English is one of the ten most spoken languages in the world (Mandarin is number one) yet it is one of the most difficult to learn and I think the challenge lies in its’ phonetics. The English language is laden with silent letters and various pronunciations of the same letter combinations. Consider the spelling of words like trough (pronounced troff) and through (thru) The same letter combination with completely different sounds. It’s a wonder new immigrants can ever learn the language (and yet they do).

Why then do we further complicate our language with elaborate spelling of our names? Why can’t ‘Leigh’ just be ‘Lee’, or ‘Thomas’ just be ‘Tomas’, what purpose do the extra letters serve? Written communication should be simpler than it is.

I know a young woman who named her newborn daughter Sheelagh (Sheila) Now I get that many names are derived from other languages; in this case Sheelagh is from the Gaelic (Irish) but don’t people have enough challenges in life without having to constantly clarify the pronunciation and spelling of their names? And this particular child was born and raised in North America so what happened to ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’? (speak English already!)

I suppose an argument could be had in support of the numerous alphabets and I do not discount the need to maintain the worlds various cultures, but thanks to technology, there is a move to simplify. Anyone texting or emailing looks to abbreviate phrases.  “Are you ok?” has become “r u ok?” It’s like the population has moved to a verbal form of shorthand. I suppose it’s all in the quest to save time but are we losing something in the process? (or do these people not know how to spell?) In fifty years will we even know how to spell or will we have created a whole new language, one of acronyms and abbreviations? And will anyone care?

Cursive writing has been removed from school curriculums because students now type on computer keyboards that ‘spell-check’ everything so they don’t have to. Calculators now do simple math, so again, students don’t have to. God help us if the worlds computer systems fail. There’ll be a multitude of zombies wandering the world unable to communicate because they never learned how.

OK, ok, this is an extreme projection but you have to admit there’s an underlying inkling of truth here. Simplification has its’ purpose but in our attempt to over-simplify are we disabling our brains? (why think if a device can do it for us?) Is this how artificial intelligence begins?

I suppose as long as we have a variety of languages and alphabets in the world we’ll have to face the challenges of mispronunciation (assuming we can all still read…… computers will do that for us too) I grew up with an ethnic last name that was constantly mispronounced. It wasn’t that it was complicated. In fact, it was almost phonetically perfect (almost) to pronounce correctly yet people constantly bastardized it. When I married and changed my name to one that was much simpler I was (and still am) shocked to see that people still grossly mispronounce it. My current name couldn’t be any simpler and yet it’s a problem for many. Is it that people just expect the written word to be difficult or are they making it more complicated than needed?

It’s too late to change the ‘official’ spelling of words because the languages and alphabets are age old, however simplification is still within our control. It just takes effort and the flexing of your brain muscle…… and a really sound knowledge of your alphabet because acronyms are after all, the modern day phenomenon…and, I’m afraid, the future of language. So if you’re having a baby or getting a pet and need a name, please, keep it simple. Drop the silent letters…they serve no purpose and just frustrate those of us who have to listen to the painful mispronunciation of it. Besides your time is better spent learning the new language.,the one that only uses half the alphabet…….TTYL!

 

Keep it simple

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