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back to article Brits and Yanks struck with embarasment embarrassment

It's official: English is going directly to hell in a handcart because more than half of native speakers of the lingo can't spell "embarrassed" - and even more have entered the new millennium without the foggiest idea of how 1,000 years pan out in our beloved mother tongue. To be precise, 54 per cent of us are embarrassed by " …

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Happy

Spelling Bee?

Is a Spelling Bee like a Sarah Bee, but not as nice and cuddly?

Or as good at spelling and grammar for that matter?

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Or....

Or the Yanks could quit calling their language English and call it something else, like French or whatever? That'll solve the difficult question of how to spell Embarrassment!

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What they fail to point out...

...is that people who speak English as a second language, and lets face it, there are many, are usually better at it then native Egnlish speakers.

The problem is not the complexity of the language, just the laziness of the speakers and also the asbolute failure of our education systems.

The English language hasn't got harder over the last 100 years so there's no other explanation for the drop in literacy other than a drop in standards.

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And what happens next time...

... that people are too lazy or stupid to learn grammar and spelling? [0] Do we dumb it down even further? ("Ah, sure, hardly anybody uses 'X' or 'Z' these days, let's get rid of them... and maybe 'K' too")

And one would have to wonder why the Spelling Society's chairman is pushing this- is he in the wrong job maybe? Or is this just to "stir up debate" (ie, "get my name in print")?

[0] Note to the thinkofthechildren brigade- the set or lazy and/or stupid people is not intended to include those with learning difficulties of any stripe, before I get castigated for denigrating the less fortunate

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Flame

So that's what's holding us back

Its nys tu no that.

I hadn't realize that if it weren't for spelling, we would have avoided the economic meltdown, had world peace, ended world hunger, and colonized Mars by now.

I think someone also needs to mention to this so-called spelling society that, along with links to outdated pronunciations, many of our words are hard to spell due to foreign influence <glares at the French>.

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Anonymous Coward

title.

Really.

Could the problem be that most people are so used to "txt spk" that they can't spell? That's my guess, because its what it looks like from emails I receive.

Still, I can't complain really. Senior management tend to be from an older generation and take you more seriously when you can write in the same language as them.

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Happy

Kaching! ?

One of the words I got on the Spelling Bee was 'Carrion'.

Do you have some kind of affi.. afil.. aphil.. money-making-connection with them?

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Anonymous Coward

embarrassment is not the problem

when it seems that half my compatriots can't spell such long and complex words as "too" and "its".

Oh and this was such a cracker it deserves repetition: "English is the world's numero uno lingua franca". :-)

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Not these idiots again

Let them start closer to home, their spokesman should be Jak Bovil

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Dead Vulture

54 per cent of us are embarrassed...

That'll be 94% of Reg hacks then. Another incorrectly spelled "its" I noticed this morning...

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No pp in Apple

Did you know that the word 'apple' has no 'pp' in it? The noise you think is a 'pp' is actually just a combination of the end of the 'a' sound and the start of the 'le' sound. If you want to write it down you need the 'pp' because otherwise you'd just be saying 'ale'. However, if you wrote a**le, and asked someone to name the fruit, everyone would know what you meant.

In other words, correct spelling is a necessary evil forced upon us by the practical need to associate written words with spoken noises. The 'right' way to say a word is merely that which people can understand. Sure, uniformity helps everyone understand the language, but variation allows the evolution of language, which is an inevitable side-effect of social development. If all spelling was eternally fixed, language would be stilted and a lot less fun - however, if you ignore the rules altogether you end up with new dialects (and eventually languages) that make communication accross social groups impossible.

I don't think 'embarrased' or 'embarased' is really an issue as everyone knows what you mean if you write it the wrong way. Text speak is different, as poor use of text speak can make it impossible for a non-expert to understand what is being said, and if it is not formalised or banned, could easily become a seperate language. One day, kids may have to learn English AND Textspeak at school!

