English - A fetish for spelling

19th September 2008 at 01:00
One of the UK's leading experts in phonetics has called for traditional spelling rules to be ditched.

Schools should no longer "fetishise" the ability to sort out their, there and they're, said John Wells, emeritus professor of phonetics at University College London, and president of the Spelling Society. Instead, they should be given the freedom to spell logically, he said last week. "It's time to remove the fetish that says that correct spelling is a principal (principle?) mark of being educated. Let's return to a time when English spelling allowed greater variation. Let's spell logically, just as you do in Spanish, Italian or Swedish," Professor Wells said.

Emerging technologies, such as text- messaging, email and internet chatrooms, were leading to a re-evaluation of spelling, he suggested.

"Let's stop worrying if people sometimes spell you as u, your and you're both as ur, and whose and who's both as whos. Now-adays, we often see light written as lite and through as thru. Let's not hold up our hands in horror - people should be able to use whichever spelling they prefer," he told the centenary dinner of the Spelling Society, which was founded under the name of the Simplified Spelling Society.

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