Saturday, June 3, 2017

Why don’t we spell the way we talk?


When she was a young schoolgirl, my mother got very frustrated about having to learn the spelling for her hometown. Cincinnati is located on the Ohio river. Why is there a double N? Why isn’t it Sinsinati? Why isn’t the Kentucky town across the river spelled Kuvingtun instead of Covington?

A generation later and upstream I was similarly upset by spelling Pittsburgh (double T, ending with a silent h). Even worse was the long state name of Pennsylvania. Again, why the double N? Why wasn’t that city spelled Pitsberg, and that state spelled Pensilvaineya?

I found a 16-minute TEDxRiodelaplata talk from 2015 by Karina Galperin in Buenos Aires, Argentina titled Should We Simplify Spelling? that discussed the same problem with spelling in the Spanish language. 

Why don’t we just write words the way we pronounce them?

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