back to article Brits and Yanks struck with embarasment embarrassment

It's official: English is going directly to hell in a handcart because more than half of native speakers of the lingo can't spell "embarrassed" - and even more have entered the new millennium without the foggiest idea of how 1,000 years pan out in our beloved mother tongue. To be precise, 54 per cent of us are embarrassed by " …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Spelling Bee?

    Is a Spelling Bee like a Sarah Bee, but not as nice and cuddly?

    Or as good at spelling and grammar for that matter?

  2. David Webb


    Or the Yanks could quit calling their language English and call it something else, like French or whatever? That'll solve the difficult question of how to spell Embarrassment!

  3. Anthony Mark

    What they fail to point out... that people who speak English as a second language, and lets face it, there are many, are usually better at it then native Egnlish speakers.

    The problem is not the complexity of the language, just the laziness of the speakers and also the asbolute failure of our education systems.

    The English language hasn't got harder over the last 100 years so there's no other explanation for the drop in literacy other than a drop in standards.

  4. ElaborateCalculator
    Thumb Down

    And what happens next time...

    ... that people are too lazy or stupid to learn grammar and spelling? [0] Do we dumb it down even further? ("Ah, sure, hardly anybody uses 'X' or 'Z' these days, let's get rid of them... and maybe 'K' too")

    And one would have to wonder why the Spelling Society's chairman is pushing this- is he in the wrong job maybe? Or is this just to "stir up debate" (ie, "get my name in print")?

    [0] Note to the thinkofthechildren brigade- the set or lazy and/or stupid people is not intended to include those with learning difficulties of any stripe, before I get castigated for denigrating the less fortunate

  5. Peyton

    So that's what's holding us back

    Its nys tu no that.

    I hadn't realize that if it weren't for spelling, we would have avoided the economic meltdown, had world peace, ended world hunger, and colonized Mars by now.

    I think someone also needs to mention to this so-called spelling society that, along with links to outdated pronunciations, many of our words are hard to spell due to foreign influence <glares at the French>.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



    Could the problem be that most people are so used to "txt spk" that they can't spell? That's my guess, because its what it looks like from emails I receive.

    Still, I can't complain really. Senior management tend to be from an older generation and take you more seriously when you can write in the same language as them.

  7. Robin

    Kaching! ?

    One of the words I got on the Spelling Bee was 'Carrion'.

    Do you have some kind of affi.. afil.. aphil.. money-making-connection with them?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    embarrassment is not the problem

    when it seems that half my compatriots can't spell such long and complex words as "too" and "its".

    Oh and this was such a cracker it deserves repetition: "English is the world's numero uno lingua franca". :-)

  9. Steve
    Thumb Down

    Not these idiots again

    Let them start closer to home, their spokesman should be Jak Bovil

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    54 per cent of us are embarrassed...

    That'll be 94% of Reg hacks then. Another incorrectly spelled "its" I noticed this morning...

  11. Watashi

    No pp in Apple

    Did you know that the word 'apple' has no 'pp' in it? The noise you think is a 'pp' is actually just a combination of the end of the 'a' sound and the start of the 'le' sound. If you want to write it down you need the 'pp' because otherwise you'd just be saying 'ale'. However, if you wrote a**le, and asked someone to name the fruit, everyone would know what you meant.

    In other words, correct spelling is a necessary evil forced upon us by the practical need to associate written words with spoken noises. The 'right' way to say a word is merely that which people can understand. Sure, uniformity helps everyone understand the language, but variation allows the evolution of language, which is an inevitable side-effect of social development. If all spelling was eternally fixed, language would be stilted and a lot less fun - however, if you ignore the rules altogether you end up with new dialects (and eventually languages) that make communication accross social groups impossible.

    I don't think 'embarrased' or 'embarased' is really an issue as everyone knows what you mean if you write it the wrong way. Text speak is different, as poor use of text speak can make it impossible for a non-expert to understand what is being said, and if it is not formalised or banned, could easily become a seperate language. One day, kids may have to learn English AND Textspeak at school!

  12. Tom
    IT Angle

    This is silly

    While I get the vast majority of the English language right, you have to admit that there are some words that the vast, vast majority of us would misspell. This isn't due to a lack of education, this is purely due to the English language consistantly breaking its own rules. I have a very good education and yet I had to look twice at "consistantly" as I wasn't sure if it was spelt "consistently".

    People who learn English as a foreign language will of course be able to spell better. This is due to them learning a lot of the words at a much later age than we native English speakers did. We know most of these words very early on in our lives and it is easy for mistakes to set in then and continue to be replicated throughout our lives. Yes, we could make a conscious effort to correct spellings of individual words but to what purpose?

    If a word is still understandable then I do not see what the issue is.

  13. Chika

    Las yer I culdn'r spel...

    Actually, the biggest annoyance is when somebody attempts to justify their errors by saying that "English is a living language that is always changing" or some such waffle. I can understand spelling errors due to typing error; that's to be expected.

    Wen sumwun spels rong Bcoz they R 2 laZ 2 do it rite...

  14. Nev

    @ ElaborateCalculator

    "... that people are too lazy or stupid to learn grammar and spelling?"

    Being the product of a 70s/80s state comprehensive education system, I was never taught English grammar at school. And so my linguistic skills are pretty poor as a result. Bearing that in mind:

    You can **** right off!

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    speling beee

    Went to the Times speling bee and it needs Flash!!!! Ridiclous. WHy can't they just have the words writen on the page nd ask you to spel them.

  16. Simon Neill

    Its not the language, its the people.

    As Anthony said up above. The language is not getting harder. Its over-reliance on spell checkers among other things. Why spell right when the PC can fix it for you? I work in a school, if you want to know how someone spells don't look in the file, look at the file name.

    One year 11 (15/16 year old) had a perfectly spelled comic life document, then saved it as "Carton Stripe"

  17. lee harvey osmond

    not Millennium

    not Millennium, but Mile Endium. I always said that Greenwich was the wrong place for that Dome thing

  18. Paul McConkey

    Spelling Bee infiltrated?

    I just tried it, the only word I got wrong was 'frank', which according to the site is spelled 'franc'.

    Eh, alors?

    Mine's the one with the OED in the pocket.

  19. Anonymous Coward


    The trouble with morons who propose rationalizing spelling to a more "phonetic" system is that they haven't really thought it through (or I have never heard any come up with an intelligent proposal):

    - which pronounciation do they propose to use? Southern baaath or northen bath. Or do we have different spellings in different parts of the country?

