Iorz feixfuli, M. J. Yilz

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In January of 1971, a gentleman named M. J. Shields wrote the wonderful letter seen below to The Economist, on the subject of spelling reform — an idea famously championed by George Bernard Shaw, who even funded, posthumously, the development of a new alphabet.

It's a brilliant, amusing letter and one which I have, I think, managed to accurately "decode." That translation can be found after the original.

Enjoy.

(Source: Another Almanac of Words at Play.)

January 16, 1971

Sir,

I note with interest the two references to spelling which occur in your issue of December 26th, in particular the letter of Mr D. L. Cattley. Proposals for revision of the orthography are regularly produced, and just as regularly dismissed, but in this case it might be interesting to examine orthographical revision in some detail.

Unlike metrication, any reform in spelling should preferably take place over a long period of time in order to prevent confusion (freight=frate; eight=ate?). It should also be completely coherent, and the invention of new letters (vide the pseudo-Icelandic known as ITA) or the assumption of many diacritical marks, such as bespatter the pages of modern Slavonic texts, should, so far as possible, be avoided.

It was suggested — by, among others, G. B. Shaw — that a convenient method of revision would involve the alteration or deletion of one letter, or associated group of letters, per year, thus giving the populace time to absorb the change.

For example, in Year 1, that useless letter 'c' would be dropped to be replased by either '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 in the 'ch' formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might well 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.

Jeneralli, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear, with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing the vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Ier 15 or sou, it wud fainali be posible 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 of orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld. Haweve, sins xe Wely, xe Airiy, and xe Skots du not spik Ingliy, xei wud hev to hev a speling siutd tu xer oun lengwij. Xei kud, haweve, orlweiz lern Ingliy az a sekond lengwij at skuul!

Iorz feixfuli,

M. J. Yilz
Decoded:
January 16, 1971

Sir,

I note with interest the two references to spelling which occur in your issue of December 26th, in particular the letter of Mr D. L. Cattley. Proposals for revision of the orthography are regularly produced, and just as regularly dismissed, but in this case it might be interesting to examine orthographical revision in some detail.

Unlike metrication, any reform in spelling should preferably take place over a long period of time in order to prevent confusion (freight=frate; eight=ate?). It should also be completely coherent, and the invention of new letters (vide the pseudo-Icelandic known as ITA) or the assumption of many diacritical marks, such as bespatter the pages of modern Slavonic texts, should, so far as possible, be avoided.

It was suggested — by, among others, G. B. Shaw — that a convenient method of revision would involve the alteration or deletion of one letter, or associated group of letters, per year, thus giving the populace time to absorb the change.

For example, in Year 1, that useless letter 'c' would be dropped to be replaced by either 'k' or 's', and likewise 'x' would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only case in which 'c' would be retained would be in the 'ch' formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might well reform 'w' spelling, so that 'which' and 'one' would take the same consonant, while Year 3 might well abolish 'y', replacing it with 'i', and Year 4 might fix the 'g/j' anomaly once and for all.

Generally, then, the improvement would continue year by year, with Year 5 doing away with useless double consonants, and Years 6-12 or so modifying the vowels and the remaining voiced and unvoiced consonants. By Year 15 or so, it would finally be possible to make use of the redundant letters 'c', 'y' and 'x' — by now just a memory in the minds of old dodderers — to replace 'ch', 'sh' and 'th' respectively.

Finally, then, after some 20 years of orthographical reform, we would have a logical, coherent spelling in use throughout the English-speaking world. However, since the Welsh, the Irish, and the Scots do not speak English, they would have to have a spelling suited to their own language. They could, however, always learn English as a second language at school!

Yours faithfully,

M. J. Shields