General Question

mattbrowne's avatar

When do you expect a major spelling reform of the English language?

Asked by mattbrowne (31623points) April 10th, 2009

Wouldn’t elementary teachers love it? And all the first graders, let alone the hundreds of millions of foreigners who learn English as a second language?

From Wikipedia: English spelling contains many irregularities due to a number of factors. The large number of words assimilated from other languages is one of them. A number of proposals have been made to reform English spelling. Some were proposed by Noah Webster early in the 19th century. He was in part concerned to distinguish American from British usage. Supporters assert that the many inconsistencies and irregularities of English spelling lead to severe difficulties for learners. They believe this leads to a lower level of literacy among English speakers compared with speakers of languages having a spelling system that more faithfully conforms to how the language is spoken, and have, since at least the time of George Bernard Shaw, pointed out costs to business and other users in retaining traditional spelling, which can be worked out by the casual observer as cumulatively massive.

Even though German spelling has already been much more consistent than English or French spelling, German speaking countries signed an agreement for spelling reforms in 1996, planned to be gradually introduced beginning in 1998 and fully used in 2005. The so-called Rechtschreibreform is still subject to dispute, and polls consistently show a majority against the new rules. It was not the first reform of the German spelling. There was an earlier reform in 1901.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spelling_reform

Would you welcome a spelling reform of English? Is it likely that a majority would eventually demand one? If yes, when can we expect this to happen?

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58 Answers

AstroChuck's avatar

They actually tried to change things in the 1950s and 60s. My wife has some old texts from her aunt who taught elementary school during that time. All the words were spelled phonetically. (sari, ai ment fonetikali.)
Of course Noah Webster was pretty successful at changing how we spell in the US.

arnbev959's avatar

I don’t think it’s going to happen. Irregularities don’t really bother most people (unless they’re learning the language for the first time). As long as everyone knows that a knight is pronounced “nite,” everything works just fine, since it’s standardized. But if everything were suddenly spelled phonetically, you’d see “nite” and not know what it means. It would be confusing.

Zen's avatar

I so wish, it isn’t funny. Smatterchew?

Hate the Present Perfect Passive/ Agressive Progressive!

Calendar's avatar

Rather than revising English spelling, I think adopting the Unifon alphabet would be a better way to go. Initially more painful, of course, but the spelling would be far “cleaner”.

The German Rechtschreibreform is pretty clumsy when concerning imported words… When “teenager” is hyphenated, for example, it’s rendered as “tee-nager” instead of the logical “teen-ager”.

augustlan's avatar

The letter ‘C’ should just be eradicated altogether. Its only purpose is to sound like other letters (S or K), or to make a new sound when combined with other letters (CH). I don’t think our way of spelling is all that great, but at least we don’t have masculine and feminine forms of words. I doubt very highly that any reform will happen in the near future. We (the US) can’t even get on board with the damn metric system!

filmfann's avatar

IDK. 2morrow? L8R? :)

Zen's avatar

@augustlan I agree, but we need the ‘C’ for one important thing: C.S.I. Miami. How else would you say it? K.S.I? (sounds like a kennel or something) S.S.I? (sounds too ww2-ish)

Zen's avatar

@filmfann OMFG, URsoR8! cyaL8TR, dood.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Calendar – Yes, imported words are an issue, the hyphenation of tee-nager actually means a rodent gnawing on tea. But overall, I think the reform is a success for our kids. My mother had been an elementary teacher for over 40 years. After the recent reform things really improved in first grade. There was less waste of time and freed up time that could be used for other subjects.

Zen's avatar

Lurn to lurve won anuther.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Zen – Lurve? Did you mean Louvre? Oh, damn Google searches ;-)

Zen's avatar

@mattbrowne LOL. I lurve you buddy, at the Louvre, and anywhere else thats Evrul.

MissAusten's avatar

Half the people in the US can’t spell anyway. If we had some spelling reforms, I’m not sure anyone would notice. ;)

Jack79's avatar

I don’t think it will be as long as we think. We might even see it in our lifetimes.

CasketDance's avatar

Lurve = Love; although I hate the modern day trendy internet slang, on here it seems okay.

