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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/275

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271
SPELLING REFORM

of English spelling; to convince the public that fashion in spelling is not sacred; that our language is and ought to be a developing language; that development should be guided as far as possible toward simplicity and directness. It advocates the gradual approach to simplicity by neglecting useless letters in words commonly employed. It does not claim for itself authority to standardize our language, but seeks to get rid of the excrescences which make our language unreasonably difficult. It wishes to secure the establishment and extension of good usage, to make it national and international. It does not expect to escape the criticism of those who have learned to love the faults of our tongue, but only asks to be treated with fairness and not to be condemned for what it has never advocated.

As a first step the board has issued a now famous list of three hundred words which are commonly spelled in two or more ways, and it recommends the simplest of these spellings in every case. Many of the simple forms have already gained such currency in America as to be called Americanisms by our British cousins. Fifty years ago very few of them were current here, but their adoption has been steady, especially among business men, and their increasing popularity is based upon the American fondness for directness. On examining this list the present writer has found himself already habituated to the use of more than half of the simplified forms, though the more complex forms were all taught him in childhood. He is not conscious of having ever attained a local reputation for oddity in spelling. The changes in practise have been made gradually and to a large extent unconsciously. The remaining half of the list may perhaps become assimilated in due time, but no sudden change can be made now. It would be too inconvenient and difficult. As an advocate of simplified spelling he is unwilling to subject himself to an implied obligation to reverse old habits at once; but his mental attitude is that of approval and sympathy with a reform that is based on strong common sense. Inertia must be allowed for, and the pull on the pendulum must be properly timed.

President Roosevelt, Mr. Carnegie and the Simplified Spelling Board have been the objects of widely varying criticism. The greatest good they have done has been to focus public attention upon abuses which are of small concern to great people, but of great concern to small people. The little folks at school have no prejudices about orthographic propriety, and no burdens should be piled upon them merely for the sake of maintaining old blunders. An English critic of American ways considers it blasphemy.to spell 'Savior' without a u. Let the English do as they find best; ours is the American language. Our declaration of independence will involve no bloodshed.

The opposition of Congress, and the consequent necessity for the withdrawal of President Roosevelt's executive order in behalf of simpli-