My youngest son has objected to spelling since he was first introduced to the concept. It wasn’t the work of memorization that irked him, but rather the nonsensical ways that words were spelled. Hour and our. To, too, and two. Don’t even get him started on silent letters. He feels English is unfairly burdensome to students and should be revised.
His point is valid—I have a friend who spoke Spanish before he learned English, and he ascertained that my son would have been reading a year or so sooner if he read Spanish, because they spelled things logically, and they didn’t mess around adding extra letters for no reason whatsoever. (Sure, a silent “e” at the end of a word can inform a vowel, but the “gh” in light or weigh are pretty useless.) I told my son to just be glad we didn’t speak French.
Unfortunately, this only fueled my child’s defiance. He wanted to write protest letters, have a sit-in, whatever he could do to right this injustice (rite this injustis). Here it is nearly the end of 3rd grade, and I still have been unable to convince him that he is wrong.
I try. I explain that one can’t just correct the English language by one’s self, you have to get a majority of people on board. I told him about the father in the book, "The Glass Castle," who spent his life writing to the dictionary people trying to change over to phonetic spelling.
But then Merriam-Webster’s word of the day was slough, pronounced sluff, and I am now about ready to join his revolution. I mean, it is really ridiculous. I understand that we opened the door when we allowed enough to go about using the gh for an f sound, but at some point you have to put your foot down.
The meaning of plenty of words have changed over time. Just look at literally, which now means both literally and figuratively.
If we can accept that as valid, can’t we all agree that slough should be spelled sluff? And why not get rid of the annoying “ph” while we are at it? If we simplify one phoneme a year, by the time my kid graduates high school, we’ll be well on our way to common sense. Besides, with the advent of text, our whole written language is changing.
Unfortunately, just I was ready to join the revolution, my youngest child discovered Mine Craft. Suddenly, spelling like the rest of the country served a purpose—in order to code, he has to spell just like everyone else. Traitor.
Copyright © 2021 Lara Lillibridge
Public domain imagery courtesy of Snappygoat.com