I’ve been waiting one an English reform for quite some time. There should also be a German, Swedish or Russian language class as their has been Spanish and French and now Chinese will be tought in American public schooling. I mean, think of how many kids come from a German backround or a Nordic/Swiss/Russian ancestry. I would have loved to learn one of those in high school.

casheroo's avatar

@augustlan blashphemy! would “k” replace “c”? I despise going to the south and seeing K’s where C’s should be. It looks silly. And the thought of my son’s name spelled “Kash” is weird lol

When learning, it all didn’t make sense. Lucky for me, I’m not a perfectionist, I don’t care if I break the rules. Changing how things are spelled though? That would be very hard to learn for me.

fireside's avatar

There may be attempts at English spelling reform, but I doubt if it would ever take off. English is far too prevalent around the globe to ever be “reformed” in a consistent manner.

I think that true reform of a language that continues to grow and develop over time is about as far away as creating a new global language to be adopted. The reason places like France maintain their language is because of ideological purity and the determination to not lose their local heritage.

Reforming English would also be a lot like excepting Chinese dialect to only use a single inflection for each character instead of the same character having seven different meanings based on the intonation.

The Meaning of Everything gives some fascinating insight into how the OED has canonized usages from various parts of the globe into this thing we call the English language.

miasmom's avatar

@casheroo Maybe we could just get rid of the k instead. ;)

mattbrowne's avatar

@augustlan – Why not trash the Q as well? I know, I know, the eekwal rights movement will protest and demand eecval rights for all letters. So I guess we’re stuck with the C, the K and the Q and others of their ilk.

Strauss's avatar

Mebbe w’ll just hafta wate 4 it 2 evolv.

phoenyx's avatar

A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling
by Mark Twain

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter “c” would be dropped
to be replased either by “k” or “s”, and likewise “x” would no longer
be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which “c” would be retained
would be the “ch” formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2
might reform “w” spelling, so that “which” and “one” would take the
same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish “y” replasing it with
“i” and Iear 4 might fiks the “g/j” anomali wonse and for all.
Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear
with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6–12
or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants.
Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi
ridandant letez “c”, “y” and “x”—bai now jast a memori in the maindz
ov ould doderez—tu riplais “ch”, “sh”, and “th” rispektivli.
Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud
hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

AstroChuck's avatar

First off you get rid of some redundant letters. Either make all the Cs hard (as it is in Classic Latin) and get rid of the K, or keep the K and get rid of the C all together. Now make all Gs hard (Classic Latin, again). The Q has got to go, as does the W. W is really just a U, anyway. Also, no need for either X or Y. One is just a ks, the other an i.
After that you can start getting serious about the vowels.
To demonstrate how much of a language nerd I am, I once created my own auxiliary language called Pan Idoma Latine. I eliminated the constanants listed above and adopted all Classic Latin pronounciations. I also got rid of pluralizing words and introduced “tense helpers” for verbs.

LanceVance's avatar

Once I read that because of mass learning of English around the globe, especially in Asian countries, change may come naturally and we will be the ones forced to adapt. Since I am one of those that use English as a foreign language, I have to say I have never had any trouble with spelling and am absolutely against any type of reform, especially against strict phonetical spelling.

elijah's avatar

It seems trying to simplify English makes it more of a pain in the ass. What’s wrong with just learning it the way it is? Yes it’s difficult, but so is math. I don’t expect math to change just because I don’t understand it. and yes I understand math is universal, I’m just comparing the difficulty in learning something.

mattbrowne's avatar

@LanceVance – Phonetic spelling (also called phonemic orthography) is exactly what’s missing for English. Positive examples include languages like Romanian or Turkish. Spanish and Italian seem sort of in between.

filmfann's avatar

That’s exactly what I told my Turk neighbor Ahmed.
He said something like “Bacca lacca dacca Jihad”.

Jack79's avatar

Turks probably had the biggest reform ever (in the 1920s). They changed their alphabet altogether, from Arabic to Latin. Luckily enough most people were illiterate at the time, so nobody paid much attention anyway.

Jeruba's avatar

I don’t expect ever to see a serious and widespread movement for reform of English spelling. Spelling is a major clue to meaning. It reflects a word’s origins, history, and relation to other words, an especially important feature when English has derivatives from so many other languages. Phonetic spelling would be a disaster because pronunciation is far less of a clue to meaning than spelling and because we have such variation in pronunciations across the English-speaking world. How often do you hear people actually spell words aloud to one another to resolve ambiguities? You probably don’t even notice when people do that, but they do it. We have far too many homophones ever to risk erasing all diferences of spelling for the sake of some elusive “reform.”

