Yesterday, I listened to a debate on spelling standards on NPR. One debater argued that language is an evolving thing and texting-based spellings are an inevitable evolutionary next step. The other debater argued that the standards make communication easier and preserve the language's history and beauty.
I love that the debate was extremely respectful, polite, and civilized (unlike, say, political debates or anything involving Rush Limbaugh). The two participants were not terribly far apart in their positions, and while both are passionate about spelling, both realize that it's nothing to get all hot and bothered about.
I fell in love with them both.
Not romantic love, of course. That would be weird. Just geeky intellectual love dressed in a tweed jacket and meeting in a college library to share a passion for the nuance and intertextuality of library graffiti. That kind of love.
The pro-texting woman absolutely concedes that standards are necessary but should evolve with the language, and the standards man absolutely concedes that languages do evolve and standards do, too. Both are perfectly reasonable. The main difference in their positions appears to be that one embraces change and hopes to speed it along, and the other resists change that happens too quickly.
I'm a standards gal who appreciates how the English language has evolved and who knows dictionaries are a comparatively recent invention. For instance, the great William Shakespeare rarely spelled his name the same way twice, but I became extremely offended when my paternal grandmother misspelled my name on a birthday card.
The spelling generated by texting sacrifices beauty and clarity for speed, but now that I've started texting, I appreciate the need for speed in that medium. I still, however, can't bring myself to type b4 or 2. (And on a side note, please don't text me if you don't have to...my mobile plan doesn't include unlimited texting.)
Let's see what a few others have to say on the subject.
"When our spelling is perfect, it's invisible. But when it's flawed, it prompts strong negative associations." Marilyn vos Savant
"A synonym is a word you use when you can’t spell the word you first thought of." Burt Bacharach
"The English have no respect for their language, and will not teach their children to speak it. They spell it so abominably that no man can teach himself what it sounds like. It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him. German and Spanish are accessible to foreigners: English is not accessible even to Englishmen." George Bernard Shaw (an Irishman)
"Every English poet should master the rules of grammar before he attempts to bend or break them." Robert Graves
“If you can spell 'Nietzsche' without Google, you deserve a cookie.” Lauren Leto
What are your thoughts about spelling?