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Thoroly woful surprize: President proposes 300 spelling changes

Thoroly woful surprize: President proposes 300 spelling changes 5.00/5 (100.00%) 3 votes

Early in the twentieth century, industrialist Andrew Carnegie decided to “fix” the way Americans spelled some things, and created the “Simplified Spelling Board.” In 1906, the Board published a list of 300 words that needed updating in order to make the language ready for the progress of humankind.


“The board’s chief aim, in view of the fact that the English language bids fair to become the world language of the future, is to arouse a wider interest in English spelling and to call attention to its present chaotic condition — a condition far worse than that existing in any other modern language.”

What finally got people to pay attention to the changes? When the President jumped onboard a few years later in 1906, and backed “the popular forces which are endeavoring to make our spelling a little less foolish and fantastic.”

But by December of that year, it was all over. Congress voted 142 to 24 against the changes, stating, “No money appropriated in this act shall be used in connection with printing documents authorized by law or ordered by Congress or either branch thereof unless same shall conform to the orthography recognized and used by generally accepted dictionaries of the English language.”

Altho it’s no surprize, after Congress addrest the changes, Carnegie exprest some frustration… but kept trying up until 1915, when finally gave up in a huff. He wrote of the Simplified Spelling directors, “A more useless body of men never came into association, judging from the effects they produce… I think I have been patient long enuf. I have much better use for twenty-five thousand dollars a year.”

Sample of spelling suggestions that never took

  1. altho, rather than although
  2. comprize, rather than comprise
  3. good-by, rather than good-bye
  4. gild, rather than guild
  5. 1903-quotes-simplified-spelling (1)gipsy, rather than gypsy
  6. partizan, rather than partisan
  7. phenix, rather than phoenix/phœnix
  8. prolog, rather than prologue
  9. pur, rather than purr
  10. rime, rather than rhyme
  11. stedfast, rather than steadfast
  12. subpena, rather than subpoena/subpœna
  13. surprize, rather than surprise
  14. tho, rather than though
  15. thoro, rather than thorough
  16. thorofare, rather than thoroughfare
  17. thoroly, rather than thoroughly
  18. thru, rather than through
  19. thruout, rather than throughout
  20. vizor, rather than visor
  21. wo, rather than woe
  22. woful, rather than woeful

Replace the -ed with a -t? America says no thanks

  1. addrest, rather than addressed
  2. affixt, rather than affixed
  3. blest, rather than blessed
  4. blusht, rather than blushed
  5. carest, rather than caressed
  6. chapt, rather than chapped
  7. clapt, rather than clapped
  8. claspt, rather than clasped
  9. 1903-quotes-simplified-spelling (2)clipt, rather than clipped
  10. cropt, rather than cropped
  11. crost, rather than crossed
  12. crusht, rather than crushed
  13. curst, rather than cursed
  14. dasht, rather than dashed
  15. dipt, rather than dipped
  16. discust, rather than discussed
  17. drest, rather than dressed
  18. dript, rather than dripped
  19. droopt, rather than drooped
  20. dropt, rather than dropped
  21. exprest, rather than expressed
  22. fixt, rather than fixed
  23. gript, rather than gripped
  24. heapt, rather than heaped
  25. husht, rather than hushed
  26. kist, rather than kissed
  27. lapt, rather than lapped
  28. lasht, rather than lashed
  29. lookt, rather than looked
  30. lopt, rather than lopped
  31. mist, rather than missed
  32. mixt, rather than mixed
  33. nipt, rather than nipped
  34. opprest, rather than oppressed
  35. past, rather than passed
  36. prest, rather than pressed
  37. profest, rather than professed
  38. propt, rather than propped
  39. rapt, rather than rapped
  40. ript, rather than ripped
  41. sipt, rather than sipped
  42. skipt, rather than skipped
  43. slipt, rather than slipped
  44. snapt, rather than snapped
  45. stept, rather than stepped
  46. stopt, rather than stopped
  47. strest, rather than stressed
  48. stript, rather than stripped
  49. suffixt, rather than suffixed
  50. supprest, rather than suppressed
  51. tapt, rather than tapped
  52. tipt, rather than tipped
  53. topt, rather than topped
  54. tost, rather than tossed
  55. trapt, rather than trapped
  56. tript, rather than tripped
  57. vext, rather than vexed
  58. washt, rather than washed
  59. whipt, rather than whipped
  60. winkt, rather than winked
  61. wisht, rather than wished
  62. wrapt, rather than wrapped

