Dig past Molesworth

11th November 2005 at 00:00
Correspondents such as KP Byfield are weak on arithmetic as well as unaware that our rich English language is not the same as the spelling tool that communicates it.

Millions of people world-wide would be "intellectually richer" because they could learn to read and even spell, if English spelling were more predictable. Not one person would be intellectually poorer, because anyone can still play with spelling - as advertisers do now.

A second arithmetic calculation is how much of the richness of the English language comes from its vocabulary and metaphors (including thousands of homophone puns) - and contrast that with only a few hundred puns and limericks that play on distorted spelling like the young "girl in the choir whose voice went hoir and hoir".

The delights of Molesworth's spelling are as nothing compared with the despair of examiners at real students' spelling problems.

The major problem for improving English spelling is general ignorance about spelling itself, and not knowing that it could be improved without such dire effects as losing the ability to pirouette conceitedly, which worries some correspondents unnecessarily.

The Book of Spells Misspells (2005) has a chapter on the "Psych of Pspelling" that could help to make TES correspondence on spelling more informed, constructive and even funnier.

Dr Valerie Yule 57 Waimarie Drive Mount Waverley Victoria Australia

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