There is no I in Piano

There is music at the bottom. If you are less into my thoughts and more into my music, just scroll down. 

 

Okay, people are telling me all the time that "there is no I in team." TRUE. This is true. But in Bosnian, the word for team is apparently "tim". What! Together Everyone Achieves More, I thought...? Like remove the Everyone and their Achievements and just replace them with I. Those Bosnians. 

 

Anyway, I always thought that was such a lame thing to say. As if the potpourri that is the English language held some deep significances in the way words have come to be spelled.  

 

It leads me to something I've been trying to convince my mom of for years: spelling is to be discarded as quickly and ferociously as possible. Spelling is a surprisingly controversial subject, especially between generations. I would submit that Context makes Spelling superfluous. Of all the fluous things in the world, Spelling may be the superest. Let me explain. 

 

  1. Our alphabet is largely phonetic. There are some letters that make the same general sound as other letters-- more superfluity-- and there are some letters that change their sound based on context. This latter fact is the dull side of the alphabetic sword and my heart metaphorically weeps upon the its mention. We will return to this point if space permits. (Generally speaking, Space doesn't seem to consciously permit or deny anything in my life. Also, Space is only 62 miles away from the earth's surface. What! Space is less than half the distance from my house to the beach. Atmospheres are so passé. Horizontal travel is a thing of the past. Like spelling.)
  2. The purpose of writing is to communicate thought. Communication in general exists to somehow bridge the gap between brains. Whether we draw a picture or make sounds with our mouths or play an instrument or write a word, the end goal has always been to cause the receiving party to think or feel something specific. When I say zebra, you think of a zebra, or something zebra-esque. Hopefully. (If not, seek help.) If I desire to make you think of a zebra, whatever I do/say/play/write that makes you think of a zebra should be considered a successful communication.
  3. Theoretically, then, any word that lends itself to the desired comprehension ought to be acceptable, regardless of spelling. That is, if I spell zebra more phonetically, "zeebra," and you are able to arrive at the idea of the animal with black and white stripes, my communication should be deemed successful. 

 

Possible objections... what about words that sound the same? Wouldn't they be phonetically ambiguous? (Hear and here have two different meanings, and if everything is spelled according to each man's phonetic whim, they would be indistinguishable! Heer and heer probably.) And to this I would point you back to the decrepit language system you already have in place -- we already deftly sidestep this objection when we deal with words that are spelled the same but that have different meanings. (For instance, a tree's bark and a dog's bark.) We let the context kill the ambiguity. (Additionally, if we completely sealed off this objection with a new system of writing, we would effectively be removing a goldmine of potential humor from the world.)

 

Today's system is so largely focused on uniformity. Everyone must spell everything the same. All instances of the idea of a black and white striped quadruped must be communicated using the same five letters. I ask you this: why must we place an almost moral weight on the spelling of words? Where this word is spelled correctly, this word incorrectly; this person is a "bad" speller, this person is a "good" speller.  Why? Why is John Doe a bad speller? Because he has not perfectly memorized the man-made list, "Correct Spellings for the 1,000,000+ Words in the English Language". John Doe is looked down upon for his poor spelling, and probably has trouble reading too. Why? Because everyone writing books is stuck using the LIST. And the LIST says that the idea of the person who lives next door is spelled "neighbor" and John Doe reads it nee-ig-h-bor. Can John Doe speak clearly? Of course! Can he think clearly, cogently? Yes! Can he clearly express those thoughts with written words? Yes, of course he can. And you would understand him, if only you discarded the institutionalized judgement of his spelling and instead adopted the perspective that an intelligent man with intelligent thoughts is simply communicating. 

 

There is only one benefit of the memorized wordlist that I can think of: speed. The mind memorizes the word as a whole, so that over time it doesn't need to actually read the word to comprehend the concept, but simply look at it. That's pretty cool. I would propose that a similar system could evolve after switching to a completely phonetic system... in fact, most words would be spelled the same phonetically by the vast majority of the population anyway, thus giving speed readers a potential advantage. More importantly, it should be noted that the purpose of language in general, and writing in particular, is not to communicate thoughts quickly, but to communicate them clearly. Thus, a system of writing ought not be catered primarily to speed readers. 

 

Another benefit of breaking the uniformity of spelling is that we are brought even closer to the author, even deeper inside the author's mind. Since the author is spelling as they see fit, the accent of their thoughts is brought out in the written text-- something today's system completely silences! You, reading this post right now, (wow, thank you by the way. this isn't even a serious post.) can't know for sure with which accent I intend these words to be vocalized. You'll most likely just read it in your own voice. This post straddles the line between boring and irrelevant if not read in the breathless desperation that I assume when drinking caffeine!! 

 

To summarize: 

  1. In the English language, words are the vessels for meanings.
  2. Words are not the vessels for letters. 
  3. Letters are the vessels for sounds.
  4. Thoughts are not spelled a certain way.
  5. Language is a system to express ideas, to express thoughts, to bridge people's minds.
  6. An emphasis on maintaining uniform spellings for words requires people to memorize and utilize a long list that serves no benefit outside of reading quicker.
  7. An emphasis on maintaining uniform spellings for words introduces an arbitrary value system to judge a person's intelligence, while this ought to be judged by the thoughts communicated through their speech and/or writing. 
  8. To disdain a person on the basis of their spelling is the written equivalent to disdaining a person on the basis of their accent. 

Please rebut me. I feel I might be missing something that everyone else knows about that would somehow legitimize spelling. 

Here is a tune to reward you for getting to bottom of this Wednesday post. (click here if you can't see it)

Peeano <- no I.