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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Why Not Spell However You Like?

Here are a few samples of English before it had a standard orthography:

"I am of this opinion that our own tung should be written cleane and pure, unmixt and unmangeled with borowing of other tunges; wherein if we take not heed by tiim, ever borowing and never paying, she shall be fain to keep her house as bankrupt."

-John Cheke, 1561

"Certaynly our langage now vsed varyeth ferre from that which was vsed and spoken whan I was borne."

- William Caxton, Prologue to Eneydos (1490).

"This translatour hath applied himselfe as much as he can to find out the most plain and vsed wordes that be in England, that men of all shyres of England maye the more easly perceiue the meaneing of the boke. Summe noweadayes, more sekynge their owne glorye then the profite of the readers, writ so French Englishe and so Latine that no man, except he be both a Latin man, a French man, and also an Englishe man, shal be able to vnderstande their writinge – whose example I would disswade all men to folowe. For the people, if they should haue any profite by such mennes laboures, had nede of two dictionaries euer by them, one in French and another in Englishe; which thing, because it is so tedious, it would pluck back all men from the redynge of such good and Christen bokes as they
do translate."

William Turner, 1543 
All about 500 years old and still readable even with all the odd spellings. Why spend so much effort trying to get everyone to spell the same? If there's room in English for variation in pronunciation and accent, why not spelling?

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

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