    - in my dialect (pretty nomal southern English) there are about a dozen vowel sounds. Do they want to introduce more letters or a load of diacritics to indicate this?

    Also, there is no correlation between the levels of literacy in a country and the complexity of the writing system. Italian is very regular, Japanese is probably the most complex writing system on Earth, while French and English fall somewhere in between (and are about equal). Yet all have comparable levels of literacy. Spanish is also very regular, but the levels of literacy vary enormously in different Spanish speaking countries (obviously, the same is true for English)


  20. Paul

    Modern 'aids'

    Do you think people are just too lazy to spell correctly nowadays because the spell checker will do it for them ?

    And of course, if they're on the mobile there's always predictive text.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who can spell...


  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    shame the speakers were as clear as mud

    almost got 100% but due to mumbling, mistook some words for others

    e.g. its not preh-fis its PRE-FACE

    and that wasnt that only one

    Also would have helped if they had had consistent volume levels rather than virtually silent, then the next being deafening (Same speaker levels)

    Sad when kids can't spell (mainly due to drug TV - teletubbies being a prime example, eat a bright coloured liquid and start twitching on the floor...custard.....liquid morphine more like)(and "teachers" who feel that spelling "inhibits the babeez (sic) creativity [referring to 14 year olds])

    Sadly this nonsense has been going on since the 80s, when kids were being taught the normal alphabet from books etc but schools denounced that as "too hard" and forced the "phonetic" alphabet down kids throats, then 2 years later made the same kids learn the "normal" alphabet and criticized them for using "baby words" <- bit hypocritical when the teaching profession is mainly to blame for the state of affairs we are in.

    Then again thats what happens when you eliminate one gender totally from teaching in primary schools. You get a bunch of baby rabid morons ruining the education of perfectly bright kids due to their own moronity.

  23. David Cherry


    If GH can stand for P in Hiccough

    If OUGH can stand for O in Dough

    If PHTH can stand for T in Phthisis

    If EIGHT can stand for A in Neighbour

    If TTE can stand for T in Gazette

    If EAU can stand for O in Plateau

    Then the way you spell POTATO is .....


    Isn't IT???

  24. Rich Silver badge

    English is a very robust language

    I worked in Germany for a time, and what I found there is that if you pronounce something even slightly wrong, nobody has any idea what you're talking about! Many other languages are the same.

    English on the other hand is very robust in this regard - you can speak is extremely badly with very poor pronunciation, missing words etc, and it is STILL possible to understand.

    Poor spelling isn't really an issue at all in this respect - it hardly matters at all in terms of being able to understand it. An example is the "take a sentence and remove all the vowels" test. It's amazing how much of the sentence you can still read and understand with half the letters missing.

    I'm not saying spelling doesn't matter - it's just that ...well a practical day-to-day way, it's not THAT important. Of course, everyone knows the yanks can't spell, but that's another issue, and one that I wouldn't care about except that it's been polluting proper English for years now with "Drive Thru's" and "Center" and "Color" (something I deeply resent when I'm writing HTML). Shudder....

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    1. So, when we settle on phonetic spellings, does for example "about" get the US "abowt" or the Canadian "aboot"? I think that a bit of reflection will show that this is not going to work.

    2. One should distinguish the purposes of different communications. Something that has gone through several drafts ought to be better spelled and structured than a text message, or a quick response to one of El Reg's stories. I'm sure that the poster above knows "than" from "then", can spell "absolute" and can apostrophize "let's" with the best of us, given time. Heaven knows I find reading some of my own emails embarrassing.

  26. graeme leggett Silver badge

    Research to push a viewpoint?

    the Spelling Society want to change our system of spelling. Conveniently their research does not indicate problems with education but with the spelling system in the first place.

    I note in passing that the survey is only on 10 words, hardly comprehensive, and that the attitudes questions differ between the USA and UK survey.

    Most (un)astounding of all is the quality of presentation, which would go down well as an example of common (powerpoint) presentation faults.

    PS you can probably draw your own parallels by replacing some of the above words with those drawn fom this list :

    Home Office, law, ID Cards, crime, drugs, etc etc

  27. Bunglebear
    Thumb Down

    Spelling bee

    That Times spelling bee thing is drivel, its impossible to hear the nasal tones of the speakers. Its meant to check your spelling rather than your hearing.

  28. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: 54 per cent of us are embarrassed...

    Oh no! It's finally happened! We did all we could to prevent it, but now it's too late! Man the lifeboats! Fling wide the emergency exits! Pray for salvation!

    For chrissakes. It's called a typo. Sometimes they slip through. I still only have two hands, you know. And have you looked at the Mail site lately, or the Telegraph, for that matter? Despite their best efforts to clear the decks they still have a bunch more subs than we do. And their typo/misspelling/malapropism/grammapocalypse frequency is *shocking*.

    So! back on topic, sort of - it took me a long, long time to learn how to spell 'maneouvre' and 'beleagured'. That's the serious shit. The double-letter stuff, though, is really not that hard and it's no good blaming the complexity of the language. Just write it out a few times and your brain will retain the info until you kill that bit of it with beer. How hard can it be?

  29. Richard

    It's Phonetical Correctness Gone Mad!

    The stupid thing about their (annual) whinge about "irregular" spelling is that embarrassed and millennium actually follow a regularised pattern in English spelling. For embarrassed, not having the double r & s would lengthen the a's. It's fair comment if we restrict it to the weirder side like the 18 possible pronunciations of "ough" or UK place/street names (although whether Mr Haines would like in future to be asked the question "Lester, like the city?" is another matter), but calling for a nigh on complete overhaul is ridiculous. There's an old joke knocking round on the intertubes where small changes in spelling on phonetic grounds eventually look rather Germanic - Ze drems of the Guvernmnt vud finali hav kum tru

    Even more idiotically, they forget that NOT ALL PEOPLE PRONOUNCE WORDS THE SAME - FFS, the letter T would nearly disappear for the yoof of today and "innit" would be a new punctuation mark.

    Ironically, much of the irritation between English and US spelling was because of changes made in the 18th Century to make English more like French & Greek (hence the -our and flurry of ph's), which the US largely ignored.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Time to replace English with....


    Try and text speak that one!

    Or if we're looking for an easy way out, the mass culling of chav's would be cheaper, more cost effective (lowering crime etc). Although our already understaffed army would be virtually empty.

    Savage decisions on a Monday....