Nonetheless, our spelling practices are changing and will continue to change as an unintended consequence of other movements. Here are the major influences that I see. The first three are related.

1. Decline of educational standards.
2. Multiculturalism.
3. Political correctness and entitlement.
4. Bottom-line economics.

Slang and texting and other media shorthand will also have their effect, although it’s limited because it is so dependent on allusion to speech. (“L8r” means “later” in English only because “eight” and “ate” are homonyms.)

If we had a single spelling for all homophones, we would be even more context-dependent than we are now—and, guess what—more grammar-dependent. We would need grammar, syntax, and punctuation to reinforce the context and tell us what part of speech a word is and what its relationship is to the other words in the utterance. I think it would lead to greater, not less, formality and maybe even to a symbolic equivalent of tonality or other written adjuncts to sound to indicate which word we mean. Why, we could develop a whole little system of notation or icons to aid meaning—essentially reinventing ideographs. That would be a huge step backward.

@petethepothead, “nite” isn’t phonetic. It’s purely a convention in English, and not even a completely consistent one, that we pronounce the vowel a certain way when an “e’ follows a single consonant. How do you know not to say that as “neetay”? It’s precisely because we don’t have a consistent sound-to spelling relationship (as many languages do) that we have this problem. Standard English is full of sounds that we simply don’t have a way to spell unless we resort to the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).

Jack79's avatar

(bows)

no I am not referring to the plural of projectile weapons

fireside's avatar

@Jack79 – I think you spelled that wrong, it’s “boughs” : )

mattbrowne's avatar

@Jeruba – Thanks for this!

Jeruba's avatar

As a further note, @mattbrowne: it’s not only casual writing that would suffer. In fact, because the kind of errors we frequently see tend to coincide with changes that people regard as candidates for reform, we are already used to reading through a certain amount of quasi-phonetic spelling and substitution of one homophone for another. We correct it mentally, but often only after the misspelling has caused us to veer off the track and pile up in a grammatical train wreck. We back up and try again.

My husband and I read aloud on a regular basis, everything from the light contemporary fiction of Neil Gaiman to the philosophical argumentation of Daniel Dennett. Sometimes when he is reading to me, I have to stop him because I completely fail to comprehend a sentence. I am unable to parse it. I run through the possibilities in my head, first as a native speaker of English and experienced reader with an educated command of the language and then with a professional editor’s diagnostic tools. In due course I form a hypothesis and ask him either (a) to reread it with different emphasis (because the punctuation and syntax did not support a right reading that revealed the relationships among the words) or (b) to spell a word. In the latter case the problem is usually with a homophone; for instance, he read “weight” and I heard “wait,” so I could not correctly decode the meaning. If we had a reformed spelling system, there would be no difference between those two words in print, and the confusion I have as a listener would be multiplied many times over for every reader. A playwright would be trained to make sure an audience does not mishear the spoken word, but a literary author would typically not have to be concerned about it.

A word’s orthography is its face. Just as a human face reflects race and racial blends, age, clues to ethnicity and culture and maybe even religion and social status, so a word’s spelling points to its sources and biography. More than we typically realize, we are dependent on that information to distinguish each unit of meaning in both our written and our spoken language.

Strauss's avatar

@mattbrowne I guess my short answer for the main question would be:

over the next 400–500 years.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Yetanotheruser – Yeah, let the Federation of Planets take care of this.

@Jeruba – Neil Gaiman’s language is wonderful. Well, the redundancy present in language can help disambiguate homophones. The challenge is dealing with the scope of the context. Just the neighboring words? A complex NP or VP? The whole sentence? The neighboring sentences? Btw, it’s interesting that you mentioned social status. The German spelling reform in 1901 required that all words beginning with th be replaced by just t. But the king insisted on one exception: the German word ‘Thron’ must keep the h (like in English). This even survived the recent reform even though there are no more kings in Germany.

morphail's avatar

@Jeruba in your last paragraph you seem to be saying that we are dependent on a word’s source and biography to understand it. It’s true that English orthography can give us clues about a word’s etymology, but knowing a word’s etymology is irrelevent for using the word.

augustlan's avatar

@morphail I wouldn’t say it’s irrelevant. It’s not strictly necessary, but it is helpful.

morphail's avatar

@augustlan how is my use of the word “miniature” helped by the fact that it is derived from the Latin for “to colour red”?

