[Journal of the Simplified Spelling Society, J31, 2002/2, pp20-22]
[Cornell Kimball: see Journals and Newsletters; another version of the EU spoof; one apparently from the newly appointed California Governor and the condensed version of the 1946 Meihem in ce Klasrum from SSS newsletter N6.]

Investigating Spelling Reform Satire.

Cornell Kimball.

Ze drem uv a lojikl kohirnt spelling will finali kum tru

Many of us have got a kick out of the spelling reform satire that the European Commission is adopting English as the official language, but will need to respell English foneticaly first. It's been published in newspaper and magazine items in Europe, and is frequently seen on the Internet and sent as e-mail. Here is a paragraff from it:
In the first year, 's' will replace the soft 'c'. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard 'c' will be dropped in favour of the 'k'. This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have one less letter.
And the piece ends:
Ze drem vil finali kum tru!
It's been mentioned a few times in Simplified Spelling Society publications; Valerie Yule made reference to it in a couple of pieces in JSSS J30 (p4 and p33). Steve Bett and Valerie have copies of it on their Web sites.

Some may have also seen a spelling reform satire that was "written by Mark Twain" that basically begins:
A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling

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.
At first blush it might seem, then, that the 'EU' language satire was basically taken from a piece by Mark Twain. But another curious item is that from what I've been able to uncover, it's unlikely that Mark Twain did write such a piece. And it seems that the basic source of both of those is a piece by a writer named W. K. Lessing (under the pseudonym Dolton Edwards), called "Meihem in Ce Klasrum", first published in a U.S. magazine called Astounding Science Fiction (now Analog Science Fiction and Fact) in 1946.

A condensed version of "Meihem In Ce Klasrum" appeared in the September 1993 SSS Newsletter N6.

I haven't been able to find this "A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling" in any of Twain's works. Thru the Internet I asked people very familiar with Twain's writings about it, and none of them knew of it appearing in any of Twain's works.

An Internet discussion group called "alt.usage.english" has a basic information sheet. Concerning "A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling", it says: "Many web sites attribute this piece to Mark Twain, but Twain scholars at the University of California could find no supporting evidence for that."

Also, the 'Twain' piece has appeared in print as written by an M. J. Shields. This is noted in the book "Another Almanac of Words at Play", by Willard R. Espy, (Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., New York, 1980, on pages 79-80). At least one source on the Internet says that M. J. Shields wrote this in a letter to The Economist magazine (then later reprinted in Willard Espy's book), tho I haven't been able to find any further evidence of this. The appendix of Espy's book doesn't give any source for the Shields piece.

From any evidence I've been able to garner, and from theories of others, it appears that the 'M. J. Shields' piece appeared somewhere in print first, then later a version of it without a name on it somehow got attributed to Mark Twain.

But also from everything I can turn up, it appears that the 'original' behind any of these is the article "Meihem in Ce Klasrum", by a writer named W. K. Lessing (with the pen name of Dolton Edwards). That article has sentences that read very similar to both the 'EU' satire and the "Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling". Here are a few excerpts from "Meihem in Ce Klasrum":
In 1946, for example, we would urge the elimination of the soft "c," for which we would substitute "s." Sertainly, such an improvement would be selebrated in all sivic-minded sircles ...

... it would be announsed that the double konsonant "ph" no longer existed, and that the sound would henseforth be written with "f" in all words. This would make sutsh words as "fonograf" twenty persent shorter in print ...

... Even Mr. Yaw [Shaw], wi beliv, wud be hapi in ce noleg cat his drims fainali keim tru.
"Meihem in Ce Klasrum" was also reprinted in Torch, a Smithsonian Institution publication, and was reprinted in the U.S. magazine Life on May 6, 1957.

I don't have firm evidence of exactly when or where the 'EU' satire or the "Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling" first appeared. But it does seem plausible, from what I have uncovered, that the first of these basic satires was "Meihem in Ce Klasrum", and the ideas (in some cases, actual words or frases) were taken from that and later used to make "A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling" and the satire about the European Commission respelling English fonetically.



Here are the full versions of the three satires.

The 'EU' satire basically runs:

The European Commission has 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 5 year phase-in plan of modifications that will lead to 'Euro-English' as the language will be known.

In the first year, 's' will replace the soft 'c'. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard 'c' will be dropped in favour of the 'k'. This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have one less letter.