  31. James Appleby

    Oxbridge English

    A good reference for the history of the English language is 'Mother Tongue' by Bill Bryson.

    In it he documents how pronunciations change over time. So for example 'knight' didn't always have a silence K. Which is not to say that we should remove the first letter, as that would make it indistinguishable from another word. Any phonetic spelling would make knight and night, which and witch and dozens of other words indistinguishable.

    A good modern example would be ‘hiccough’, which almost everyone pronounces and most people spell as ‘hiccup’. There was a time when it was spoken as hic-cough and thus spelt accordingly. It isn't any more and a closer spelling is becoming the norm.

    These changes have been happening since the time of Chaucer, and the one thing that we do know is that they occur naturally. There are few occasions (Noah Webber's dictionary being the most famous exception) when a small group has imposed new spellings on the population.

    Finally, whose phonetic spelling is correct? I am from Birmingham (UK, not Alabama), but should my home city be renamed Burmingum, as we locals pronounce it? What about words that are pronounced in quite radically different ways across the country? Oxbridge phonetic English would be no closer to how most people speak than the current spellings.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is like dikshun annat innit?

    I is well up for mekkin me inglish more wikkider.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    blame the yanks

    If thick americans would stop fucking with the spellings in their wrongheaded attempts to simplify, things would be much easier for everyone.

    Some of the double letters are there as indicators about pronunciation you know...learn the rules, and you'll be able to spell the words and correctly pronounce words you've only ever seen written down.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you can't blow your own trumpet...

    ...who's can you blow, but I'll do so anonymously.

    "Congratulations! You spelt all the words correctly."

    But I think I got it easy, can anybody seriously not know how to spell input, march or trap.

    So I had another go and managed an adjusted 15. I discounted two errors, bleak which I listened to 3 times and was sure it said bleep and plumped for witch instead of which. I did mess up on caucous with the unnecessary 'o' but reckon anaesthetic was worth two words so it's back to full marks.

  35. William Keaton

    @ Richard

    There is no "G" in WHINE!!!!!

  36. Bad Beaver

    Be warned

    Germany saw several spelling reforms over the last decades, and while many of the changes actually do make sense on a logical level, it also produced a number of aesthetic monstrosities that anyone educated under the old standards can only shudder over, including some dumbing down. In the end, you start to rely on spellcheckers much more as you just cannot be sure that what you think is correct is still correct after the latest reform. I do not even want to start calculating the cost of having all official documents as well as textbooks refreshed. People writing end up in a mess, but it must be golden days for publishing houses. And that is just for German, natively spoken by only 105 million people, maybe about 200 million overall, compared to 1,8 BILLION speakers of English. It is not to say that spelling reforms are a bad thing per se. Language is dynamic and in constant change, so it cannot harm to have the official rules reflect the status quo every now and then, yet it is an enormous endeavour that has to be approached with a lot of caution.

  37. Wolf

    I'd be happy...

    ...if they simply did away with silent "ough". I mean, for example:





    It's a small change, but one that's long over due. Of course if we were *logical* (which, for better or worse we aren't) we'd all start speaking a language like Spanish. A very well behaved language indeed.

    My real sympathy is for a non-English speaker who has to learn the *written* language. Spoken English isn't too bad, but my God! The horrors of our spelling should not be inflicted on damned souls, much less people just trying to communicate!

  38. Trygve


    "kill that bit of it with beer. How hard can it be?" Well, it depends on the beer.

  39. Simon

    Spelling society

    How arrogant do you have to be to join a scociety that insists on correct spelling in a language that thinks it's a good idea to put an 'N' at the end of the word autumn and spell through like that.


  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm a product of 80s and 90s education, and don't have many problems with spelling. However, one of my colleagues is the same age and can't spell for toffee, frequently confusing where / were; they're / their / there, etc.

    So this seems to be more an issue of individuals rather than the education system itself. Furthermore, there's nothing stopping people who know they can't spell just picking up a book and learning.

  41. Anonymous Coward

    I for one..

    Welcome our new Engrish overlords.

    *\. Mines the one with the audio version of the dictionary in the pocket.

  42. Anonymous Coward

    What I object to...

    Is the American pronunciation of certain of our words:-

    ... ASK becomes AX

    ... NUCLEAR becomes NUCULAR

    ... IRAN and IRAQ become EYERAN and EYERACK

    Don't even mention poor old LEICESTER!

    I'm sure there are thousands more examples but those are the ones I find most annoying.

  43. Phil

    Well put

    why is I have to study English? I speaks da bitch

  44. Mago Mgi

    It would help me...

    I can 'get by' in 5 languages and honestly feel that English is pretty irrational compared to the other European/Semitic languages I see. I reckon only French is more confusing but then, when you look at English, it's almost always the French loan-words that cause problems. The Germanic core of Ænglish is, like German itself, pretty straightforward when it comes to spelling.

    Most people I know & work with are not native English speakers, it is usually their second to fourth tongue - they certainly do not speak or write better English than natives but they generally try harder, are not overconfident and have a wider, more flexible view of language.

    It is pretty daft that Americans are worse than Brits at spelling because many American-English words are simpler and more logically spelt (colour - color, defence - defense etc.).

    Personally I think the language is long-overdue for an overhaul and I think the growth of 'txt' spelling will probably speed-up the rationalisation of English. Sadly it would also probably hasten the process of making the world a less rich, narrow-minded and monoglot place.

    PS I didn't check my spelling/grammar so I apologise for any errors.

  45. Dave Harris


    Can we take it that "beleagured" was a typo? Please? As with Tom's '"I had to look twice at "consistantly" as I wasn't sure if it was spelt "consistently."'

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Spelling Proposition

    For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.

    Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants.

    Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivli.

    Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

  47. Jack

    The cost?

    Think how much it would cost to translate all the books from the "old" english to the new. Or would we not bother and end up splitting the country into those who can read both and those who can't and thus are denied access to that wealth of information?

  48. Omar Marquez

    Stoopid Limeys AND Yanks

    Sorry, when a language can't be spelled properly about 90% of the time by its natives, it's time to change! I learned English as a second language and my spelling is usually better than that of a native... and, after having lived in California (and now living in the UK), I can safely say that many native speakers spell like morons!

    (Some of it IS due to lack of education by both the whine Limeys and the Yanks, but most of the blame falls on the English language).

