The spell of spelling: never the twain shall meet.

“Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld. ”   Mark Twain

Phytoplankter” – a planktonic plant – proved to be the stumbling block for young New Zealand spellbinder Tom Winter, who was knocked out of the National Spelling Bee semifinals in the United States today. He was certainly no  phytoplonker: the 13 year old Burnside High student got all of the letters right until he got to the end where he slipped in an ‘o’ instead of an ‘e’.  He’d already spelt words like “liquefacient” and “xylophilous” to reach the semi-finals.

 Phytoplankter is not even in my online dictionary, though it does have   phy·to·plank·ton  n.  Minute, free-floating aquatic plants, the aggregation of which is not free-floating and mobile anymore in the Gulf of Mexico. President Obama has been adamant from the outset about the answer to the question: BP or not BP?

Spelling bee contests have been the subject of a least two popular movies but in an age of spell-checks and voice recognition technology they do seem to demonstrate an arcane skill of limited use outside crosswords – and spelling bees.  William Shakespeare, a variable nomenclature virtuoso, would not have been a starter.

No doubt the love of spelling is only a passing planktonic relationship for Tom Winter and other, more challenging, academic affairs beckon. He will certainly have gained confidence from performing in the glare of the studio lights in front of a live audience and that will stand him in good stead in other public situations.

 Meanwhile, for those with a spelling bee in their bonnet,  let’s recall Mark Twain’s proposals to reform 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. 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.”

“A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling”   Mark Twain (1835 – 1910),

  #Lyall Lukey 5 June 2010

 *BLINKS   Pr-print    Vid-Video  Mus-Music   Mm-multimedia

Numb What? Spelling Bee  Vid  1.36

Special Boy With Freakishly Large Brain Wins Sp…    Vid 2.38      Pr


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