Jeruba's avatar

@morphail, I didn’t say we are dependent on a knowledge of a word’s history to use the word. Not at all. To make such an assertion, I would have to believe that competent users of English are in fact versed in etymology, and I know that is not the case. I said its face, and I meant that as a fairly good analogy. It’s part of the surface appearance of the word, the part that anyone can see, and with some knowledge you may be able to interpret the appearance to an extent. With more knowledge you can glean a lot more through identifying roots and other structural elements. Even at that you still have to know the word itself and not just its history and its relatives, or you will not understand and use it correctly.

I think it’s going too far to say “irrelevant,” however. You can use it without that knowledge, but you can use it better, more effectively, more elegantly, perhaps more poetically if you consider the nuances, the secondary meanings, the connotations, and so on, and those are often exposed through the history of the word.

What I did say was that we are more dependent on spelling than we typically recognize to distinguish the meanings of words that are pronounced the same.

Strauss's avatar

@Jeruba I agree with you on the relevance of etymology. Especially when one looks at one word which has two very distinct meanings: e.g. quack: the noise a duck makes; or quack: charlatan, pretender to medical skill.

These are two well known, albeit unrelated, meanings for the same word, and each meaning has a different etymology.
“the duck’s quack” is a phrase that could have two very different meanings.

morphail's avatar

Knowledge of English morphology can be important, for instance the suffix ”-ate” forms verbs (as in differentiate from difference). But knowing that ”-ate” is derived from the Latin past participle ending ”-ātus, āta, ātum” doesn’t help us use English.

@yetanotheruser English speakers know that there are two different words “quack” without having to know the etymologies.

Jeruba's avatar

@morphail, I think you are making the point that morphology may have practical applications for English users, but etymology does not particularly. I don’t think anyone is contesting that. I know that I spoke of orthography and not etymology when I argued that the sight of a word in its standard spelling gives us information we don’t get just from hearing it (and that if everything were spelled phonetically we would lose that valuable information).

Do you disagree with my assertion that phonetic spelling would deprive us of important information and that it would create more problems than it solves with respect to comprehensible written English?

morphail's avatar

@Jeruba yeah I’d disagree with that. Many languages have a more predictable orthography than English, and it would hard to prove that this causes problems for those languages. You could argue that it makes those orthographies easier to learn.

You might think that the morphological aspect of English spelling makes things easier, for instance the connection between “electric” and “electricity” is clearly shown in the orthography. But it’s hard to prove that it would cause problems if we spelled them more phonemically, for instance “electric” ~ “electrisity”. In fact French does this: “electrique” ~ “electricité”, and does this cause any confusion for French speakers?

Jeruba's avatar

I was speaking only of English, @morphail, as I have mentioned explicitly in each separate post. How many other languages have such very mixed parentage?

You don’t think it would be puzzling to look up “rahyt” in the dictionary and confront a definition like this? (Erratic numbering aside.)

——————————————————————

–adjective
1. in accordance with what is good, proper, or just: right conduct.
2. in conformity with fact, reason, truth, or some standard or principle; correct: the right solution; the right answer.
3. correct in judgment, opinion, or action.
4. fitting or appropriate; suitable: to say the right thing at the right time.
5. most convenient, desirable, or favorable: Omaha is the right location for a meatpacking firm.
6. of, pertaining to, or located on or near the side of a person or thing that is turned toward the east when the subject is facing north (opposed to left ).
7. in a satisfactory state; in good order: to put things right.
8. sound, sane, or normal: to be in one’s right mind; She wasn’t right in her head when she made the will.
9. in good health or spirits: I don’t feel quite right today.
10. principal, front, or upper: the right side of cloth.
11. (often initial capital letter) of or pertaining to political conservatives or their beliefs.
12. socially approved, desirable, or influential: to go to the right schools and know the right people.
13. formed by or with reference to a perpendicular: a right angle.
14. straight: a right line.
15. Geometry. having an axis perpendicular to the base: a right cone.
16. Mathematics. pertaining to an element of a set that has a given property when placed on the right of an element or set of elements of the given set: a right identity.
17. genuine; authentic: the right owner.