There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year when the troublesome 'ph' will be replased with the 'f '. This will make words like 'fotograf ' 20% shorter.

In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expected to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double leters which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent 'e' in the languag is disgraseful and it should go away.

By the 4th yer peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing 'th' with 'z' and 'w' with 'v' to beter align the modified language with the kapabilities of the Euro speaker.

During ze fifz yer ze unesesary 'o' kan be dropd from vords kontaining 'ou' and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

After ziz fifz yer ve vil hav a rali sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor truble or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi tu understand ech ozer.

Ze drem vil finali kum tru!



The full satire (three paragraffs) that's attributed to Mark Twain and M. J. Shields basically goes:

A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling
by "Mark Twain".

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.



And here is the W. K. Lessing (Dolton Edwards ) piece as it appeared in the September 1946 issue of Astounding Science Fiction magazine:

Meihem In Ce Klasrum
by Dolton Edwards.

Because we are still bearing some of the scars of our brief skirmish with II-B English, it is natural that we should be enchanted with Mr. George Bernard Shaw's proposal for a simplified alphabet.

Obviously, as Mr. Shaw points out, English spelling is in much need of a general overhauling and streamlining. However, our resistance to any changes requiring a large expenditure of mental effort in the near future would cause us to view with some apprehension the possibility of some day receiving a morning paper printed in - to us - Greek.

Our own plan would achieve the same end as the legislation proposed by Mr. Shaw, but in a less shocking manner, as it consists merely of an acceleration of the normal processes by which the language is continually modernized.

As a catalytic agent, we would suggest that a "National Easy Language Week" be proclaimed, which the President would inaugurate, outlining some short cut to concentrate on during the week, and to be adopted during the ensuing year. All school children would be given a holiday, the lost time being the equivalent of that gained by the spelling short cut.

In 1946, for example, we would urge the elimination of the soft "c," for which we would substitute "s." Sertainly, such an improvement would be selebrated in all sivic-minded sircles as being suffisiently worth the trouble, and students in all sities in the land would be reseptive toward any change eliminating the nesessity of learning the differense between the two letters.

In 1947, sinse only the hard "c" would be left, it would be possible to substitute "k" for it, both letters being pronounsed identikally. Imagine how greatly only two years of this prosess would klarify the konfusion in the minds of students. Already we would have eliminated an entire letter from the alphabet. Typewriters and linotypes kould all be built with one less letter, and all the manpower and materials previously devoted to making "c's" kould be turned toward raising the national standard of living.

In the fase of so many notable improvements, it is easy to foresee that by 1948, "National Easy Language Week" would be a pronounsed sukses. All skhool tshildren would be looking forward with konsiderable exsitement to the holiday, and in a blaze of national publisity it would be announsed that the double konsonant "ph" no longer existed, and that the sound would henseforth be written with "f " in all words. This would make sutsh words as "fonograf" twenty persent shorter in print.

By 1949, publik interest in a fonetik alfabet kan be expekted to have inkreased to the point where a more radikal step forward kan be taken without fear of undue kritisism. We would therefore urge the elimination at that time of al unesesary double leters, whitsh, although quite harmles, have always ben a nuisanse in the language and a desided deterent to akurate speling. Try it yourself in the next leter you write, and se if both writing and reading are not fasilitated.

With so mutsh progrs already made, it might be posible in 1950 to delve further into the posibilities of fonetik speling. After due konsideration of the reseption aforded the previous steps, it should be expedient by this time to spel al difthongs fonetikaly. Most students do not realize that the long "i" and "y," as in "time" and "by," are aktualy the difthong "ai," as it is writen in "aisle," and that the long "a" in "fate" is in reality the difthong "ei" as in "rein." Although perhaps not imediately aparent, the seiving in taime and efort wil be tremendous when we leiter elimineite the sailent "e," as meide posible bai this last tsheinge.

For, as is wel known, the horible mes of "e's" apearing in our writen language is kaused prinsipaly bai the present nesesity of indekeiting whether a vowel is long or short. Therefore, in 1951 we kould simply elimineite al sailent "e's" and kontinu to read and wrait merily along as though we wer in an atomik eig of edukation.

In 1951 we would urg a greit step forward. Sins bai this taim it would hav ben four years sins anywun had usd the leter "c," we would sugest that the "National Easy Languag Wek" for 1951 be devoted to substitution of "c" for "Th." To be sur it would be som taim befor peopl would bekom akustomd to reading ceir newspapers and buks wic sutsh sentenses in cem as "Ceodor caught he had cre cousand cistls crust crough ce cik of his cumb."

