On This Date In History: Back in 1906, Andrew Carnegie thought that if English was made more simple, it could become the dominant language in the world. In an effort to try and simplify the spelling and writing of English, he funded the Simplified Spelling Board which was made up of a group of intellectuals who would discuss the issue. The Board had 26 members including Supreme Court Justice David Brewer, US Secretary of the Treasury Lyman Gage and Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain. The board determined that there many words that could easily be changed; such words like ”ghost” could be made simpler by dropping the silent “h.” Words like “blessed” could be reconfigured as “blest” and certainly the “u” could be dropped in words such as “behaviour,” “colour” and “honour.” They had enough of “enough” and decided that “enuf” would do just fine. The board did not want to overwhelm the nation so they proposed slowly introducing new word spellings with an initial list of 300 words that would be changed. Some schools even adopted the suggests. The go slow approach though got thwarted by a big stick.
President Teddy Roosevelt decided that me would be Vice-President Dan Quayle about 90 years before there was a Vice-President Dan Quayle. If you recall, on June 15, 1992 then Vice-President Dan Quayle went to an elementary school in Trenton, New Jersey. Quayle decided to help a kid with his spelling and added an “e” to the end of the word, potato. That was effectively the end of Quayle’s political career and was no help in President Bush’s re-election bid. It came as a big surprise to the eggheads on the Simplified Spelling Board when President Theodore Roosevelt unilaterly sent a letter to the US Government Printing Office on this date in 1906 that orderd the office to use the new spelling of the 300 words on the list. President Roosevelt almost immediately got as much of a backlash as Vice President Quayle did nearly a century later. Newspapers printed it as “Rozevult’s List.” However, Roosevelt managed to hold his seat in the White House. The Rochester Post-Express pondered whether the president’s surname would spelled “Rusevelt” or “Buttinsky.” The Baltimore Sun claim that the whole effort was simply “a scheme financed by Carnegie, backed by certain large publishing interests, and designed to carry out an immense project for jobbery in reprinting dictionaries and school books.”
The response to Roosevelt’s attempt to expand to power of the presidency to that of Grammarian in Chief was swift, broad and wicked. One columnist wrote that “nuthing escapes Mr. Rucevelt. No subject is tu hi fr him to takl, no tu lo for him tu notis.” Congress wasn’t too certain that presidential powers extended to the spelling book and ordered the printer to pay no attention to the man with the big stick in the bully pulpit. So great was the public response, Mr. Roosevelt withdrew the order but later wrote that he glad “did the thing anyhow.” I’m not certain exactly when the order was rescinded but Congress made certain that Presidential Power did not apply to the pen when on December 13, 1906 the US House of Representatives passed a resolution 142-24 that confirmed it would use traditional spelling found in most dictionaries and not the new and improved list of 300. The US Supreme Court also vowed to not use the new spelling in spite of the involvement of Justice Brewer.
As many people who have read this blog can attest, either my spelling is lame or I can’t type. But, spelling is very important and is seen by many as a reflection to the author’s competence or carelessness. It would seem that words such as “kissed” did not become “kist” (except as part of the brand name “Sunkist”) but other words did gain a new set of letters. It is not common in American to spell “behavior’ or “color” with a “u.”
But, it would seem that text messengers have begun doing what Andrew Carnegie, Teddy Roosevelt and others tried to do over 100 years ago as many words are spelled in a shorter, simpler form in messaging. One that comes to mind is “enuf.” The effort at spelling reform has a long history and some people in the 21st century continue the effort at spelling reform. It remains to be seen if those efforts or the texting craze continues and if the abbreviations eventually transform the way English is written. In the meantime, make sure you learn to spell properly. Dan Quayle never won another election and neither did Theodore Roosevelt.
Weather Bottom Line: The operative word for the last few days of August is dry. High pressure will continue to dominate but will drift to the east. Today will again have highs limited to the low to mid 80′s and the overnight low will be in the upper 50′s and low 60′s. After that we get on the backside of the high with a return southerly flow. We’ll be around 90 on Saturday afternoon and low 90′s for the balance of the week ahead. Overnight lows will climb to the mid 60′s on Sunday morning and then upper 60′s thereafter. My hydrangia is telling me that it needs water and your garden will be screaming the same, if it’s not already.