Bee in the bonnet about the right way to spell

"Enuf is enuf!" screamed the placards waved by protestors including a man dressed as a bumblebee, "We're thru with 'through'."

Summertime signals the National Spelling Bee contest in Washington DC, an event that has become a perennial target for campaigners for simplified English spelling.

The Simplified Spelling Society, founded in London in 1908, says their latest demonstration was their most successful yet and has gained them a surge in members.

It has helped organise pickets at the American competitive spelling event for three years, and it collects funds so protesters from England and other countries can attend.

This year, among other expenses, it helped pay for the bumblebee costume worn by Joe Little, a member of the American Literacy Council, the society's sister organisation. Jack Bovill, SSS chairman, said that membership numbers for the small society rose by an unprecedented 73 last month to around 300 as a result of the protest.

"The reaction the picket got from families was about 50-50," he said.

"Some parents could be a bit rude, but then they have a large psychological and personal investment in the competition because their child might become a national celebrity. Other families were interested in what we had to say and could understand how ridiculous spellings can be."

The society hopes to create more placards for next year's event, adding to slogans such as "Spelling shuud bee lojical" and "All u need is luv".

Mr Bovill believes that the relatively high illiteracy levels in Britain and North America are linked to the fact that English has 3,500 words with anomalies while German has only 600 and Italian 400.

He argues that teachers should be less critical of pupils who use simplified spellings which have emerged from advertising and mobile phone texting, such as "u", "kwik" and "thru".

"Teachers ought to concentrate more on the pupils' ability to communicate than their memory of traditional spelling," he said.

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