Saturday, 25 October 2014

Penny Words

If poetic words like "exhilarated" are considered five-dollar words, then words like "phone", "brought", "debt", "subpoena", and "ghoti" must be one-cent words. They're the pennies of the language. We take the extra time to exchange them solely because, convention, misplaced nostalgia, and lack of imagination.

Spelling is important for clear and efficient communication, but if it this the reason for conventional spelling then the words mentioned above are SPELLED WRONG!

Other than being used to the above already, would you have any harder time understanding me if I had said "fone", "brot", "det", "supeena", and "fish"? Are these spellings any more awkward to accents removed from The Queen's English? I doubt it but I want to hear your input.

Much like how pennies make cash worse and push people to use alternative payment methods, penny words make English worse and push people to communicate to alternative means of communication (or more specifically, makes it less motivating to adopt.)

From a native English speaker's perspective, I enjoy the advantage of my tongue being the standard dialect of business and science and would like to keep it that way. From a teacher and statistician's perspective, I dislike penny words because they disobey the principle of parsimony.

It's not enough to teach phonetic spelling because that would hamstring learners like English As She Is Spoke did. However, I imagine it would be possible to instead make a standard phonetic spelling an acceptable set of alternative spellings in English. I further imagine that when faced with an alternative as an equal, some of the original spellings of these words will become archaic and obsolete.

How does this sound for a plan?
First, crowdbuild a database of traditional and phonetic spellings of words. In the first phase, spellings could be resolved by a voting system weighted by credentials and experience like IMDB's rating system. In a second phase, the spellings could be manually curated by established writers and English grads.

Next, build a translator plug-in that could translate digital text from standard to phonetic English, which, if we're limiting this to spelling and not syntax, should be direct replacements most if not all of the time. This is likely sufficient for webpages. Also, the translator need not be an all-or-none deal.

Each spelling replacement could have a priority score, and readers could choose to translate only the highest priority words and first and make a progressively larger transformation of what they're reading. Difficult words that are either rarely used or are already misspelled often because of their poor construction like "subpoena" could have high priority, and ones that are more for phonetic purists like "fone" could have a low priority. Would there be many issues with back translation if someone writing in phonetic English wanted to translate to traditional?

Next, this plug-in could be added to e-books, or phonetic translations of open domain books could be made available and again checked manually for quality by human readers to avoid the Kindled / Nookd situation that happened with some ereader brands.

Once there were widely accepted books available in phonetic, would it make the new spellings more acceptable to people?