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Tom
IT Angle

This is silly

While I get the vast majority of the English language right, you have to admit that there are some words that the vast, vast majority of us would misspell. This isn't due to a lack of education, this is purely due to the English language consistantly breaking its own rules. I have a very good education and yet I had to look twice at "consistantly" as I wasn't sure if it was spelt "consistently".

People who learn English as a foreign language will of course be able to spell better. This is due to them learning a lot of the words at a much later age than we native English speakers did. We know most of these words very early on in our lives and it is easy for mistakes to set in then and continue to be replicated throughout our lives. Yes, we could make a conscious effort to correct spellings of individual words but to what purpose?

If a word is still understandable then I do not see what the issue is.

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Coat

Las yer I culdn'r spel...

Actually, the biggest annoyance is when somebody attempts to justify their errors by saying that "English is a living language that is always changing" or some such waffle. I can understand spelling errors due to typing error; that's to be expected.

Wen sumwun spels rong Bcoz they R 2 laZ 2 do it rite...

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Nev
Happy

@ ElaborateCalculator

"... that people are too lazy or stupid to learn grammar and spelling?"

Being the product of a 70s/80s state comprehensive education system, I was never taught English grammar at school. And so my linguistic skills are pretty poor as a result. Bearing that in mind:

You can **** right off!

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speling beee

Went to the Times speling bee and it needs Flash!!!! Ridiclous. WHy can't they just have the words writen on the page nd ask you to spel them.

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Its not the language, its the people.

As Anthony said up above. The language is not getting harder. Its over-reliance on spell checkers among other things. Why spell right when the PC can fix it for you? I work in a school, if you want to know how someone spells don't look in the file, look at the file name.

One year 11 (15/16 year old) had a perfectly spelled comic life document, then saved it as "Carton Stripe"

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not Millennium

not Millennium, but Mile Endium. I always said that Greenwich was the wrong place for that Dome thing

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Coat

Spelling Bee infiltrated?

I just tried it, the only word I got wrong was 'frank', which according to the site is spelled 'franc'.

Eh, alors?

Mine's the one with the OED in the pocket.

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jsp
Stop

Morons!

The trouble with morons who propose rationalizing spelling to a more "phonetic" system is that they haven't really thought it through (or I have never heard any come up with an intelligent proposal):

- which pronounciation do they propose to use? Southern baaath or northen bath. Or do we have different spellings in different parts of the country?

- in my dialect (pretty nomal southern English) there are about a dozen vowel sounds. Do they want to introduce more letters or a load of diacritics to indicate this?

Also, there is no correlation between the levels of literacy in a country and the complexity of the writing system. Italian is very regular, Japanese is probably the most complex writing system on Earth, while French and English fall somewhere in between (and are about equal). Yet all have comparable levels of literacy. Spanish is also very regular, but the levels of literacy vary enormously in different Spanish speaking countries (obviously, the same is true for English)

Morons!

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Unhappy

Modern 'aids'

Do you think people are just too lazy to spell correctly nowadays because the spell checker will do it for them ?

And of course, if they're on the mobile there's always predictive text.

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Anonymous Coward

Who can spell...

...ironic?

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shame the speakers were as clear as mud

almost got 100% but due to mumbling, mistook some words for others

e.g. its not preh-fis its PRE-FACE

and that wasnt that only one

Also would have helped if they had had consistent volume levels rather than virtually silent, then the next being deafening (Same speaker levels)

Sad when kids can't spell (mainly due to drug TV - teletubbies being a prime example, eat a bright coloured liquid and start twitching on the floor...custard.....liquid morphine more like)(and "teachers" who feel that spelling "inhibits the babeez (sic) creativity [referring to 14 year olds])

Sadly this nonsense has been going on since the 80s, when kids were being taught the normal alphabet from books etc but schools denounced that as "too hard" and forced the "phonetic" alphabet down kids throats, then 2 years later made the same kids learn the "normal" alphabet and criticized them for using "baby words" <- bit hypocritical when the teaching profession is mainly to blame for the state of affairs we are in.

