In my strange and wonderful book collection I have a third edition of Pollards Advanced Speller by Rebecca S Pollard, originator of the synthetic method of teaching reading. Copyrighted in 1897, the title plate is followed by this page:
The American Philological Association has recommended the following “Rules for New Spellings”:
1. Drop the ue at the end of words like dialogue, catalogue, etc., where the preceding vowel is short. Thus spell demagog, epilog, synagog, etc.
2. Drop the final e in such words as definite, infinite, favorite, etc., where the preceding vowel is short. Thus spell opposit, preterit, hypocrit, requisit, etc.
3. Drop the final te in words like quartette, coquette, cigarette, etc. Thus spell cigaret, roset, epaulet, vedet, gazet, etc.
4. Drop the final me in words like programme. Thus spell program, orifiam, gram, etc.
5. Change ph to f in words like phantom, telegraph, phase, etc. Thus spell alfabet, paragraf, filosefy, fonetic, fotograf, etc.
6. Substitute e for dipthongs æ and . Thus spell Colian, asthetic, diarrhea, subpena, asofagus, atheneum, etc.
I was intrigued. I had never heard of Spelling Reform or the American Philological Association and had to find out more. What I found was more interesting than I expected and I share it now with you, lucky noder.
The American Philological Association (APA), founded in 1869 by "professors, friends, and patrons of linguistic science” In 1876, they adopted 11 new spellings, and began promoting their use: ar, catalog, definit, gard, giv, hav, infinit, liv, tho, thru, wisht. They expanded their list into the rules I found in my old speller. They still exist today but now as an educational society to study classic literature and translate Harry Potter into Latin.
The Simplified Spelling Board was founded in 1906, and also had a list, this one of over 300 word spellings. A founding member was Andrew Carnegie, who donated more than $250,000 before he died.
One day in 1906, while the U.S. Congress was in recess, Teddy Roosevelt ordered the Government Printing Office to use the Simplified Spelling Board's 300 spellings. When Congress re-adjourned that fall, they angrily revoked Roosevelt's order.
"…no money appropriated in this act shall be used (for) printing documents ... unless same shall conform to the orthography ... in ... generally accepted dictionaries."
But President Roosevelt used reformed spelling for all White House memos until he left office in 1909. When Andrew Carnegie died, he left no money for the Simplified Spelling Board and they soon languished.
George Bernard Shaw was a spelling reformist too. When he died in 1950, his will provided for a contest to design a new, phonetic alphabet. A man named Kingsley Read won the contest with his Shavian Alphabet, but alas, it never gained popularity for many reasons, not the least of which was that it was based on the phonetics of England's King George V.
Who else supported Spelling reform you ask? Mark Twain (who wrote a short satiric essay about his Uncle Cadmus who tried to get the Egyptians to eschew hieroglyphics for the written letter), Charles Darwin and Alfred Lord Tennyson, but my personal favorite is the Dutch writer Dr Gerard Nolst Trenité. He was an academic who moved to the US to become a teacher. He was so disgusted with the English non-phonetic system he wrote the first half of this poem in 1908 and obsessed and added to it until he died in 1946. The Chaos includes 800 “irregular” words.
The Spelling Reform movement is alive today. Over 200 members strong and thay want yew to join them in ther holy kwest to mak reeding and lif a little eeser for all the children ov the erth.
sources and stuff:
the book Written Dialects by Kenneth Ives