    Of course, I am biased as a Spanish speaker. But instead of wholesale reform (I don't want English to look like Dutch!), how about some "normalization" of the spelling system in English? Use French (*spit*) as an example if needed. Compared to Spanish its spelling system is over-complicated, but compared to English, French (*spit*) at least has regular spelling rules.

    In any case, Limeys need to stop moaning about Yanks and their spelling faults, as God knows I've seen plenty of stupid mistakes here in the UK, on the part of newspapers, books, shopsigns, etc. For people who invented the language, they sure can't f'ken spell it!

    Maybe all that is needed is to stop idolizing chav culture (especially in the UK, chavs seem to run this country), and start encouraging teenagers here and abroad to take pride in themselves, so that they stop spelling like some1 wit a turd-grade edukshun?

  49. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @Sarah

    Heh. Gotcha.

  50. William Wallace

    Well, At Least English is Secure

    Well, at least English is a secure language. Little chance Al Qaida will cleverly infiltrate without their minions being native speakers and spellers. Sometimes you have to look for the good in things.

  51. Jonah

    learn to spell right

    I hate these relitavists who go soft on the English language. Ours is a beautiful tongue witch is now the lingua franca of the planet. Personelly I blaim the Americans for there language reform effert which really confused things. Not only did they reform the spelling, but then the desided to reform the reformation, making their spelling just differently bad from standerd English. If they'd stuck to speellling English as its allways beens pelt their wouldn't have been any confution. Say NO to spelling reform and YAYS to propper English chewishun!

  52. Anonymous Coward

    An exercise in futility

    Simplify (dumb down) the language all you wish but it will still get bastardised by the lazy, the ignorant and those seeking to create a sub-culture.

  53. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @David Cherry

    You nicked that from the Times, which in turn nicked it from the Economist. Who said nobody at the Times ever had an original thought?!

    And that Times thing is a con - it has 'putt' and 'piece' in there, but gives no indication of which homonym they're after. Tw@s...

  54. Stevie


    In my case it was moving to America in my early thirties that did for my until-then okay spelling chops. I had thought that the differences between US and UK English spellings were limited to the occasional missing "u", but after a period in which I felt I was losing my mind I checked using a rather nice Merriam Webster dictionary which spelled out (ha) the differences in general terms and discovered a whole new way of making words on paper.

    I'm not worried. I know the difference between "there", "their" and "they're" and when to use an apostrophe, which puts me ahead of the game. Thanks to modern technology everyone will end up speaking Microsoft Word eventually, anyway.

  55. vincent himpe

    Aoccdrnig to rseerach at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy

    Aoccdrnig to rseerach at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a total mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?

  56. A J Stiles

    @ William Keaton

    Maybe not, but there is definitely a G in "whinge".

  57. Steve W

    I refuse to speak a language

    which uses words such as "incentivise" and "productize". Unfortunately, there are quite a few BBC programmes which are starting to use these terms too.

  58. Mike

    Why oh why oh why oh why?

    All language changes over time, it's not an art form or something special to keep (are you listening Welshies?).

    Some people want language to stagnate, like some people like society to stagnate, just because we have learnt to record things in this new fangled "dikshunery" thing doesn't mean it shoud stay there forever, so what if embarrassment is spelt wrong? people still understand it, we already have words phonetically the same word with different meanings(two/to/too) and words that have the same spellings (plane/dash/stick).

    Not only doesn't it matter that we spell words wrong, but it's important that we allow it to evolve, the only reason that lol, txt, l8r have entered our language is because of the new medium of email and text which previously didn't have a "standard book of words".

    So Mr. luddite, get you head out of your arse and stop trying to prevent evolution.

    l8r dudes <3 to all

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @What I object to

    I trade you:

    nuffink, nuttin' = nothing

    innit? = isn't it?

    what you looking at, ****? = could I help you?

    And don't get me started on Los Angeleeez.

  60. Wyrmhole


    u cant has spel EMBARASMANT???? LOLOLOL

  61. Red Bren

    @Richard Bolingbroke

    Iu sur, ar a jeanius (sp?)

  62. Eddy Ito

    Monkey piddle

    The Times spelling bee is clearly half-a[r,s]sed on a good day. It dinged me two I could see coming three clicks away, suite sweet and sail for sale.

    Dear Times,

    Can you spell twaddle?

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    @Sarah - 54%...

    Oh - so was it YOU who mis-spelled "its" this morning, or do you just have a guilty conscience? ;-)

    (And it's not a typo - you must have a pretty strange keyboard if you accidentally hit apostrophe when you are trying to get to the letters i, t and s!)

  64. RW

    The trouble with phonetic spelling of English

    Phonetic spelling has more issues than just "whose accent do you follow?" Variant spellings for homonyms permit them to be distinguished in a written text, often via etymological information captured in the spelling.

    Although the foundation of English spelling is phonetic, other influences over the last millennium have taken matters far beyond such a simple model. Reduce all homonyms to a single spelling each, and written English text would become more difficult to understand.

    For further information, written in very lucid prose, refer to pp. 651-655 of "The World's Writing Systems" by Peter T. Daniels and William Bright. Also the footnote on p. 165 of "Learning to Read; The Great Debate" by Jeanne Chall.

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Language constantly evolves*

    So if 80% of people spell a word in one way then it effectively becomes that, whether the purists like it or not. (as with spoken English).

    Written English is not the same now as it was years ago, and will be different in times to come. It is the way of things.

    Also, we don't just have poor spelling, we also have poor typing to contend with. As with many others out there I tend to type "the" as "teh". This doesn't mean I think "the" is really spelt "teh" and nor do I pronounce it as such when I speak (except when I am joking / winding people up).

    Also, us native English speakers (generally including the colonials) accept that the world is global and many of those we converse with are not native English speakers / writers (and to be hones there is no way we native English speakers are going to waste time learning any other languages are we?).

    It is typically accepted, by those of us without poles up our arses, that as long as there is no ambiguity in a written sentence then it is good enough.

    *Or created as such fully formed by an un-named intelligent designer (Jesus) on a constantly updating basis. Because he can. Because he does. Because you are going to Hell.

  66. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Pretty daft

    "It is pretty daft that Americans are worse than Brits at spelling because many American-English words are simpler and more logically spelt (colour - color, defence - defense etc.)."

    I know of no dialect where the two vowel sounds in colour are pronounced the same way. It is therefore illogical to use the same spelling for the two of them.

    However, both spellings have history on their side, and learning the "standard" spelling(s) enables you to read documents even though you might not understand them if they were spoken by the original author, wherever or whenever that author might be. *Not* simplifying (changing) the spelling therefore serves an important purpose for those of us old farts who believe that the point of writing is to communicate.

