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Why is English Spelling So Crazy??

May 28, 2014

Why is English spelling so crazy??

Have you ever thought that spelling in English has no rhyme or reason? Some words that should rhyme don't, and some that shouldn't rhyme, do. Here's some examples from an excerpt of a poem you might have seen before, published in 1902:

 

Our Strange Lingo

 

When the English tongue we speak.
Why is break not rhymed with freak?
Will you tell me why it's true
We say sew but likewise few?
And the maker of the verse,
Cannot rhyme his horse with worse?
Beard is not the same as heard
Cord is different from word.
Cow is cow but low is low
Shoe is never rhymed with foe.
Think of hose, dose, and lose (Lord Cromer, 2014)

 

The reason that English spelling does not always, or even often, correspond with its pronunciation has partly to do with when words entered the language, and from where. For example, words from Celtic, Latin, and French contained their respective spelling systems, but when incorporated into English as a whole, there seems to be no pattern.  Also pronunciations changed over time, while spellings stayed the same. English has a total of about 44 sounds. There are, however, 185 ways to spell those sounds. (The English Spelling Society, 2014)

 

Language is a growing, changing thing. Fortunately or not, English spelling continues to evolve. Linguists and dictionary authors will eventually go with the most popular usage. The internet and texting are already causing spelling changes. Maybe eventually we will simplify and standardize English spelling through popular usage. In the meantime, some tips are in order.

 

Tip 1- To learn a word's spelling, find another word which rhymes with it and uses the same spelling. Read them out loud everyday for a week. For example: flood/blood,  pleasure/treasure, weigh/sleigh

 

Tip 2- Visualize. Make a conscious, mental picture of the word in your mind.

 

Tip 3- Read a lot. This helps us to learn spelling.

 

Tip 4- Use spell check on your computer!  : )

 

Notes:

1. Lord Cromer (May 2014). Our Strange Lingo. Retrieved from http://www.spellingsociety.org/news/media/poems.php

2. The English Spelling Society (May, 2014). Why is English Spelling Exceptionally Irregular? Retrieved from http://www.spellingsociety.org/spelling/irregularities

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Why is English spelling so crazy??

Have you ever thought that spelling in English has no rhyme or reason? Some words that should rhyme don't, and some...

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