Righting the Mother Tongue: From Olde English to Email, the Tangled Story of English Spelling

By David Wolman

When did ghost gather its silent h? Will our on-line world kill the only in rhubarb? And used to be it quite rocket scientists who invented spell-check?

In Righting the mum Tongue, writer David Wolman tells the cockamamie tale of English spelling, in terms of a wordly event from English battlefields to Google headquarters. alongside the best way, he joins spelling reformers picketing the nationwide spelling bee, visits town in Belgium—not England—where the 1st English books have been revealed, and takes a highway journey with the boss at Merriam-Webster Inc. Wolman punctuates the adventure with spelling wars waged through the likes of Samuel Johnson, Noah Webster, Theodore Roosevelt, and Andrew Carnegie.

Rich with background, popular culture, interest, and humor, Righting the mum Tongue explores how English spelling got here to be, lines efforts to fix the code, and imagines the form of tomorrow's words.

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To start, i must retrace the origins of our language and the early affects on glossy spelling. that implies a hop around the pond. 12 TWO CROSSED . . . an acquaintance with the Saxon language, the mum tongue of the English, has confident me, cautious revision of our current dictionaries is de facto essential to an accurate wisdom of the language. 1 From the preface to Noah Webster’s A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language (1806) T H R O U G H T H E D A W N M I S T, I watched because the engines of the SeaFrance ferry churned the darkish teal waters into foaming, chaotic swimming pools. The brasseries, B-rate motels, and large cable manufacturing facility on the French port of Calais weren’t the following fifteen centuries in the past, however the autumn climate can have been equally grey. It used to be from coastal issues corresponding to this the place the ancestors of English departed continental Europe for the mysterious island around the sea. The boat’s decor is hybrid discotheque-lounge circa 1991: yellow lighting fixtures, round red tables with matching leather-based chairs, and a zebra-patterned carpet. close to me a British businessman learn Ian McEwan, a Muslim girl spoke French right into a cellphone, and 3 middle-aged Scandinavian girls sipped vending-machine coffees and chatted loudly. A posse of lanky German high13 RIGHTING the mummy TONGU E college scholars paced among the videogame arcade and front of the send. tourists en path to Britain 1,500 years in the past spoke a few assorted languages. They have been contributors of historical tribes: Angles and Saxons, but additionally Jutes and Frisians. It’s most unlikely to grasp simply how intelligible every one staff and subgroup chanced on one another, however the dialects and languages they spoke have been all a part of what linguists name the Germanic relations of languages. having a look even extra again, the predecessor tongue to Germanic languages is called ProtoIndo-European, most likely spoken in and round the Baltic components of Europe a few 5 thousand to 8 thousand years in the past. 2 over the years, tribes and languages all started splitting and increasing in the course of the continent, and the commonality of these dialects is seen in modern day English, German, and Dutch. glance, for instance, at hundred, Hundert and hundrede, or endure, Bär and bjorn. The westbound forefathers of English weren't settling uncharted territory. Even ahead of the Romans got here to Britain—Britannia to them–two thousand years in the past, Celts and different tribes had already settled a lot of the rustic. With the increase of Roman rule, the Celts have been assimilated, subjugated, and driven towards the outer edge. yet what is going round comes round, and through the 5th century, the Roman Empire was once collapsing. the 1st Germanic tribes started arriving at in regards to the time the Romans have been hightailing it out of england. The opportunistic mercenaries crammed an influence vacuum, letting them gain the spoils of the vacated empire and occupy a lot of the island’s leading farmland. three now not that the Celts passively relinquished territory; battles and skirmishes among the Anglo-Saxons and Celts lasted for one more century.

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