Many of the changes suggested on the list had already been implemented — particularly in terms of discarding European spellings in favor of the ones we still use today: words like odour, reconnoitre, mediaeval, deposite and cheque. (Intersting to note that many of the words considered important enough to include on the list are rarely used today, no matter how they’re spelled, such as sepulchre, scimitar, quaestor, praeterite, mullein, glose, aetiology, anapaest and drachm.)

>> See a list of all 300 spelling suggestions here

Letter from President Roosevelt

As published in the Los Angeles Herald on September 03, 1906

Oyster Bay, Long Island, September 2, 1906

new-code-spelling-1906In a letter to Charles A Stillings, public printer at Washington, made public today, President Roosevelt wrote that if the changes in spelling advocated by the simplified spelling board and put into use in public documents meets popular approval, they will be made permanent.

If not, he wrote, they will be dropped.

The president’s letter is as follows:

Hon. Chas. A Stillings, Public Printer, Washington DC

My Dear Mr. Stillings:

I enclose herewith copies of certain circulars of the Simplified Spelling Board, which can be obtained free from the Board at No. 1 Madison Avenue, New York City. Please hereafter direct that in all Government publications of the executive departments the three hundred words enumerated in Circular No. 5 shall be spelled as therein set forth.

If anyone asks the reason for the action, refer him to Circulars 3, 4 and 6 as issued by the Spelling Board. Most of the criticism of the proposed step is evidently made in entire ignorance of what the step is, no less than in entire ignorance of the very moderate and common-sense views as to the purposes to be achieved, which views as so excellently set forth in the circulars to which I have referred.

There is not the slightest intention to do anything revolutionary or initiate any far-reaching policy. The purpose simply is for the Government, instead of lagging behind popular sentiment, to advance abreast of it and at the same time abreast of the views of the ablest and most practical educators of our time as well as the most profound scholars — men of the stamp of Professor Lounsbury. If the slightest changes in the spelling of the three hundred words proposed wholly or partially meet popular approval, then the changes will become permanent without any reference to what officials or individual private citizens may feel; if they do not ultimately meet with popular approval they will be dropt, and that is all there is about it.

They represent nothing in the world but a very slight extension of the unconscious movement which has made agricultural implement makers write “plow” instead of “plough”; which has made most Americans write “honor” without the somewhat absurd, superfluous “u”; and which is even now making people write “program” without the “me”—just as all people who speak English now write “bat,” “set,” “dim,” “sum,” and “fish” instead of the Elizabethan “batte,” “sette,” “dimme,” “summe,” and “fysshe”; which makes us write “public,” “almanac,” “era,” “fantasy,” and “wagon,” instead of the “publick,” “almanack,” “aera,” “phantasy,” and “waggon” of our great-grandfathers.

It is not an attack of the language of Shakespeare and Milton, because it is in some instances a going back to the forms they used, and in others merely the extension of changes which, as regards other words, have taken place since their time. It is not an attempt to do anything far-reaching or sudden or violent; or indeed anything very great at all.

It is merely an attempt to cast what sleight weight can properly be cast on the side of the popular forces which are endeavoring to make our spelling a little less foolish and fantastic.

Sincerely yours,

Theodore Roosevelt


Quotes in blue from The Minneapolis Journal – May 29, 1903

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