Then again thats what happens when you eliminate one gender totally from teaching in primary schools. You get a bunch of baby rabid morons ruining the education of perfectly bright kids due to their own moronity.

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Joke

Spellin

If GH can stand for P in Hiccough

If OUGH can stand for O in Dough

If PHTH can stand for T in Phthisis

If EIGHT can stand for A in Neighbour

If TTE can stand for T in Gazette

If EAU can stand for O in Plateau

Then the way you spell POTATO is .....

GHOUGHPHTHEIGHTTEEAU

Isn't IT???

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English is a very robust language

I worked in Germany for a time, and what I found there is that if you pronounce something even slightly wrong, nobody has any idea what you're talking about! Many other languages are the same.

English on the other hand is very robust in this regard - you can speak is extremely badly with very poor pronunciation, missing words etc, and it is STILL possible to understand.

Poor spelling isn't really an issue at all in this respect - it hardly matters at all in terms of being able to understand it. An example is the "take a sentence and remove all the vowels" test. It's amazing how much of the sentence you can still read and understand with half the letters missing.

I'm not saying spelling doesn't matter - it's just that ...well ...in a practical day-to-day way, it's not THAT important. Of course, everyone knows the yanks can't spell, but that's another issue, and one that I wouldn't care about except that it's been polluting proper English for years now with "Drive Thru's" and "Center" and "Color" (something I deeply resent when I'm writing HTML). Shudder....

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Anonymous Coward

Umm

1. So, when we settle on phonetic spellings, does for example "about" get the US "abowt" or the Canadian "aboot"? I think that a bit of reflection will show that this is not going to work.

2. One should distinguish the purposes of different communications. Something that has gone through several drafts ought to be better spelled and structured than a text message, or a quick response to one of El Reg's stories. I'm sure that the poster above knows "than" from "then", can spell "absolute" and can apostrophize "let's" with the best of us, given time. Heaven knows I find reading some of my own emails embarrassing.

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Stop

Research to push a viewpoint?

the Spelling Society want to change our system of spelling. Conveniently their research does not indicate problems with education but with the spelling system in the first place.

I note in passing that the survey is only on 10 words, hardly comprehensive, and that the attitudes questions differ between the USA and UK survey.

Most (un)astounding of all is the quality of presentation, which would go down well as an example of common (powerpoint) presentation faults.

PS you can probably draw your own parallels by replacing some of the above words with those drawn fom this list :

Home Office, law, ID Cards, crime, drugs, etc etc

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Spelling bee

That Times spelling bee thing is drivel, its impossible to hear the nasal tones of the speakers. Its meant to check your spelling rather than your hearing.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: 54 per cent of us are embarrassed...

Oh no! It's finally happened! We did all we could to prevent it, but now it's too late! Man the lifeboats! Fling wide the emergency exits! Pray for salvation!

For chrissakes. It's called a typo. Sometimes they slip through. I still only have two hands, you know. And have you looked at the Mail site lately, or the Telegraph, for that matter? Despite their best efforts to clear the decks they still have a bunch more subs than we do. And their typo/misspelling/malapropism/grammapocalypse frequency is *shocking*.

So! back on topic, sort of - it took me a long, long time to learn how to spell 'maneouvre' and 'beleagured'. That's the serious shit. The double-letter stuff, though, is really not that hard and it's no good blaming the complexity of the language. Just write it out a few times and your brain will retain the info until you kill that bit of it with beer. How hard can it be?

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Stop

It's Phonetical Correctness Gone Mad!

The stupid thing about their (annual) whinge about "irregular" spelling is that embarrassed and millennium actually follow a regularised pattern in English spelling. For embarrassed, not having the double r & s would lengthen the a's. It's fair comment if we restrict it to the weirder side like the 18 possible pronunciations of "ough" or UK place/street names (although whether Mr Haines would like in future to be asked the question "Lester, like the city?" is another matter), but calling for a nigh on complete overhaul is ridiculous. There's an old joke knocking round on the intertubes where small changes in spelling on phonetic grounds eventually look rather Germanic - Ze drems of the Guvernmnt vud finali hav kum tru

Even more idiotically, they forget that NOT ALL PEOPLE PRONOUNCE WORDS THE SAME - FFS, the letter T would nearly disappear for the yoof of today and "innit" would be a new punctuation mark.

