Articles about spelling reform: 19th century

(In descending chronological order)

‘The spelling reform again,’ The Sacramento Daily Union, 29 May 1883

“It cannot be doubted that the adoption of the new system would lessen the labor of copyists very materially. In this connection the suggestion of the Daily Register of New York is timely. It points out that the rapidly increasing business of the telegraph companies can find much relief in the spelling reform. The legalized elesion of one-tenth of the letters in a message is something the companies greatly desire. The New York Times says that most newspapers of prominence are forced to refuse advertisements daily for want of room. This is true of the Record Union, its advertising columns being constantly crowded. Now, as the Times suggests, the omission ot useless letters in advertisements will give an increase of space in advertising columns, and at the same time lessen the cost to advertisers. Certainly these are considerations worthy the study of those now engaged in organizing the scientific side of the movement.”

‘The spelling reform,’ The Livermore Herald, 21 October 1880

“At the closing meeting of the Alameda County Teachers’ Institute, a society was formed for the purpose of spelling […] and passed the following resolution in relation to that matter:

“Resolved, That this Convention declares itself in favor of a spelling reform, to be prosecuted slowly and judiciously, beginning not with an entire change of alphabetical characters to represent the elementary sounds in our language, but remedying, first, the most glaring fault in our orthography, such as double consonants, silent vowels, digraphs and diphthongs, whose sounds may be represented by a single character, believing that this practical age, economic in time, demands this change.”

‘Spelling reform,’ letter The New Zealand Herald, 17 September 1880

“While sympathising with the writer of ‘Obstacles to Education,’ I would endeavour to show that he is on the wrong track. He advocates the addition of several new letters to the alphabet. I can assure him that new letters are unnecessary, and are the greatest stumbling-block of spelling reform. […] By adopting phonetic spelling without new letters anyone can read it who can read common spelling. Spelling reform must be introduced gradually […] and if once the old system of spelling were well shaken, there would be no stopping till the reform was complete.”

‘Spelling reform,’ The Los Angeles Herald,’ 5 October 1879

The following order, which took effect September 2, 1870, has been issued to the type-setters of the Chicago Tribune:

Hereafter spell certain words appearing in the Tribune as follows:
  • Omit the ue in demagog, catalog, pedagog, synagog, dialog, decalog, and other words ending in logue and gogue.
  • Omit the superfluous me in program, gram.
  • Omit the second m in dilemma (dilema.)
  • Omit the luperfluous te in cigaret, etiquet, parquet, coquet, and all similar words, except Gazette when it is used as the name of a newspaper.
  • Spell definit in all its forms without the final e; thus: definit-ly-ness, indefinit-ly-less. Spell infinit without the final e; also, infinit-ly-ness.
  • Omit the tinal e in hypocrit, favorit, also, opposit-ly-ness and apposit-ly-ness.
  • In words ending in “lessness,” drop one s from “less,” viz: carelesness, thanklesness, etc.
  • Omit the fourth s in assassin (assasin) and other forms of the word.
  • Spell somerset, not somersault [sic].
  • Spell cañon with a Spanish ñ, or spell It canyon.
  • Change ph to f in fantom, fantasm, and all forms of the word; also in fonetic-s-al, fonografy, orthografy; alfabet, digraf, difthong.

‘…spelling reform,’ The Spectator, 4 May 1878

“The question of how to spell, like the question of breaking your egg at the big or the smaller end, has always been vexing one nation or another for several thousand moons past. Ardent spirits have successively constituted mostly unsuccessful forlorn hopes generation after generation, as the reformers have successively dashed themselves in vain against the confirmed insensibility of their countrymen. If a spelling reformer were not always prepared for the worst, while hoping for the best, his would be a rather cruel fate—pretty much, indeed, the fate of every great reformer. Reason may be on his side, all the reason of the matter, it may be, yet he fails. The specially unfortunate circumstance in his case seems to be this, that the reform advocated, and admitted to be largely in accordance with reason, is believed to be quite unnecessary, and would be decidedly hostile to the personal comfort of the people that are expected to accept it; while it is all but wholly for the supposed advantage of other people, who are not at all clearly shown to be in want of it. Men will not consent even for a day or two to spell their way through a new order of alphabetic representation; you might as soon hope for a voluntary movement in favour of an indefinitely prolonged groping in Egyptian darkness or London fog.”

‘Spelling reform,’ The Cambridge Chronicle, 13 April 1878

“The English language, the simplest of all languages in construction, according to Jacob Grim, the German philologist, is made, by reason of orthography, one of the hardest of all languages to master. Fully five years of a child’s life are spent in learning to pronounce and spell the common English words. Every word must be mastered separately, for there is no rule that can be depended upon, as in the pronunciation or spelling of German. In that case a few fundamental rules are all the child has to learn, and, with these rules as a guide, the child just beginning its education can spell any word in the language. In English, on the other hand, the words are spelled without any regard to their pronunciation. Every vowel has several sounds each, some as many as nine, and some of the consonants have more than one sound. And nearly every sound may be represented by a variety of different characters, so that endless confusion is created in the minds of the foreigner trying to master our language. One word alone, the word scissors, can be spelled in over five hundred and ninety six thousand different ways, and every way be in harmony with the placing of the letters in other words containing the same sounds. But for its orthography, the English language would stand a good chance of being eventually adopted by the people of all other languages, but until the spelling of English words is reduced to a phonetic basis foreign-tongued nations will prefer to keep their own languages. Phonetic spelling, the characters and all, can be learned in ten minutes by any one that knows the present English sounds, and the characters that represent them, and the reform could be introduced without working any material inconvenience to the public. All would be benefitted in the end, and future generations most of all.”

‘Spelling reform,’ The Tablet (last item), 26 January 1878

“We think that it is beginning at the wrong end to try to spell a few words as they are pronounced, when what is wanted is to pronounce the English language with due respect for its force and its delicacy.”

Phonetic Journal, A plea for spelling reform: a series of tracts, 1878

‘What is possible and impossible in spelling reform,’ The Spectator, 2 June 1877

“The Conference of Tuesday on Spelling Reform brought out several suggestions that were reasonable and useful, and some that were as wild as the most disordered dreams. Let us try and discriminate what is possible and desirable from what is neither.

“[…] Where our modern spelling is doubtful, we may just as well be advised which spelling to prefer. But where it is fixed in the literature of the last century, you can no more alter it to please a few pedants and help a multitude of puzzled children, than you can get rid by a fiat of the trailing plants of a South-American forest, in order to make the way easier to explorers who don’t like the fatigue of cutting through them. It is a wise and sagacious proposal to teach spelling by any method which at once instructs the child which letters are to receive their natural sound, and which are to be silent or sounded in some conventional manner. But the ordinary literature of our day cannot be riven in two, even to make it easier for children to learn to read.”

‘…proposal for a reform in English spelling. Sir John Cheke,’ The Spectator, 19 May 1877

“The question of spelling reform has not progressed much since Cheke’s time, and modern reformers can scarcely hope to have an advocate of their views so favourably placed for their enforcement as was Edward VI’s Secretary of State. And the vast body of literature which we of the nineteenth century have behind us is surely a weighty argument on the conservative side.”

‘Spelling reform,’ The Globe and Traveller, 28 April 1869
“A conference upon a proposed spelling reform in the English language, with a view to facilitating its acquisition, was held last night at the Royal Institution, Liverpool. Several clergymen, and other ministers of religion, and a number of school teachers were present, and considerable discussion took place. The tone of the conference was strongly in favour of a moderate change in the present mode of spelling without the introduction of any new letters or interfering with the main features of the language.”


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