–noun
18. a just claim or title, whether legal, prescriptive, or moral: You have a right to say what you please.
19. Sometimes, rights. that which is due to anyone by just claim, legal guarantees, moral principles, etc.: women’s rights; Freedom of speech is a right of all Americans.
20. adherence or obedience to moral and legal principles and authority.
21. that which is morally, legally, or ethically proper: to know right from wrong.
22. a moral, ethical, or legal principle considered as an underlying cause of truth, justice, morality, or ethics.
23. Sometimes, rights. the interest or ownership a person, group, or business has in property: He has a 50-percent right in a silver mine. The author controls the screen rights for the book.
24. the property itself or its value.
25. Finance.
a. the privilege, usually preemptive, that accrues to the owners of the stock of a corporation to subscribe to additional shares of stock or securities convertible into stock at an advantageous price.
b. Often, rights. the privilege of subscribing to a specified amount of a stock or bond issue, or the document certifying this privilege.
26. that which is in accord with fact, reason, propriety, the correct way of thinking, etc.
27. the state or quality or an instance of being correct.
28. the side that is normally opposite to that where the heart is; the direction toward that side: to turn to the right.
29. a right-hand turn: Make a right at the top of the hill.
30. the portion toward the right, as of troops in battle formation: Our right crumbled.
31. (in a pair) the member that is shaped for, used by, or situated on the right side: Is this shoe a left or a right?
32. the right hand: Jab with your left and punch with your right.
33. the Right,
a. the complex of individuals or organized groups opposing change in a liberal direction and usually advocating maintenance of the established social, political, or economic order, sometimes by authoritarian means.
b. the position held by these people: The Depression led to a movement away from the Right. Compare left 1 (defs. 6a, b).
c. right wing.
34. (usually initial capital letter) the part of a legislative assembly, esp. in continental Europe, that is situated on the right side of the presiding officer and that is customarily assigned to members of the legislature who hold more conservative or reactionary views than the rest of the members.
35. the members of such an assembly who sit on the Right.
36. Boxing. a blow delivered by the right hand: a right to the jaw.
37. Baseball. right field.
1. a formal or ceremonial act or procedure prescribed or customary in religious or other solemn use: rites of baptism; sacrificial rites.
2. a particular form or system of religious or other ceremonial practice: the Roman rite.
3. (often initial capital letter) one of the historical versions of the Eucharistic service: the Anglican Rite.
4. (often initial capital letter) liturgy.
5. (sometimes initial capital letter) Eastern Church, Western Church. a division or differentiation of churches according to liturgy.
6. any customary observance or practice: the rite of afternoon tea.
1. a worker, esp. a constructive worker (used chiefly in combination): a wheelwright; a playwright.

–verb (used with object)
1. to trace or form (characters, letters, words, etc.) on the surface of some material, as with a pen, pencil, or other instrument or means; inscribe: Write your name on the board.
2. to express or communicate in writing; give a written account of.
3. to fill in the blank spaces of (a printed form) with writing: to write a check.
4. to execute or produce by setting down words, figures, etc.: to write two copies of a letter.
5. to compose and produce in words or characters duly set down: to write a letter to a friend.
6. to produce as author or composer: to write a sonnet; to write a symphony.
7. to trace significant characters on, or mark or cover with writing.
8. to cause to be apparent or unmistakable: Honesty is written on his face.
9. Computers. to transfer (information, data, programs, etc.) from storage to secondary storage or an output medium.
10. Stock Exchange. to sell (options).
11. to underwrite.
49. to put in or restore to an upright position: to right a fallen lamp.
50. to put in proper order, condition, or relationship: to right a crookedly hung picture.
51. to bring into conformity with fact; correct: to right one’s point of view.
52. to do justice to; avenge: to be righted in court.
53. to redress, as a wrong.

–verb (used without object)
12. to trace or form characters, words, etc., with a pen, pencil, or other instrument or means, or as a pen or the like does: He writes with a pen.
13. to write as a profession or occupation: She writes for the Daily Inquirer.
14. to express ideas in writing.
15. to write a letter or letters, or communicate by letter: Write if you get work.
16. to compose or work as a writer or author.
17. Computers. to write into a secondary storage device or output medium.
54. to resume an upright or the proper position: After the storm the saplings righted.