    Someone else mentioned that the English spellings are different because they were fiddled in the 19th century to be more classical. Well, the American spellings were also fiddled in the 19th century to meet some reformist twat's idea of "regular". The result of both tweaks has been confusion and diversity. I find it very hard to believe that modern day reformers will have much more luck.

    Countries that *have* reformed spelling in recent history have generally been either totalitarian dictatorships or have had a mixed reception from the population. I don't think *any* language with a global distribution of speakers has managed to reform its spelling at all.

  67. jubtastic1


    In other news, The National Trust announced it's intention to downgrade all listed buildings by one level, effectively putting thousands of landmark buildings at risk of redevelopment.

    "Granted, our entire raison d'être is the preservation of historic property" A spokesperson explained, "but after some deep reflection and an impromptu pop quiz with the pub locals, we realised that it's all too much like hard work and frankly, we can't be arsed with it anymore"

  68. Sam

    @Sarah...Yu kiding?

    "For chrissakes. It's called a typo. Sometimes they slip through."


    The spelling on here looks like it came from a failing comprehensive called fuckwit central.

    I'm not mailing any more corrections, because they don't get acted on anyway, and that nice Mr Lettice always used to send me a thank you note.

    So bollox.

  69. Andy Bright

    Fking Internet

    I couldn't care less if people misspell words. If they write consistantly instead of consistently, really who gives a toss? I certainly don't give a fuck if someone uses it's instead of its.

    But mobile phones have a lot to answer for. Those fuckers need to be stamped on.

    Can anyone honestly tell me they don't get annoyed with some clever dick thinks he's being oh-so-cool writing texting-speek in an email. I've even had some right divs use leet speek in cover letters for jobs and all through their CVs.

    If you're so lazy you can't be bothered to write words with all the letters in them, you won't mind if I'm too lazy to try to interpret your poor attempt at communication and just delete it. That especially applies to job applications. In your language.. you fail.

  70. Schultz
    Thumb Up

    @Richard Bolingbroke

    I'm sold. When do we start?

  71. Anonymous Coward

    perhaps correct pronunciation and diction would help people hear the words better?

    I for one tried the spelling bee that was linked. Certain voices saying most of the words I could make out just fine. In one case, though, I listened to the word repeatedly and wasn't sure of the word through the woman's accent and odd stress pattern (yes, I'm a Yank). It wanted "settlement" and I submitted "sacrament". My speakers aren't exactly cheap, either. It seems the less education someone has, or the less they care about education anyway, the harder it is for me to understand their speech. This is true here in the US and in the UK. The worst dialect and the worst diction seems to always be among a certain class of person. It's not money, but some attitude that proper language just isn't worthwhile. A few misspellings I can overlook. Something like "r u down wit wut I'm tokkin bout" is rather more difficult to make out, spoken or written.

  72. Stewart MacLund

    Pronunciation is the key, with accent being a close second...

    after taking the spelling bee, i really must note that the pronunciation (for example, of "oral" sounding like awl to my admittedly backwoods canadian ear) is the issue. I suppose i should have looked at the hints more, since i guess "nought" for "knot". Oh well. And apparently that's even a less known spelling than "naught".

    Is english confusing? Sure. Does it have too many borrowed words? Sure. But that's the point of it - it's pretty much the only language that allows you to create new words easily.

    Unless you're German, of course.

  73. Anonymous Coward

    @What I object to...


    Technically the pronunciation of Iraq as "eye-raq" is correct - that's how it is in Arabic (when an aleph is transmogrified into an "i", it is always pronounced as a long "eye").

    Ok, no-one else studies arabic, whatever.


  74. David Eddleman


    "a more simplified, phonetic system"

    No, what we need is to stop with the touchy-feely crap and tell people that if they can't be arsed to spell then they can get left behind. I have no problems spelling and I went through a rather standard grade-level education followed by university (but I could spell just fine before university). Maybe a ban on text-speak and AOLese should be enacted. Eh?

  75. Daniel B.

    Re: I'd be happy...

    If you think Spanish is the "role model" of languages, you haven't used it much, especially outside Spain. It isn't even standardized, it thinks "ch" is still a letter, and some countries still use the dog-ugly "vos" or "vosotros" person that makes me think of 17th-century Spanish. Thank God we got rid of that annoyance! Also, its got the silent H, the multiphonetic X (also a reason why Spaniards insist on misspelling "Mexico" as "MeJico") and the overcomplicated grammar we have.

    Spanish is even more "unstandardized" than English; at least the English-speaking world only has to cope with US English and UK English. Spanish has different grammar/spelling rules by region! Not to mention that even simple words like "coger" (to grab/to catch) have other meanings (to fuck) in certain countries. So much for sensible languages...

    @What I object to... - NUCULAR is exclusively from the Bushtards and/or US Southerners. "Yanks", that is, Northern US people do pronounce "Nuclear" correctly. ;)

  76. Scu
    IT Angle

    Times' Bee is fun, but needs some work

    The Times' spelling bee needs some work. I mean, when it says "principle", how was I supposed to know it meant "principal"?

    Oh, and the accent. Yes, I'm a yank, with southern heritage. So when she said "squarely", I heard "squirrelly". My bad I guess.

  77. Jonathan McColl

    Change it/leave it alone?

    I read books written in various forms of English from the last millennium and find it interesting to see the shifts in shapes and sounds and meanings. I see no need for any radical overhaul, although I'd like education to include whatever 'standard' English might be.

    Plenty of places run two languages like Gaelic, Doric, Dingwall, Fen, Yiddish, or Sicilian, and English, American, Russian, or Italian; one for home use and the other for school/work/outsiders and they manage fine when there isn't an official destruction policy.

    As for writing, if you don't like what we have we could change to something Chinese-ish where the writing is the same all over but different dialects read it out loud differently: think of how (say) '1-2-3' looks the same over a lot of the world but the way to pronounce it varies hugely.

    But I'd really recommend a system like the Egyptian hieroglyphs that stayed amazingly stable for millennia. Forget the vowels that everyone pronounces long or short and add a picture to give a hint of the meaning, so both Northerner and Southener could accept a word like Bθ§ (that's B Theta followed by a simplified picture of flowing water).

    Shall I get my coat now? I think so.

