The European Commission have just announced an agreement whereby
English will be the official language of the EU, rather than German, which
was the other possibility. As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty's
government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and
has accepted a five year phase in plan that would be known as "EuroEnglish".
In the first year, "s" will replace the soft "c". Sertainly, this will
make the sivil servants jump for joy. The hard "c" will be dropped in favour
of the "k". This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have 1 less
There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the
troublesome "ph" will be replaced with the "f". This will make words like
"fotograf" 20% shorter.
In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be
expekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible.
Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always
ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of
the silent "e"s in the language is disgraseful, and they should go away.
By the 4th year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing "th"
with "z" and "w" with "v".
During ze fifz year, ze unesesary "o" kan be dropd from vords
kontaining "ou" and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer
kombinations of leters. After zis fifz year, ve vil hav a realy sensibl
riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubls or difikultis and evrivun vil find it
ezi to understand each ozer
ZE DREAM VIL FINALI KUM TRU!
|to ne Mark Tven. Stat'yu Tvena "A simplified alphabet" sm. nizhe.
Five year phase-in plan for "EuroEnglish"
(This article, written during the autumn of 1899, was about the last
writing done by Mark Twain on any impersonal subject.)
I have had a kindly feeling, a friendly feeling, a cousinly feeling
toward Simplified Spelling, from the beginning of the movement three years
ago, but nothing more inflamed than that. It seemed to me to merely propose
to substitute one inadequacy for another; a sort of patching and plugging
poor old dental relics with cement and gold and porcelain paste; what was
really needed was a new set of teeth. That is to say, a new ALPHABET.
The heart of our trouble is with our foolish alphabet. It doesn't know
how to spell, and can't be taught. In this it is like all other alphabets
except one--the phonographic. This is the only competent alphabet in the
world. It can spell and correctly pronounce any word in our language.
That admirable alphabet, that brilliant alphabet, that inspired
alphabet, can be learned in an hour or two. In a week the student can learn
to write it with some little facility, and to read it with considerable
ease. I know, for I saw it tried in a public school in Nevada forty-five
years ago, and was so impressed by the incident that it has remained in my
memory ever since.
I wish we could adopt it in place of our present written (and printed)
character. I mean SIMPLY the alphabet; simply the consonants and the
vowels--I don't mean any REDUCTIONS or abbreviations of them, such as the
shorthand writer uses in order to get compression and speed. No, I would
SPELL EVERY WORD OUT.
I will insert the alphabet here as I find it in Burnz's PHONIC
SHORTHAND. [Figure 1] It is arranged on the basis of Isaac Pitman's
PHONOGRAPHY. Isaac Pitman was the originator and father of scientific
phonography. It is used throughout the globe. It was a memorable invention.
He made it public seventy- three years ago. The firm of Isaac Pitman & Sons,
New York, still exists, and they continue the master's work.
What should we gain?
First of all, we could spell DEFINITELY--and correctly--any word you
please, just by the SOUND of it. We can't do that with our present alphabet.
For instance, take a simple, every-day word PHTHISIS. If we tried to spell
it by the sound of it, we should make it TYSIS, and be laughed at by every
Secondly, we should gain in REDUCTION OF LABOR in writing.
Simplified Spelling makes valuable reductions in the case of several
hundred words, but the new spelling must be LEARNED. You can't spell them by
the sound; you must get them out of the book.
But even if we knew the simplified form for every word in the language,
the phonographic alphabet would still beat the Simplified Speller "hands
down" in the important matter of economy of labor. I will illustrate:
PRESENT FORM: through, laugh, highland.
SIMPLIFIED FORM: thru, laff, hyland.
PHONOGRAPHIC FORM: [Figure 2]
To write the word "through," the pen has to make twenty-one strokes.
To write the word "thru," then pen has to make twelve strokes-- a good
To write that same word with the phonographic alphabet, the pen has to
make only THREE strokes.
To write the word "laugh," the pen has to make FOURTEEN strokes.
To write "laff," the pen has to make the SAME NUMBER of strokes--no
labor is saved to the penman.
To write the same word with the phonographic alphabet, the pen has to
make only THREE strokes.
To write the word "highland," the pen has to make twenty-two strokes.
To write "hyland," the pen has to make eighteen strokes.
To write that word with the phonographic alphabet, the pen has to make
only FIVE strokes. [Figure 3]
To write the words "phonographic alphabet," the pen has to make
To write "fonografic alfabet," the pen has to make fifty strokes. To
the penman, the saving in labor is insignificant.
To write that word (with vowels) with the phonographic alphabet, the
pen has to make only SEVENTEEN strokes.
Without the vowels, only THIRTEEN strokes. [Figure 4] The vowels are
hardly necessary, this time.
