Fun video on why English spelling is so weird

Stan Dubinsky, the linguistics prof at USC, brought this to my attention.

7 thoughts on “Fun video on why English spelling is so weird

    1. Norm Ivey

      Richard Lederer did a few paragraphs on different ways of spelling fish in English in his book “Crazy English.” One of my favorites: ughyce


  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I love English, with all its complexity. But it’s nice to be able to take a vacation from it, which is why I also love Spanish, a language that makes more sense than any other I’ve encountered. Or rather, any other that I’ve encountered and understood well enough to see how sensible it is…

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      My recent travels underlined the impression that I already had about the ubiquity of English. Not only could we usually find someone who understood us wherever we went, but it was the language that people who spoke primarily a third or fourth language used to communicate — say, a French person speaking to a Dutch person.

      Which makes me feel kind of bad for all those folks from other cultures having to tangle with the weirdness of English. I think things would be easier for them if, say, Spanish were the lingua franca…

      1. Kathryn Fenner

        Actually, English is quite easy for so many native speakers of other languages to communicate in. It doesn’t have genders, except where there are actual sexes involved; it has a variety of possible cognates for most Indo-european languages to choose from; it has a simple grammar and syntax. There is a large quantity of entertainment in English, which provides a painless opportunity to practice and expand one’s knowledge.
        Sure, spelling is weird, but for speaking, no problem, and even misspellings are generally easy to comprehend.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          Yes, the lack of genders is an advantage. So is the (relative) lack of dependence on inflection… or on intonation.

          One of many memorable moments of my recent trip — the two-hour open-air bus ride from Ayutthaya and Kanchanaburi seated next to a Cockney-accented Englishman who was something of an old Thailand hand, lecturing me on the minefield that Thai presented to the unsuspecting. I can’t really repeat some of his examples on a family blog, but basically you can be trying to say something entirely innocent and say something quite obscene, if you don’t draw out the vowels in precisely the right way…

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