  78. Anonymous Coward

    I tried the Times test

    Twice in fact. 15/15 on the first run though, but only 13/15 on the second thanks to the piss poor pronunciation (I spelt "rack" as "wreck" and "lattice" as "lettuce".) (And why does Firefox's spell checker think "spelt" is incorrect?)

  79. Nev
    Thumb Up


    @Nev By Anonymous Coward Posted Monday 9th February 2009 15:06 GMT

    "I'm a product of 80s and 90s education, and don't have many problems with spelling...."

    "So this seems to be more an issue of individuals rather than the education system itself. Furthermore, there's nothing stopping people who know they can't spell just picking up a book and learning."

    Hmmm.... seems you have a good grasp of the plight that others less fortunate than yourself have found themselves in.

    Well done. [sic]

    Just because the education system didn't fail you, it doesn't mean that those for whom it did fail can be tarred as lazy, ignorant or stupid by people such as yourself.

    So **** you too.

  80. Scu

    You spelt all the words correclty

    Is that proper grammar in the UK? That's what the Bee tells me at the end, but it just sounds wrong.

  81. ThinkingOutLoud
    Paris Hilton

    I understand...

    ...why some ask for a little slack on spelling rules. After all, as an immigrant from a country with phonetic spelling, I am constantly surprised at the difference between how we spell and pronounce many new words I learn. However:

    As such "guest" in this country, I still manage to out-perform any school leaver (and many uni grads) when it comes to spelling & grammar. Most errors can be avoided with just a few basic rules I have taught many of my friends, none of whom hear of while at school.

    If teachers got off their arses and parents allowed some true discipline, we could get back to some real teaching! Oh, what? Can't do that? Why? You don't know? Again, why?


    Paris because no-one cares how she spells "let me unzip you"...

  82. Chris

    RE: spelling beee

    "Went to the Times speling bee and it needs Flash!!!! Ridiclous. Why can't they just have the words writen on the page nd ask you to spel them."

    That might be just as effective. When I was a teaching asst in grad school, I gave a quiz to my class on which one of the questions was "Spell asymptote: _________________."

    (Yes, the word was written right in front of their faces.)

    About half the class got it wrong. When queried on how they manged to pull off such a feat, their responses were mostly along the lines of "I thought it was a trick question, and you spelled it wrong on purpose." I pointed out that it didn't matter. I asked them to spell the word wriiten on the quiz, not the word for the mathematical line that is approached arbitrarily closely.

  83. ThinkingOutLoud
    Paris Hilton

    I'm still angry!

    If my previous comment makes it through, bully for me. If not, who cares?

    My last rant does not adequately make up for how I feel about the lack of basic learning discipline in our schools. "Rules is rules" and until you're old enough to make your own mind up, you should follow them to the letter. Once you grow up you can argue a case to change them for the benefit of your children.

    If you and your children read enough books from different authors, you will improve your English by default. Remember to look up or Google words you don't understand so the sentence you read them in become clear.

    F**k it, if you're reading this you already got out of the pond. Just share my message with that cousin you're trying to avoid on Friends Reunited!

    Getting to the bottom of the bottle so forgive my own spell/typos, else Paris because, once again, her spelling & grammar does not matter.

    Going to bed now. I can't shout any louder tonight...

  84. Michael

    Simple solution

    If we all start spelling using the International Phonetic Alphabet, all these issues will simply stop.

  85. Hi Wreck


    If I recall correctly, the Americans dropped all of those stupid U's in words like colour in order to save some ink when printing newspapers.

    If you really want to go batty, write "canadian" which seems to take a bit of both British and American spellings. I.e. colour and program.

    In the end, blame the French. It's all their fault.

  86. expat

    14 out of 15 correct

    jejune was the one that tripped me up.

    Hayley Mills, she was the Paris of my younger days.

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Place names - please say aloud

    Fochabers - Moray

    Towcester - Northamptonshire

    Bishops Itchington - Warwickshire

    Caynham - Shropshire

    Devizes - Wiltshire

    Ashby de la Zouch - Leicestershire

    Mousehole - Cornwall

    Auchtermuchty - Fife

    Cirencester - Gloucestershire

    Great Whelnetham - Suffolk

    the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

    now I bet you say it differently to those that live and grew up there! Nuff said!

  88. Stevie


    Of course, until the 1930s this was a specious argument anyway since most of the population of either country couldn't bloody well read or write well enough to care.

    Not much change they're then.


  89. Marco Gnumar
    Thumb Down

    Spelling Fart

    The spelling bee is awful, how can it be steel not steal, and knight not night, or knit not nit. Perhaps the nasal drivel English has differentiation in these words, but I fail to perceive it. The test is made unbeatable in order to prove the Times / their esteemed American university of something or other some obvious point about the degeneration of English. Perhaps the point would be better driven in if they employed a bunch of sodden drunks next time to slur the words out and obliterate any chance of getting any words right?

    Also, at Watashi's comment on the pronunciation of "apple", I do hope that was facetious, the same as in America those things slightly taller than hills are referred to as "Mown Ens" and the T sound is simply superfluous candy floss to throw people off.

  90. Patrick

    Same old problem

    It's the English adopted alphabet. It does not have enough symbols to represent all the sounds. It's Germanic alphabet mismatch all over again, why so many futhark variations?

    If we adopted for example the Icelandic alphabet we would have a hell of a lot better chance of writing a word that a reader could pronounce with near 100% accuracy the first time spoken.

    Point the finger where the blame is due.

    Even common names are brought in from the outside.

    Take the name Peter if written in Icelandic is Pétur which matches the mouth sounds a lot closer. It's a much closer fit even though the name is not even of Icelandic origin their alphabet handles it heads and shoulders above what our adopted alphabet can do for it.

  91. Anonymous Coward

    Re: What I object to...

    " ... ASK becomes AX"

    You can't blame the Americans for this. Ask is one of those words that has changed over the centuris from aks to ask. And back again. Several times. Third/thrid is another example. I came across the name for this phenomenon the other day, but have forgotten it already :-(

  92. kain preacher

    My genration. Gen S

    For screwed. See for my generation the hippies and flower children of the 60's were in charged of the education system. They deiced well l cant do what are parents did its wrong.. Why because its what they did so its wrong. h they screwed us (fucked us proper ) .They deiced well you can learn all the rules of the English language just by speaking English. So no teaching phonics and very little grammar. Research papers naw those are hard so when won't make you do those. Proofs in math don't worry about that. I had a math class were %10 of your grade was group work. So if some ass hat didn't do his/her home work there went %10 of your grade. Asking me crap like how does doing this math problem make you feel. Oh failing little Johny might hurt his ego so we cant fail him. I knew straight A students that slapped in the face when they took college exams(not SAT but the test college give you to see what math /english class you qualify to take .) The essentially came back OMG you fucking retard .How could you make this far and not know grammar, not knowing how to do a research paper , not knowing how to cite your sources . I suggest you go back and kick the shit out of the fucking idiots that let you graduate from high school. Better yet sue them [ personal for wasting your time and the tax payers money.