Ironically, much of the irritation between English and US spelling was because of changes made in the 18th Century to make English more like French & Greek (hence the -our and flurry of ph's), which the US largely ignored.

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Alert

Time to replace English with....

Gaelic!

Try and text speak that one!

Or if we're looking for an easy way out, the mass culling of chav's would be cheaper, more cost effective (lowering crime etc). Although our already understaffed army would be virtually empty.

Savage decisions on a Monday....

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Oxbridge English

A good reference for the history of the English language is 'Mother Tongue' by Bill Bryson.

In it he documents how pronunciations change over time. So for example 'knight' didn't always have a silence K. Which is not to say that we should remove the first letter, as that would make it indistinguishable from another word. Any phonetic spelling would make knight and night, which and witch and dozens of other words indistinguishable.

A good modern example would be ‘hiccough’, which almost everyone pronounces and most people spell as ‘hiccup’. There was a time when it was spoken as hic-cough and thus spelt accordingly. It isn't any more and a closer spelling is becoming the norm.

These changes have been happening since the time of Chaucer, and the one thing that we do know is that they occur naturally. There are few occasions (Noah Webber's dictionary being the most famous exception) when a small group has imposed new spellings on the population.

Finally, whose phonetic spelling is correct? I am from Birmingham (UK, not Alabama), but should my home city be renamed Burmingum, as we locals pronounce it? What about words that are pronounced in quite radically different ways across the country? Oxbridge phonetic English would be no closer to how most people speak than the current spellings.

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Anonymous Coward

Is like dikshun annat innit?

I is well up for mekkin me inglish more wikkider.

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Anonymous Coward

blame the yanks

If thick americans would stop fucking with the spellings in their wrongheaded attempts to simplify, things would be much easier for everyone.

Some of the double letters are there as indicators about pronunciation you know...learn the rules, and you'll be able to spell the words and correctly pronounce words you've only ever seen written down.

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Anonymous Coward

If you can't blow your own trumpet...

...who's can you blow, but I'll do so anonymously.

"Congratulations! You spelt all the words correctly."

But I think I got it easy, can anybody seriously not know how to spell input, march or trap.

So I had another go and managed an adjusted 15. I discounted two errors, bleak which I listened to 3 times and was sure it said bleep and plumped for witch instead of which. I did mess up on caucous with the unnecessary 'o' but reckon anaesthetic was worth two words so it's back to full marks.

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@ Richard

There is no "G" in WHINE!!!!!

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Be warned

Germany saw several spelling reforms over the last decades, and while many of the changes actually do make sense on a logical level, it also produced a number of aesthetic monstrosities that anyone educated under the old standards can only shudder over, including some dumbing down. In the end, you start to rely on spellcheckers much more as you just cannot be sure that what you think is correct is still correct after the latest reform. I do not even want to start calculating the cost of having all official documents as well as textbooks refreshed. People writing end up in a mess, but it must be golden days for publishing houses. And that is just for German, natively spoken by only 105 million people, maybe about 200 million overall, compared to 1,8 BILLION speakers of English. It is not to say that spelling reforms are a bad thing per se. Language is dynamic and in constant change, so it cannot harm to have the official rules reflect the status quo every now and then, yet it is an enormous endeavour that has to be approached with a lot of caution.

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I'd be happy...

...if they simply did away with silent "ough". I mean, for example:

though

tho

through

thru

It's a small change, but one that's long over due. Of course if we were *logical* (which, for better or worse we aren't) we'd all start speaking a language like Spanish. A very well behaved language indeed.

