June 04, 2004

PROBLEMS GATHERING

A veteran Margo observer writes:

Have you noticed her gathering problem with parenthetic elements, ie pairs of commas and dashes? This now seems to me just as severe as the intractable plural possessives thing. My daughter, who's 11, shows no difficulty handling any of this stuff.

Well, that disqualifies your daughter from a career with the Sydney Morning Herald, mister! Here’s a sample from Margo’s latest:

Today I publish the official document setting out the agreement between the invaders - The U.S., the U.K. and Australia on the Geneva Conventions in Iraq.

Meanwhile, a Kingstonista deputation has descended upon the national US spelling bee:

The protesters' complaints: English spelling is illogical, and the national spelling bee only reinforces the crazy spellings that they say contribute to dyslexia, high illiteracy and harder lives for immigrants.

"We advocate the modernization of English spelling," said Pete Boardman, 58, of Groton, N.Y. The Cornell University bus driver admitted to being a terrible speller.

Contestants paid the protesters little mind as they battled "illogical" English spelling:

By day's end yesterday, 46 of the original 265 spellers remained for today's championship. The participants are competing for a top package of $17,000 in cash and other prizes.

Some of the stumpers yesterday were "phyllotaxy," "triboluminescence," "ziphioid" and "dacquoise."

Which Margo would respectively define as "a non-progressive, deeply discriminatory tax on phylls", "illuminated tribes", "the disease spread by Ziphioid Mary", and "a yummy drink mixed in one of these."

UPDATE. The Gnu Hunter alerts us to The Age’s online registration plan. This will soon spread throughout the Fairfax empire, including Margoville. Username: freethemind. Password: usethebrain.

In other newspaper news, the OmsbudGod rounds up OmsbudViews on terrorism. It’s a bad word!

SPELLING BEE UPDATE. Way to go, Akshay Buddiga!

Posted by Tim Blair at June 4, 2004 03:48 AM
Comments


Ovur mi ded bode.

Posted by: Andrew at June 4, 2004 at 03:53 AM

Oh my $deity! Everybody run for the hills! They're making kids [drumroll] THINK!

Spare me the BS. I participated in the Scripps Howard National as a kid and got all the way to 3rd round regionals one year. Judging by the quality of a lot of the comments I see on the 'net, participation in the National Spelling Bee would do a lot of these people a world of good.

Funny, generations of our immigrants have survived our crazy spelling before. I think they'll manage again.

Posted by: Andi at June 4, 2004 at 04:13 AM

I'm a terrible speller and I've supported this kind of "re-writing" of the English language for years. Of course 'the Powers that Be' (also known as 'THEM') have ignored my protests (rightfully so, I might add).

Goddam I love perenthesies.

Posted by: LB at June 4, 2004 at 04:19 AM

Let’s see, Iŋgli∫ speliŋ đat reflécts histňrical tradíţon AND distíŋgui∫ez homonўmz AND relỳably ∫owz pronunciŕţon AND iz eazy tu tỳp AND iz plezant tu lwk at...can’t bč dǒn.

Posted by: ForNow at June 4, 2004 at 04:29 AM

Actually, what better way to imbue the young with a healthy distrust of the written word than to have the language spelt so very irregularly & deceptively?

Posted by: ForNow at June 4, 2004 at 04:35 AM

re age registration:

"margo" and "moron" are already taken but

"freddie_hilmer" and "moron" will get your readers in without having to register individually.

I suggest other Tim Blair readers register a bunch of logins and passwords and pass them along.

Posted by: Ex-Fairfax shareholder at June 4, 2004 at 04:36 AM

"The protesters' complaints: English spelling is illogical, and the national spelling bee only reinforces the crazy spellings that they say contribute to dyslexia, high illiteracy and harder lives for immigrants."

Any bets on whether immigrants and their children are over-represented among those doing well in the spelling bee?

Posted by: Silicon Valley Jim at June 4, 2004 at 04:38 AM

That's a rather eccentric spelling of 'xiphioid' there. With a 'z'? What sort of a crazy mixed-up world is it where people are spelling Latinate taxonomic designations for swordfish with a 'z'? I blame the parents.

Actually, Steven Pinker did a pretty good hatchet job on the spelling reformists in 'The Language Instinct'. English spelling isn't nearly as illogical as it seems, when you consider the etymological clues embedded in it. And any movement that George Bernard Shaw was involved in is intrinsically suspect.

Posted by: David Gillies at June 4, 2004 at 04:39 AM

And now spelling bees are politically incorrect, eh? And all because "The protesters contend that the illogical spelling of English words makes dyslexia more difficult to overcome and helps explain studies that suggest one in five Americans are functionally illiterate. "

Golly, could it be that 20% of Americans are functionally illiterate because no one taught them how to read? Because reading is not a serious subject in some schools?

I see one English teacher in the protest group who "....got involved in the protest after seeing how much time was wasted teaching spelling in her class." This teacher is from San Francisco; does the fact that she is employed by the California school system have anything to do with this attitude?

Possibly not. But I have to question the statement that she is "...such a good speller that she teaches English as a second language in San Francisco." I see a conflict of interest when a teacher wants to revise the subject (the English language) simply to make it easier to teach. Or a conflict of reality with that statement.

Or maybe the professional protestors in San Francisco are running out of causes, and have to go out of state.