  93. Law

    merkin researchers...

    O.D.F.O... that is all

  94. EvilGav

    14 out of 15 on the Spelling Bee

    The one word I got wrong I listened to a good half-a-dozen times before guessing at one of the two words I thought they were pronouncing.

    I was born in '73, started school in '78 and finished '89 or so, before going on to University, I was state schooled all the way through, never had a tutor and never failed an exam.

    Back in High School, in 4th year (I have no idea what "grade" that is, I went to school before we decided to adopt the American standard for class years), I was in the top English class, due to a change in teacher, we got a spelling test. Out of 20 words, only 2 of the 30 or so pupils got them all right (myself being one of them).

    Yet I still don't blame all the other kids, I personally have always read a lot and at a veracious pace, which always helps with spelling. However, schools haven't taught English for a long time, most kids have no idea of the construct for a sentence in English (noun, verb, adverb etc), no idea what a past participle is or the definite article. This same fact is why schools no longer teach foreign languages properly, if you don't know the rules surrounding English, how can a teacher explain the differences between English and, say, French (where the construct is likely to be noun, adverb, verb).

    The reality is, education has been dumbed down for years, to the point where anyone leaving school today is of no use to man nor beast, education wise. We don't teach languages correctly, we don't teach science anymore (we teach kids to do an experiment and confirm the results are what they should be, not to question the result), mathematics is the art of using a calculator and so on.

    I weep for the state of education today.

  95. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Oh noes, not this one again

    The clocks will change soon and then we can all go on about how they didn't orter, or we should have perpetual summers or whatever the latest bee in the flat earthers bonnet is.

    For all those who've been asleep for the last 40 years, the english language has changed and will keep changing. Text speak has wrought a change more radical than anything the spelling reformers have ever come up with; it's just a matter of relaxing and letting things happen.

    @EvilGav "we teach kids to do an experiment and confirm the results are what they should be, not to question the result" - pretty much SOP 45 years ago, we looked the theory up (we had things called text books then, which, by dint of reading three pages ahead of the current lesson, allowed the brighter pupils to stand on the shoulders of giants), worked out the *cough* correct results, added (and sometimes subtracted - hah!) some experimental error, allowed for the odd few quantum effects, passing cosmic rays etc etc and hey! presto! A grades all round. We weren't stupid you know.

    However, we could spell. And we didn't have spell checkers to confuse us with difficult words like reign and rein. No need for spelling reform when lashings of thrashings and ritual humiliation can be used to much greater effect.

  96. Herby

    Two countries...

    ...separated by a common language.

    At least they aren't promoting ebonics (jive by another name). As always any decent language has an army behind it. That's why Esperanto hasn't taken hold and probably never will. Oh, well.

  97. Bruce
    Thumb Up

    I don't care anymore...

    It just means that I have an advantage when applying for jobs

    If people want to be lazy, then let them. B-)

  98. Dave

    Language Roots

    There's a group of people with a very low error rate in spelling, possibly because we (I number myself in that group) have some deep understanding of the roots of words and know whether to apply the Latin-based rules, the Greek-based rules, the Germanic rules, etc. I've been able to look at a word and know it's wrong even if I've not come across the word before because it just doesn't look right. I don't know how my brain works (apart from poorly) either.

  99. Anonymous Coward


    The words some posters above are looking for is "homophone"; a homophone is a word that is pronounced the same as, but is spelt differently and has a separate meaning to another word (e.g. stake and steak). A homonym is what the homophones would become if the Spelling Soc. gets its way (i.e. a word that is spelt the same as another but differs in the meaning, e.g. stick and stick).

    Last time this ogre raised its ugly head, the Spelling Soc. gave its recommended spellings. Among them were "onely" and "moast". To me, using, for the time being, news-reader/Queen's English, the "o" sound is equal in both these words. Thus what hope does this drive for simplified spelling have if the proponents can't even agree on a standard. (The place I hail from, these words would be spelt "ooanly" and "mooast".)

  100. Adam Foxton
    Thumb Down


    It's not that we want the language to constantly stay as it is; people are happy with the language evolving, we just don't want it utterly changed beyond recognition because someone wants to get their name in the paper.

    This happens at least once a year- last year it was a professer emeritus from somewhere or other, this year it's from the Spelling Society.

    Language will continue to evolve- Dalek is(was?) in the English dictionary, and that's serbo-croat (for "a far and distant thing"). But it shouldn't be changed on a whim simply because someone couldn't be arsed to listen at school.

  101. Keith T
    Thumb Up

    I'd love to see us switch to a phonetic system.

    Spelling in our language definitely needs a massive overhaul. I'd love to see us switch to a phonetic system.

    For a native English speaker who has taken a couple of years of German, it is easier to spell dictated haupt deutsch than my mother tongue.

  102. gribbler

    Does anyone read this far down the comments list?

    Well if they do, here's my 'tuppence worth. Firstly; why would we need to reform the spelling of a livinig language. We just need to wait and the language will continue to evolve to remove words which drop out of usage and introduce new ones. Thus the language and the spelling remain current (if you don't believe me try reading anything from the 19th Century, it is harder to read because it is full of words we no longer commonly use).

    Secondly; I think I can spell rather well, whereas many of my peers and colleagues cannot. Why? Could it be because I have read books from a young age? Perhaps because I look up words I do not understand? Maybe because I realise that correct spelling helps to ensure that you are taken seriously? Or maybe a combination of all of these points...

  103. Dave Cheetham


    Interesting point you made that one day, kids may have to learn English AND Textspeak at school! That would then turn them against using text. Great idea. They might actually take up some other interest instead of continually texting each other and even develop real social skills such as talking rather than grunting, or am I being too optimistic?

  104. Anonymous Coward

    The robot needs to eschew homophones

    I tried it out. The robot said "READ". I typed "REED". I got that one wrong.


    I'll get my cote.

  105. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    If you made it this far...

    come on with me, lets go grab a nice hot curry down the street...

