonetic spelling. Every language has some way of twisting or playing on a feature of itself to impart extra meaning to it’s phrases, and in English one of the most important ways of doing this is through different pronunciations. English has also become a de-facto lingua franca for international business, and as such it’s cross-pollinating with other languages world-wide on a regular basis. Trying to set up a council like the one that manages the Spanish language would be a nightmare since there is no one country that holds power or is seen as linguistically superior that other countries would listen to.

    I think it’s best to simply allow nature to take it’s course. If over time it becomes needed for English to pare down it’s more arcane features then it will be done as it’s needed organically. Trying to shove such things onto the world-wide stage it working against too much momentum to be practical.

  15. Based on having seen the documentary series "The Adventure of English" (but not read the book yet), the English language is a mongrel language, in the best sense of the word. It started with Saxon (who invaded and chased the Celts to Wales and Scotland), added Danish from the Viking invaders, and added French from the Norman invaders. Along the way, it included Italian and Arabic words. Latin and Greek were included as they were the languages of the church and of academia.

    However, English never really had an "academy" like they have for French, Spanish, and Italian.

    Oh, lest us not forget the early Americans wanting to differentiate themselves from England by changing "-re" to "-er" (centre vs center), and changing "-our" to "-or" (colour vs color), and removing extra letters (waggon vs wagon).

  16. Based on having seen the documentary series “The Adventure of English” (but not read the book yet), the English language is a mongrel language, in the best sense of the word. It started with Saxon (who invaded and chased the Celts to Wales and Scotland), added Danish from the Viking invaders, and added French from the Norman invaders. Along the way, it included Italian and Arabic words. Latin and Greek were included as they were the languages of the church and of academia.

    However, English never really had an “academy” like they have for French, Spanish, and Italian.

    Oh, lest us not forget the early Americans wanting to differentiate themselves from England by changing “-re” to “-er” (centre vs center), and changing “-our” to “-or” (colour vs color), and removing extra letters (waggon vs wagon).

  17. Those are good points. I think that the fact English has never had any academy structuring it is a strength of it. As time's gone on it's been open to adapting words and grammar from wherever it's most useful. I've read where some linguist believe that English becoming the primary or strong secondary language for so many people combined with the internet allowing all these people to communicate is likely to make today's English morph into something more of a Panglish. English may be sloppy from a structure standpoint, but it's multiplicity when it comes to methods of conjugation gives it a flexibility languages that try to remain pure don't have.

  18. Those are good points. I think that the fact English has never had any academy structuring it is a strength of it. As time’s gone on it’s been open to adapting words and grammar from wherever it’s most useful. I’ve read where some linguist believe that English becoming the primary or strong secondary language for so many people combined with the internet allowing all these people to communicate is likely to make today’s English morph into something more of a Panglish. English may be sloppy from a structure standpoint, but it’s multiplicity when it comes to methods of conjugation gives it a flexibility languages that try to remain pure don’t have.

  19. Phonics, ebonics, shmonix. Leave English alone and master it. Like the poet below it, I too mastered it when I was five. It's weird because it consists of words from many languages.

  20. Phonics, ebonics, shmonix. Leave English alone and master it. Like the poet below it, I too mastered it when I was five. It’s weird because it consists of words from many languages.