Friday, May 30, 2008

Simplify English

We have 42 different sounds in English, and we spell them 400 different ways. Isn't that a rather silly thing to do?
Many other languages have undertaken spelling reforms in the 20th century, including French, Greek, Spanish, Swedish, Irish, Japanese and Hebrew. In 1996, four German-speaking countries agreed on a comprehensive spelling reform of the language.

From today's WSJ. There's a movement to simplify spelling. I can't agree more. This is truly egalitarian and progressive, because the current system taxes is biased towards those with higher IQs and education, who know how to spell 'diarrhea' correctly. English has a lot of inefficiencies, but if you read Olde English you see it has gotten better. At least we aren't British English, with 'colour' and pronouncing schedule as 'shedule' (fools!), or French. At Northwestern, I had this fellow student from francophone Africa who spelled his name something like Houencheconne, because that's how the French authorities spelled his name when he pronounced it for them. No teacher came close to pronouncing it correctly when they read his name. I see he changed it to Leonard Wantchekon. I know if I was Wally Szczerbiak, I would change the spelling, because I would get sick of spelling it over the phone. Falkenstein is pretty phonetic, though I guess I could change it to 'Falconstine' to make it easier to pronounce.

I switched to a Dvorak keyboard about 5 years ago. Dvorak has all the most frequently used keys on the home row, so it's easier to type. I read somewhere that it doesn't much matter, and I guess I'm a pretty good typist so my max speed is really constrained by my ability to spell in my head (I often misspell homonyms) rather than in my fingers, but I think I think less about fingering with Dvorak than before. It took me about 3 months to really get used to it, but now it's much easier. Plus, if you have a Dvorak keyboard snoopers won't download porn on your computer when you are out for lunch, because they start typing and see all this gibberish. So, I think such changes are feasible, and good.


Anonymous said...

Where you can you even buy a DVORAK keyboard? All of the nice, bluetooth keyboards are QWERTY. I imagine if you really wanted to, you could pluck out all the keys, rearrange them, and then reconfigure it in Windows.

Eric Falkenstein said...

Any Windows computer allows Dvorak by adjusting the Regional Settings in the Control Panel.

Anonymous said...

I think he meant the physical keyboard. Like, I would go nuts if the keys didn't match up to what went on the screen when you typed them.

To tell you the truth, I didn't think you were nerdy enough to do something like switch to Dvorak. You may be the only Dvorak convert who is so stoked about UFC.

Eric Falkenstein said...

Yes indeed. We are all unique, if you look long enough.

Anonymous said...

As long as we are changing the spelling of our language, can we also start to write the name of our country as "America, United States of". That way, whenever I am entering address data or whatnot, I won't have to scroll through an entire list of 160 countries to get to United States. Alternatively, they could order the list in terms of the number of internet users in the world in each country.
I waste a lot of time scrolling past Angorra, Botswana, Cambodia, etc and other countries were there is next to a zero chance they are downloading a trial, for example, for Blackberry software.
Pete S.

Anonymous said...

There should be a puzzle where you have to describe yourself to a unique level in as few words/terms as possible. To be fair, it would have to be scored relative to the likelihood of each of the things you list multiplied by each other. So to get a good score you have to describe groups of attributes about yourself that tend to be mutually exclusive.

I guess the problem is you never know if you're really the only one or not.