Letter: Bright spell

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The Independent Culture
Sir: The Oxford University Press survey finding that 86 per cent of people are unable to spell "millennium" is not altogether surprising (report, 12 November). Such misspelling behaviour is in the great tradition of simplified spelling.

This is at least as old as the 13th century, when a monk named Orm pushed for doubling the consonants after short vowels. "Par" would be spelled "parr". But nobody paid much attention.

Later, John Milton spelled "sovereign" as "sovran" and "their" as "thir". In the 19th century, Noah Webster, the American lexicographer, proposed to omit silent letters, spelling "head", for instance, "hed". He was successful in striking the "k" from "frolick" and "physick", but could not get the public to accept "wimmin" for "women".

At one time or another advocates of spelling reform have pushed for such words as filosofy, fonetic, alrite, thanx, lether, twelf, troble and pedagog.

JOHN O'BYRNE

Dublin

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