Posted by: The Real JeffS at June 4, 2004 at 04:47 AM

Jeepers, I just actually clicked over to the Seattle Times story. The picture of that kid. OMGWTFBBQ! I bet the Chess Club give him wedgies.

Posted by: David Gillies at June 4, 2004 at 04:48 AM

Yes, half of these kids are from immigrant families.

And David, they might be tougher than you think, ya damned alopecoid.

Posted by: LB at June 4, 2004 at 06:15 AM

Dammit! Somebody already set up a mad_margo account! YEEEEEEAAAAAARRRRRRGH!

I'll try again later - using "team_blayah", in a quest for immortality, or a close homynym...

Posted by: mojo at June 4, 2004 at 06:18 AM

We advocate the modernization of English spelling," said Pete Boardman, 58, of Groton, N.Y. The Cornell University bus driver admitted to being a terrible speller.

There'z a Grotin in New York? I alwayz thought it wuz in Connetikit.

Posted by: Bashir Gemayel at June 4, 2004 at 06:42 AM

Y'all cain't be an alopecoid, LB (it's an adjective). I will, however, admit to being crazy in an alopecoid fashion.

This is something I've wondered though: do these kids have to know the meanings of these words or do they just have to be able to spell them? If the latter it's still pretty impressive, but if the former then that's astounding.

Posted by: David Gillies at June 4, 2004 at 10:29 AM

So the Fairfax Empire, dissatisfied with the rate at which its readership is already declining, has decided to accelerate the trend by making its articles harder to access on the Net.

When I see a registration page, three out of four times I just go elsewhere.

Posted by: EvilPundit at June 4, 2004 at 11:32 AM

Patooey. All of this Margo talk is leaving a bad taste in my mouth.

Time for some palate cleansers:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/2004_swimsuit/gallery/fernanda/

and here:

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/2004_swimsuit/gallery/frankie

There. My palate is clean (but my thoughts aren't).

SMG

Posted by: SteveMG at June 4, 2004 at 11:53 AM

My God!! Have you looked at the LARGE versions of those photos??

This just HAS to be a pre-op tranny!

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/2004_swimsuit/gallery/fernanda/lg_0.html

She .... hehe ... has a bigger cluster than I do!

Posted by: BruceT at June 4, 2004 at 12:10 PM

My gawd. What have I unleashed??

They were supposed to be Margo palate cleansers.

Can't be. It's something in the photo, the light, the shadows.

Maybe not enough Nair? Little more, er, grooming needed?

SMG

Posted by: SteveMG at June 4, 2004 at 12:22 PM

The spelling of English is not as irregular as poorly educated people such as Margo contend. My witness for the defence is the great Indian thinker, Nirad C. Chaudhury. In the second volume of his autobiography Thy Hand Great Anarch! India: 1921-1952 (Chatto & Windus, 1987), he wrote (pp 900-901):

I may say that in teaching my sons [English] I remastered the language. One of the discoveries which delighted me was that the greater part of the notorious irregularities of English spelling was subject to simple rules. Shall I give one example? Will anyone tell me when an adjective formed from a verb of Latin derivation took able as a suffix, and when ible? I learned to my great edification that all words from Latin verbs of the first conjugation took able, and the rest ible.

And later:

…I did not know until I was teaching my sons that ch is pronounced as in chair when the word is English, as in loch when it is Celtic, as in anarchy when it is Greek, and as in chef when it is French, with only spinach and Greenwich having the proverbial unaccountability.

The moral of this story is that people shouldn’t fiddle with things they don’t understand.

Posted by: Antony at June 4, 2004 at 12:29 PM

Yes, English is an illogical language, but French is a nuanced language with all of those silent letters and exceptional rules (pun intended). Funny though, once those crazy French words are adopted into the English language, they became illogical. I guess it's all in the sneer.

Posted by: Kenny at June 4, 2004 at 02:23 PM

"This is something I've wondered though: do these kids have to know the meanings of these words or do they just have to be able to spell them? If the latter it's still pretty impressive, but if the former then that's astounding."

back in high school, i thought about joining the spelling team (yes, i WAS a geek). took one look at the packet of words i was to memorize, and fled in terror. i love to read, but i'd never seen most of the words on that list! quite a long list, at that.

anyway, definitions weren't provided, just the words themselves. i don't remember if there was even a mention about learning the definitions or just pure memorization.

Posted by: samkit at June 4, 2004 at 04:26 PM

Saw kid on news. He was freaking - they asked him to spell some word like autochthnwhatthefuckous. Anyway, he got through.
His opponent fainted on stage just minutes before. Man, if that's what spelling does to you, it should be outlawed immediately. ("Won't somebody please think of the children?")

Posted by: TimT at June 4, 2004 at 11:27 PM

Bashir Gemaye --

There actually is a Groton, NY.

However, I expect that Groton, CT is a nicer place.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at June 5, 2004 at 12:26 AM

EvilPundit --

When I see a registration page, three four out of four times I just go elsewhere.

Posted by: Uncle Bill at June 5, 2004 at 12:33 AM

Some of the stumpers yesterday were "phyllotaxy," "triboluminescence," "ziphioid" and "dacquoise."


'Illogical' English spellings of these words may be due, in part, at least, to the fact that none comes from English - they look greek, latin, greek, and french to me.

Posted by: Ellie at June 5, 2004 at 01:56 AM

It's just boiled down to giving Margo a steaming hot cup of shut the fuck up.

Posted by: Richard Cook at June 5, 2004 at 04:37 AM