Bee Season: The annual spelling bee brings out protesters as well as nerds

Tom Zurinskas truespel at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu May 31 10:45:37 UTC 2007

Some languages don't have spelling bees, because theirs is spelled so
phonetically consistently.

I’ve been a member of the Simplified Spelling Society for 10 years now.
It’s a group of a few hundred mostly UK members based in London.  It’s been
in business for 99 years, with a treasury of over $600,000 to spend.  Its
chief benefactor was Andrew Carnegie, who at the turn of the century was the
world’s richest man.  However, he in consort with Theodore Roosevelt, who
actually wrote and rescinded an executive order on spelling simplification
for gov documents, didn’t manage to change anything.

Yet, the SSS keeps trying and has come up with various plans - for good
reason.  It’s been shown that English has twice the dyslexics as a
phonetically consistently spelled languages such as Italian, Paulescu 2001.
Paulescu thinks that English spelling is the cause.  But is it the cause or
is it caused by teachers leaving phonetics behind in initial reading
instruction favoring “whole language” instruction, which forbids saying that
letters stand for sounds (the alphabetical principle)?  Perhaps more the
latter than the former.

My creation is a simple English friendly phonetic system with a way to show
stress in a word.  This makes it the first English “pronunciation guide
writing system”.  (It follows present rules of punctuation and
capitalization for sentence structure).  Having joined the SSS I found
others had the same spellings for phonemes that I “postinvented”.  So I was
happy that I had a reasonable system designed with minimal conflict with
traditional spelling (tradspel) and thus proceeded to rewrite the English
language (60 k words) over a couple years in truespel.  It’s in spreadsheet
form, enabling various database analyses such as are in my books, and the
free converters at for text and URL sites.

The pronunciation for the USA English accent comes mainly from the “American
Heritage Talking Dictionary” – Softkey CD, with occasional input from, a great free web resource.  The biggest issue was spelling out all
the schwas (no special symbols).

This differs from most SSS efforts.  The focus is a simple integration of
phonetics that can be used for children and adults for education, ESL,
accent reduction, translation guides, dictionary keys, and analysis tools.
The Linguistic Assoc. of Great Britain is apparently doing this as well.
See their simplified phonetic notation at

So the SSS struggles on with respelling.  They are taking on the issue of
texting and the question of “is shorter better?”  I personally think that
spelling is too engrained to change.  Better to change or at least fight to
maintain pronunciation that holds to the alphabetical principle.  If
pronunciation can change capriciously, why not influence it to change for
consistency?   Meanwhile, anyone interested in using the truespel database
can drop me a line.

Tom Zurinskas, USA - CT20, TN3, NJ33, FL5+
See - and the 4  truespel books plus "Occasional Poems" at

>From: Dennis Baron <debaron at UIUC.EDU>
>Reply-To: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Subject: Bee Season:  The annual spelling bee brings out protesters as
>         well as nerds
>Date: Wed, 30 May 2007 22:50:13 -0500
>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Dennis Baron <debaron at UIUC.EDU>
>Subject:      Bee Season:  The annual spelling bee brings out protesters as
>               well as nerds
>There's a new post on the Web of Language:
>Bee Season:  The annual spelling bee brings out protesters as well as =20=
>This week protesters from the American Literacy Society and London=92s =20=
>Simplified Spelling Society picketed outside Washington D. C.=92s Grand
>Hyatt Hotel, while inside, 286 students in grades 5 through 8 =20
>competed in the 80th annual Scripps Spelling Bee.
>Protesters carried signs reading =93Let=92s End the I in Friend=94 and =20=
>=93Enuf is Enuf,=94 hoping to draw attention to their cause, the reform
>of English spelling.
>It=92s a good cause, though hopeless.  The history of the spelling-=20
>reform movement is long, distinguished, and totally ineffectual.  =20
>Reforms popped up as early as the 12th century and they=92ve continued =20=
>through the present, though until recently spelling reformers didn=92t =20=
>take to the streets to get their point across.
>read the rest at
>the Web of Language
>Dennis Baron
>Professor of English and Linguistics
>Department of English
>University of Illinois
>608 S. Wright St.
>Urbana, IL 61801
>office: 217-244-0568
>fax: 217-333-4321
>read the Web of Language:
>The American Dialect Society -

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