In ce seim maner, bai meiking eatsh leter hav its own sound and cat sound only, we kould shorten ce languag stil mor. In 1952 we would eliminait ce "y"; cen in 1953 we kould us ce leter to indekeit ce "sh" sound, cerbai klarifaiing words laik yugar and yur, as wel as redusing bai wun mor leter al words laik "yut," "yor," and so forc. Cink, cen, of al ce benefits to be geined bai ce distinktion whitsh wil cen be meid between words laik:
Tradspel
ocean
machine
racial
Drem
oyean
Mayin
reyial
ENglis
oSan
maSEn
rasal
Spanglish
óshan
machien
réshal
Al sutsh divers weis of wraiting wun sound would no longer exist, and whenever wun keim akros a "y" sound he would know exaktli what to wrait.

Kontinuing cis proses, ier after ier, we would eventuali hav a reali sensibl writen langug. By 1975, wi ventyur tu sei, cer wud bi no mor uv ces teribli trublsum difikultis, wic no tu leters usd to indikeit ce seim nois, and laikwais no tui noises riten wic ce seim leter. Even Mr. Yaw, wi beliv, wud be hapi in ce noleg cat his drims fainali keim tru.
Reprinted from Astounding Science Fiction, Street and Smith Publications, Inc. (now Analog Science Fiction and Fact ). 1946.

Special Thanks to Donna Richoux and David Wolff for supplying some of the information for this article in responses to Internet queries.



Tseindzaz - An Afterword by Steve Bett.

Compare the last paragraph to a more consistent Spanglish transcription which shows stress.
"Continnuing this proges, yir after yir, wi wvd eventually hav a realy sensibl rittan langwaj. Bai 1975, wi venntiur to say therr wvd bi no mor av thiez terribly trubalsam difficultyz, wich no to letterz iuzd to inndikeit the seim noiz and laikwaiz no to noizaz rittan with the seim letter. Ieven Mr. Shaw, wi believ, wvd bi happy in the nolaj that hiz driemz fainaly keim tru."

The orthographic changes in the story were chosen for their visual impact and comic oddness. On closer inspection, the final stage of the comic reform fails as a fully consistent phonemic writing system. One can compare it with Spanglish (below) which makes many of the same euroesque changes but does not adopt k for c, tsh for ch, or z for dh: "Ze tseindzaz" = 'The eheinjef

Another difference: Spanglish does not promote a stages reform. It is simply a parallel phonemic script that can be used as an i.t.a. and a dictionary pronunciation guide. The goal of Spanglish is to make spelling as predictable as Italian and Spanish spelling while retaining some resemblance to the traditional spelling. Spanglish can be read without a key & devolves into a more traditional form when used as an i.t.a.

I would like to see Spanglish as a more phonemic version of RITE but I have yet to find the rules that would permit one to move from a Spanglish spelling <akiumaleit> to a RITE spelling <acumulate>. Tradspel: <accumulate>. This devolution or transition is fairly easy but others are more difficult.

Saxon-Spanglish comes closer to the goal of predictable spelling than ALC SoundSpel because it has a symbol for schwa [a] and uses it for almost all unstressed vowels. There are ten rules which cover the exceptions such as with syllabic vowels [appl not appal]. ALC Soundspel simply copies tradspel which is great for TO adept readers but difficult for spellers. Unstressed vowels are a major source of spelling errors.

Spanglish is based on the Saxon alphabet that was used from about 800 CE until the great vowel shift [ca. 1450] It is basically the Latin alphabet with two extra phonograms: aesh and eth. Letters that were added since 1200 are also included: J V Y Z. There is only one substitution in Spanglish v for /U/ [v was a common way to represent U in Latin]. "anuther upper cut then a rait hvk" The u before a consonant has the value of a stressed schwa or "uh" sound. v, y, and w are considered to be semi-vowels. Y and W are vowels 80% of the time but retain some consonant characteristics such as marking syllable boundaries. Other ambiguities: What - hwot or wot or wat where wit = wuht. Where/wear = hwerr/werr/wear.

The satire indicates that a series of small changes leading to the "Euroesque orthography" can be rather bumpy. Just as one gets used to one spelling, it is changed again. It also indicates just how comically disturbing it is to substitute new letters in familiar spellings. mayin for mashien is terribl but maSEn isn't much better.

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