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A recent article in Wired by Anne Trubek argues that the advent of the fully digital age will — and should — have as great an influence on English spelling as the age of print did, more than half a millennium ago. The author, a professor at Oberlin College, argues that our current obsession with correct spelling is out of keeping with the digital age: "Consistent spelling was a great way to ensure clarity in the print era. But with new technologies, the way that we write and read (and search and data-mine) is changing, and so must spelling." Must it?  Continue reading...
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For The Electric Company, Tom Lehrer wrote a song to which all writers should listen:

Who can turn a can into a cane? / Who can turn a pan into a pane? / It's not too hard to see / It's silent e
 Continue reading...
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Some years ago the Portuguese government signed an agreement with other Portuguese speaking countries about the way the language was to be written, and the slow process of making it happen started to be rolled out. I was quite amused recently to learn of the number of students of English in Portuguese schools who thought that the novo acordo ortográfico -- the new spelling agreement -- applied also to English.   Continue reading...
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Blog Excerpts

What's a Misle?

Have you ever been misled by the spelling of a word into thinking that it's pronounced differently? Like, say, thinking that "misled" is pronounced like "mizzled"? Now you know what a "misle" is. On the Chronicle blog Lingua Franca, linguist Geoffrey Pullum investigates, inspired by a colleague's assumption that "biopic" rhymes with "myopic." Read Pullum's post here.
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In this year's World Series, one name in particular will likely catch the eye of even casual baseball fans. In the late innings of the first two games, a relief pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals came in to face the Texas Rangers: Marc Rzepczynski. The announcers were clearly ready for Rzepczynski's appearance and pronounced his name smoothly (as "zep-CHIN-ski"), helpfully explaining that his nickname is "Scrabble." So how does Rzepczynski stack up against other hard-to-spell baseball names?  Continue reading...
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"Lets Go!!"

That's what appeared on the recently unveiled Old Navy SuperFan Nation college-football T-shirts. Yes, the second exclamation point is wholly unnecessary, but it's the missing apostrophe that really chaps my hide. And not just mine!  Continue reading...
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Yesterday, October 16, was National Dictionary Day, celebrated annually on the birthday of the great American lexicographer Noah Webster. Today the "Webster" name is practically synonymous with dictionaries, but how did the first "Webster's Dictionary" come to be? In this excerpt from The Forgotten Founding Father, Joshua Kendall recounts the publication of Webster's Compendious Dictionary in 1806, the first dictionary to bear his name and the first to feature his "American" spelling.  Continue reading...
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2 3 4 5 6 Displaying 22-28 of 71 Articles