  106. Anonymous Coward

    Miracle cure

    Take the computers (with their spell-checkers) off the kids in school and get them to read some books and I bet you'd find that by some amazing coincidence that their ability to spell would dramatically improve.

    You can't reform a language, or anything else, by simply redefining it to match the ability of those who are unskilled in it. Because they'll be unskilled in your reformed language too and then you're into a spiral that ends with people pointing and grunting. You know, like teenagers.

  107. Francis Offord

    Here we go, yet again.

    I think that a time has been reached when the British must realize, and the intelligent ones do, that language is a living thing. Unlike the Frogs, NOT sorry for that, we must not be dragged kicking and screaming down the path of stagnation, which is what they have done with their "academy". I fully believe that we have a fluent language which develops almost daily, it will stretch to encompass novelty, and must do so by definition. Anything which ceases to develop will die, stultified by over protection. Or, as we used to say in the RAF, "it's nibbled to death by ducks." Maybe, the case for the stagnation will be made by politicians interfering in matters which they do not comprehend and let's face it, they usually do. I make the point also regarding the difference between "comprehension" and "understanding", a very subtle difference but there. I often look at articles written by older journalists and compare them with some written by more modern writers and then see just how the older ones KNOW English whilst the younger ones have less comprehension. Restore the teaching of English to the classroom and allow us to take a pride in spelling, grammar and correctness, before the teaching profession kills of the proud language we know. Francis Offord.

  108. Torben Mogensen

    Reform pronouncation instead

    As several other posters have pointed out, the same word is pronounced differently in different parts of England (and even more so if we include other English-speaking countries), so settling on a phonetic spelling would require a choice of which pronunciation is "correct". Other people remarked on the horrific cost of converting written documents to a new spelling standard.

    But there is a simple solution: Keep the spelling but change the "official" pronunciation to follow the spelling in a consistent way. Simply define a short list of letter combinations and single letters and what their "proper" pronunciation is, using the general rule that letter combinations take precedence over single letters so, for example, the h in "that" and "chat" is pronounced differently from the h in "hat".

    My guess is that you would need only about 25 different letter groups to be special cased, which should be reasonable to expect users of the language to learn. Most common words would be pronounced close to how they are pronounced today (in some part of the world, at least), but some of the more irregular word like "women" and "infinite"/"finite" (one or the other) would change "official" pronunciation.

    With a modified pronunciation, reading old texts is no problem, but people who have learned only the new pronunciation would have difficulty understanding old recordings of speech. But how often do you listen to old recordings or see movies that are more than a few decades old?

    And, in any case, I don't think understanding "old" English would be any harder than understanding many of the dialects already out there.

  109. Jonah

    this could get addictive

    Groovy! Go to the training area section and select 'challenge - hard'. My first attempt scored 15/15 and 492 points. On this level they no longer ask you to spell 'wood' or 'read', so you'll less likely to suffer from homophonia :-p ...this could supplement my fix :)

  110. Andus McCoatover

    @ William Keaton

    <<There is no "G" in WHINE!!!!!>>

    Yeah, and there's no "F" in "SUN" at the moment...

  111. Paul

    Native Tongue

    We know our spelling is illogical.

    It's a perfect relection of the way we live our lives,

    Now f*** off and leave my labial espoused fricatives alone!

  112. Anonymous Coward

    I blame the Americans

    They ruined English, all by themselves!

    They used TV to spread the disease.

  113. Martin Taylor

    If you think we've got problems...

    "a system which reflects how English was spoken in the 13th to 15th centuries"

    Compare and contrast (if you can) modern Greek, which uses a system which reflects how Greek was spoken in the 4th century BC. Or multiple dialects of Arabic, which use a system which reflects how the language was spoken in the Arabian Peninsula in the 7th century AD.

  114. Chris Hunt


    So the (admittedly extremely difficult) nature of English spelling is "holding Britain and the US back" is it?

    One of those nations ruled over the biggest empire the world has ever known. The other is the world's only remaining superpower and biggest economy (until they get overtaken by China, and their written language is pretty tricky too!)

    Not much evidence of being "held back" there, I think. Indeed, maybe the opposite is the case - having overcome the vagiaries of english spelling at an early age, we're ready to take on the world! I'd certainly like to see more of a cost/benefit analysis before we go changing anything.

    Oh, and the reason that non-native speakers tend to out-perform us natives is simple selection bias. If you're able to live in a foreign country and master its language, you're probably (a) pretty intelligent, (b) motivated to get it right, (c) in possession of a knack for learning languages. You're thus likely to do better than a randomly selected local in a language test.

  115. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    This debate has been going on forever

    Paris, because she goes on forever.

  116. david Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    India/AUS/US/UK fonetic spelling

    That's exactly what we need: fonectic spelling so each country can spell the words differently as well as pronounce them differently. Thus cutting written communication back to the standard of spoken communication ... as a means of trade restriction and job protection.

    Paree, because the French will spell English differently than the English do, so that English will be easier for them to read and write...

  117. Paul Banacks

    Nineteen eighty four?

    Didn't Orwell call this kind of simplification "Newspeak?"

  118. twat

    It's Minnellium!

    At least thats how Jennifer Saunders pronounces it..

    Also the yanks don't know how to pronounce Edinborough. Actually I am not sure I do either. Is it Edinburrah or Edinbruh? Any Scots out there?

  119. Norman Bowring

    Some mistakes aren't mistakes at all!

    I took the test four times and had two "errors" according to them! I wrote "tale" (as they gave in answer) as "tail". It seems they can't even write a programme to allow for alternate spellings of the same sounding words! I also had a typo in the word "conducive" - hitting the "i" to the right of "u" by mistake. I thus conclude that the Koreans I taught in Seoul last year were in good hands!

    Incidentally, the students I taught there had, on average, far better handwriting (in English!) than most English speaking people! Students there also have a proper work ethic which is probably why they are on the upswing while we are on the slippery slope to oblivion!

    As for spell checkers the one in this version of Safari on a Mac computer always tells me that I misspell words like programme and harbour or neighbour!

  120. Norman Bowring

    Why does the world speak English?

    Because it's the easiest language in the world to speak poorly - and STILL be understood!

    This is partly because it's still a "living" language which can change nouns to verbs at the whim of the speaker/writer. As long as the listener/reader understands what is intended by the communicator, all is well.

    eg. "Google" - originally the proper noun name of a company which in very short order has become a verb. Some of you may of heard of it!

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