We make five pen-strokes in writing an m. Thus: [Figure 5] a stroke
down; a stroke up; a second stroke down; a second stroke up; a final stroke
down. Total, five. The phonographic alphabet accomplishes the m with a
single stroke--a curve, like a parenthesis that has come home drunk and has
fallen face down right at the front door where everybody that goes along
will see him and say, Alas!
When our written m is not the end of a word, but is otherwise located,
it has to be connected with the next letter, and that requires another
pen-stroke, making six in all, before you get rid of that m. But never mind
about the connecting strokes--let them go. Without counting them, the
twenty-six letters of our alphabet consumed about eighty pen-strokes for
their construction--about three pen-strokes per letter.
It is THREE TIMES THE NUMBER required by the phonographic alphabet. It
requires but ONE stroke for each letter.
My writing-gait is--well, I don't know what it is, but I will time
myself and see. Result: it is twenty-four words per minute. I don't mean
composing; I mean COPYING. There isn't any definite composing-gait.
Very well, my copying-gait is 1,440 words per hour--say 1,500. If I
could use the phonographic character with facility I could do the 1,500 in
twenty minutes. I could do nine hours' copying in three hours; I could do
three years' copying in one year. Also, if I had a typewriting machine with
the phonographic alphabet on it--oh, the miracles I could do!
I am not pretending to write that character well. I have never had a
lesson, and I am copying the letters from the book. But I can accomplish my
desire, at any rate, which is, to make the reader get a good and clear idea
of the advantage it would be to us if we could discard our present alphabet
and put this better one in its place--using it in books, newspapers, with
the typewriter, and with the pen.
[Figure 6] --MAN DOG HORSE. I think it is graceful and would look
comely in print. And consider--once more, I beg--what a labor-saver it is!
Ten pen-strokes with the one system to convey those three words above, and
thirty-three by the other! [Figure 6] I mean, in SOME ways, not in all. I
suppose I might go so far as to say in most ways, and be within the facts,
but never mind; let it go at SOME. One of the ways in which it exercises
this birthright is--as I think--continuing to use our laughable alphabet
these seventy-three years while there was a rational one at hand, to be had
for the taking.
It has taken five hundred years to simplify some of Chaucer's rotten
spelling--if I may be allowed to use to frank a term as that--and it will
take five hundred years more to get our exasperating new Simplified
Corruptions accepted and running smoothly. And we sha'n't be any better off
then than we are now; for in that day we shall still have the privilege the
Simplifiers are exercising now: ANYBODY can change the spelling that wants
BUT YOU CAN'T CHANGE THE PHONOGRAPHIC SPELLING; THERE ISN'T ANY WAY. It
will always follow the SOUND. If you want to change the spelling, you have
to change the sound first.
Mind, I myself am a Simplified Speller; I belong to that unhappy guild
that is patiently and hopefully trying to reform our drunken old alphabet by
reducing his whiskey. Well, it will improve him. When they get through and
have reformed him all they can by their system he will be only HALF drunk.
Above that condition their system can never lift him. There is no competent,
and lasting, and real reform for him but to take away his whiskey entirely,
and fill up his jug with Pitman's wholesome and undiseased alphabet.
One great drawback to Simplified Spelling is, that in print a
simplified word looks so like the very nation! and when you bunch a whole
squadron of the Simplified together the spectacle is very nearly
The da ma ov koars kum when the publik ma be expektd to get rekonsyled
to the bezair asspekt of the Simplified Kombynashuns, but--if I may be
allowed the expression--is it worth the wasted time? [Figure 7]
To see our letters put together in ways to which we are not accustomed
offends the eye, and also takes the EXPRESSION out of the words.
La on, Makduf, and damd be he hoo furst krys hold, enuf!
It doesn't thrill you as it used to do. The simplifications have sucked
the thrill all out of it.
But a written character with which we are NOT ACQUAINTED does not
offend us--Greek, Hebrew, Russian, Arabic, and the others--they have an
interesting look, and we see beauty in them, too. And this is true of
hieroglyphics, as well. There is something pleasant and engaging about the
mathematical signs when we do not understand them. The mystery hidden in
these things has a fascination for us: we can't come across a printed page
of shorthand without being impressed by it and wishing we could read it.
Very well, what I am offering for acceptance and adopting is not
shorthand, but longhand, written with the SHORTHAND ALPHABET UNREACHED. You
can write three times as many words in a minute with it as you can write
with our alphabet. And so, in a way, it IS properly a shorthand. It has a
pleasant look, too; a beguiling look, an inviting look. I will write
something in it, in my rude and untaught way: [Figure 8]
Even when _I_ do it it comes out prettier than it does in Simplified
Spelling. Yes, and in the Simplified it costs one hundred and twenty-three
pen-strokes to write it, whereas in the phonographic it costs only
[Figure 9] is probably [Figure 10].
Let us hope so, anyway.
Mark Twain. A simplified alphabet
Last-modified: Sat, 29 Dec 2001 11:29:58 GMT