–adverb
38. in a straight or direct line; straight; directly: right to the bottom; to come right home.
39. quite or completely; all the way: My hat was knocked right off.
40. immediately; promptly: right after dinner.
41. exactly; precisely: right here.
42. correctly or accurately: to guess right.
43. uprightly or righteously: to obey one’s conscience and live right.
44. properly or fittingly: to behave right.
45. advantageously, favorably, or well: to turn out right.
46. toward the right hand; on or to the right: to keep right; to turn right.
47. Informal. very; extremely: a right fine day.
48. very (used in certain titles): the right reverend.

——————————————————————

That’s without all the phrasal verbs, idioms, variants, and so on. It’s a rough approximation of what you’d get if we made no orthographic distinction among write, rite, right, and wright.

Jack79's avatar

what’s with the odd numbering above? For such a good linguist, you can’t count! :P

So if I counted them wrighte, they must have been 78 definitions of the word up there! Impressive!

fireside's avatar

@Jack79 – I’m not sure if you are rite.
I got 71, but there are a lot of secondary definitions that I wasn’t counting.

morphail's avatar

@Jeruba English isn’t special. All languages borrow words. English has borrowed a lot of words from French, but that doesn’t mean it has mixed parentage; it’s still a Germanic language. Anyway, “right”, “wright” and “write” are of Germanic origin.

It’s certainly possible that spelling homophones differently might make things easier, but it’s not obviously true. After all, we don’t confuse homophones in speech. And there are many homophones that are spelled the same, for instance there are two different prefixes spelled “un”. “get” has 4 entries in the OED . “pen” has 8.

fireside's avatar

We had a foreign exchange student living with us while I was in junior high and he had trouble on science test because he was unsure how you would measure lead. Of course that was a silly question because the questions was asking about the weight of lead, not lead.

Jeruba's avatar

@morphail, I wonder how you would respond to the argument from etymology at the current bottom of this thread (starting here).

Jeruba's avatar

@Jack79, I included a disclaimer about the numbering. I thought it would be apparent that I had lumped together the definitions of the four words from an online source. I did not attempt to renumber them in sequence or to interleave them according to primary, secondary, etc., senses—just consolidated them to create the effect of exhibiting a long and complex assortment of meanings for one sound that Dictionary.com says we pronounce “rayht.”

morphail's avatar

@Jeruba I would respond that an argument about a word’s current meaning based on etymology is fallacious.

Shegrin's avatar

You do realize you’re talking mostly about Americans. The ones who poo-poo’d the metric system in the 1970’s? We don’t like anything that’s too difficult to understand. I write with both hands now because as a child in elementary school, it was a taboo for me to write with my left hand so they FORCED me to learn to write with the right one.
If Americans can’t handle the metric system and left-handers, what makes you think we’re down with spelling reform?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Shegrin – Well, British English might need a reform too. Ever been to Glue-Chester? Or was it Gloh-Star? I thought it read Gloucester on the map. Just kidding. I love the UK.

I get the impression that more and more Americans are able to handle the metric system. I mean, Captain Kirk does. Or is he Canadian?

Strauss's avatar

I heard a funny story about a certain sauce spelled “Worcestershire”. It seems there was a convention of chefs from around the world. A certain chef from the south picked up a bottle of the sauce and said, “Wha’s dis heah sauce?” (“What’s this here sauce?”)

I have a feeling, though, that it has more to do with the actual pronunciation of “Worcester”, (both England and Massachusetts) being “wooster”.

I know of a “Devon, Canada” but no shire in Canada of similar name

Shegrin's avatar

@mattbrowne , I happen to be familiar with metric measurement from working in academic theatre—set building, and the like. I know a lot of people, though, who can’t comprehend the difference between an inch and a centimeter. Their attitude is; “Why bother with such a small difference? I already know what an inch is.” Lazy Americans.

Anon_Jihad's avatar

@Yetanotheruser I’m a Worcester, MA native and I can’t figure out how it came to be pronounced “wooster” and the closest I ever get to an answer is a jocular “it’s Warchesta!”

Strauss's avatar

@Anon_Jihad I think the pronunciation came across the pond from Merry Olde England. Some of British place names have evolved since Roman times. For example, “Chester” or “cester” means a Roman fort or camp that later evolved into a town. So Worcester would originally mean “Camp Wor” or “Fort Wor”. The “c” is before an “e”, so it was prounounced like an “s”, as in “Wo[r]-ses-te[r], then the pronunciation contracted to Woh-s’s-teh.

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