My real sympathy is for a non-English speaker who has to learn the *written* language. Spoken English isn't too bad, but my God! The horrors of our spelling should not be inflicted on damned souls, much less people just trying to communicate!

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@Sarah

"kill that bit of it with beer. How hard can it be?" Well, it depends on the beer.

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Spelling society

How arrogant do you have to be to join a scociety that insists on correct spelling in a language that thinks it's a good idea to put an 'N' at the end of the word autumn and spell through like that.

Tossers.

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Anonymous Coward

@Nev

I'm a product of 80s and 90s education, and don't have many problems with spelling. However, one of my colleagues is the same age and can't spell for toffee, frequently confusing where / were; they're / their / there, etc.

So this seems to be more an issue of individuals rather than the education system itself. Furthermore, there's nothing stopping people who know they can't spell just picking up a book and learning.

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Coat

I for one..

Welcome our new Engrish overlords.

*\. Mines the one with the audio version of the dictionary in the pocket.

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Flame

What I object to...

Is the American pronunciation of certain of our words:-

... ASK becomes AX

... NUCLEAR becomes NUCULAR

... IRAN and IRAQ become EYERAN and EYERACK

Don't even mention poor old LEICESTER!

I'm sure there are thousands more examples but those are the ones I find most annoying.

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Well put

why is I have to study English? I speaks da bitch

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It would help me...

I can 'get by' in 5 languages and honestly feel that English is pretty irrational compared to the other European/Semitic languages I see. I reckon only French is more confusing but then, when you look at English, it's almost always the French loan-words that cause problems. The Germanic core of Ænglish is, like German itself, pretty straightforward when it comes to spelling.

Most people I know & work with are not native English speakers, it is usually their second to fourth tongue - they certainly do not speak or write better English than natives but they generally try harder, are not overconfident and have a wider, more flexible view of language.

It is pretty daft that Americans are worse than Brits at spelling because many American-English words are simpler and more logically spelt (colour - color, defence - defense etc.).

Personally I think the language is long-overdue for an overhaul and I think the growth of 'txt' spelling will probably speed-up the rationalisation of English. Sadly it would also probably hasten the process of making the world a less rich, narrow-minded and monoglot place.

PS I didn't check my spelling/grammar so I apologise for any errors.

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@Sarah

Can we take it that "beleagured" was a typo? Please? As with Tom's '"I had to look twice at "consistantly" as I wasn't sure if it was spelt "consistently."'

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Spelling Proposition

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants.

Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez "c", "y" and "x" -- bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez -- tu riplais "ch", "sh", and "th" rispektivli.

Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

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The cost?

Think how much it would cost to translate all the books from the "old" english to the new. Or would we not bother and end up splitting the country into those who can read both and those who can't and thus are denied access to that wealth of information?

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Coat

Stoopid Limeys AND Yanks

Sorry, when a language can't be spelled properly about 90% of the time by its natives, it's time to change! I learned English as a second language and my spelling is usually better than that of a native... and, after having lived in California (and now living in the UK), I can safely say that many native speakers spell like morons!

(Some of it IS due to lack of education by both the whine Limeys and the Yanks, but most of the blame falls on the English language).

Of course, I am biased as a Spanish speaker. But instead of wholesale reform (I don't want English to look like Dutch!), how about some "normalization" of the spelling system in English? Use French (*spit*) as an example if needed. Compared to Spanish its spelling system is over-complicated, but compared to English, French (*spit*) at least has regular spelling rules.

In any case, Limeys need to stop moaning about Yanks and their spelling faults, as God knows I've seen plenty of stupid mistakes here in the UK, on the part of newspapers, books, shopsigns, etc. For people who invented the language, they sure can't f'ken spell it!

Maybe all that is needed is to stop idolizing chav culture (especially in the UK, chavs seem to run this country), and start encouraging teenagers here and abroad to take pride in themselves, so that they stop spelling like some1 wit a turd-grade edukshun?

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: @Sarah

Heh. Gotcha.

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