Spelling

I  thought about spelling a couple of times on my recent trip. 

On our way out west we stopped at an overlook of the Missouri River that had a very cool Lewis and Clark display.  My dad pointed out a spelling error on a sign, which I then realized was part of a quote from Lewis’s journal.  If you’ve ever read any of the writings of Meriwether Lewis, you know that there are lots of words spelled oddly.  At the time of the Corps of Discovery voyage, spelling wasn’t standardized.  You can’t really criticize someone for misspelling a word that didn’t have a correct spelling, even if it does now.  And to be accurate, a quote has to include the original spelling.

Later in the trip I found out that Theodore Roosevelt was a poor speller.  Now, I like TR.  He is my favorite president, and the trip made me more interested (perhaps obsessed?) in learning more about him.  He did a lot of good things for our country, but I’m not sure how I feel regarding his effort to simplify the spelling of words using an executive order.  Most people at the time weren’t fans of it either, and it didn’t last very long.  The way we put letters together into words has become even more entrenched since then.

Spelling can be a challenge, especially when our language has so many weird exceptions and odd ways of lettering.  Have you ever been asked how to pronounce GHOTI?  My foreign language teacher in high school wrote it on the board as an example of the oddities of English.  His pronunciation was “fish” – GH as in laugh, O as in women, and TI as in education.  Obviously it’s a linguists trick and not a real word, but it does illustrate how inconsistently we use letters.

Isn’t English fun?

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