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102-year-old man creatively critiques English spelling

Jan 17, 2012 By Abraham

Usually, complaints about the inconsistencies of English spelling are cliche and uncreative. But this friendly rant from a very old man is pretty crafty (especially at the end)…


  1. PhilA says:

    I love the way it’s an American commenting on the English language, considering how much they’ve butchered it :-P

    1. Igor Terrible says:

      Far from butchering English, Americans have homogenized it and made it more accessible. The range of incomprehensible accents is much higher in UK. If you want to hear English being butchered come to France. Though, I agree that sometimes US goes too far at times, practically ignoring the rules of grammar but that is the nature of a living and developing language, in the future the UK will eventually adopt the Euro and spell programme as program….but we will not give up Shakespeare for Eminem so easily..haha!

    2. Invidia says:

      Your statement is ironic.

      A) America promoted standardized spelling first. Waaaay first, before there was any other standard to ‘butcher’. The rest of the English-speaking world uses British spelling because a certain empire owned their sorry asses until quite recently, not because it was somehow the original.

      B) If anything, American English is closer to the traditional form, since backwater colonies didn’t adopt every snazzy new trend from Europe.

      and most importantly:

      C) Both spellings were clearly invented by lunatics.

      1. Mu_Lton says:

        you’re not wrong, but in my opinion you’re overseeing the inhomogeneity of the population in the US at the time. ‘pure’ english was bound to undergo alterations and assimilate elements from other languages, such as dutch or german. Also, the originality factor comes hand in hand with the provenance of the language, so there you go!

  2. Roek says:

    Most of the American “butchering” of the English language just made it more concise and… well… better. I mean, who really wants to put so many m’s on program? And don’t even get me started on the unnecessary e at the end. But then, American English has its faults, its MANY faults… Gonna comes to mind. But whatever. It’s not like it really matters. There just seems to be a lot of animosity surrounding the subject for some reason.

    1. Paperchaser says:

      The Portuguese have the same attitude to Brazilian Portuguese. It’s probably inevitable when a former colony becomes culturally dominant over the “mother” country to the degree where their “version” of the language also becomes dominant.

    2. logical says:

      Program and programme are two different things. Program is british english as is programme but they mean completely different things, hence the different spelling.

    3. Inquirer says:

      xD Just to add here, the -me added to English words like “programme” are a later innovation than even the English standardization of English spelling vs. American spelling, and it was the American Webster who was working to foot the spelling in a sane way on its roots, e.g. wi[m]man instead of woman. There’s a reason the OED typically likes to point-out that English English in writing is…they try desperately to avoid using “wrong”.

  3. i can read hangeul says:

    The idea is that it’s hard to learn so that every Tom, Dick and Harry CAN’T learn to read, write and speak it.

    English is the language of imperialism!

  4. Stevo says:

    To be fair, the American versions are dumbed down to make it easier for them ;-)

    The words ‘Program’ and ‘Programme’ are two different words in the UK. One is computer related the other is for all other uses.

    1. Paul says:

      “The American versions are dumbed down to make it easier for Americans.” Pronouns refer to antecedents. Please don’t make errors when calling other cultures inferior.

      1. logical says:

        Doesn’t change the fact that american English was simplified for a largely immigrant nation who didn’t have English as their first language.

        Hence why everything which american has changed (e.g color) is written in the way that it would be if a spanish/romance language speaker were spelling it.

  5. Igor Terrible says:

    If wi start spelin werds az wi spik dem, datz gonna corz meni problems, ai ken ashor u…the explanation is simple, there aren’t enough letters and combinations to accurately produce all the sounds of English- a phonetic (written as spoken)language such as Spanish only has 5 vowel sounds, English has 20 (including the so called diphthongs which aren’t really. Some spellings are used to distinguish similar pronunciations- sum vs. some, to/too/two, wait/weight, and vice verse- row vs. row…there are always fairly good reasons why a language has anomalies- many French letters aren’t even pronounced but if we go too far with the logical spellings we’ll end up speaking some weird American Globish, the French would love that!

    1. Tom says:

      “corz” Really?

      You could always go down the route that Scandinavian languages chose, and create new letters (or adapt existing symbols) to represent more sounds. Heck, borrow ÆØÅ if you want to. Æppel. Gørl. Låo. (Apple, Girl, Low)

      Fee free to redefine the sounds associated with C and X, they’re fairly useless anyway. (C is either K or S, and X is a konsonant cluster)

  6. Alex says:

    I love Paul’s comment.

    I’m also super pleased no one has pointed out the 102 year old man spelled out cum….
    There we go, this is why I’m not allowed good things <>.

    1. Pamala says:

      But Alex.. He said it with a straight face! While a lot of people I know would be snickering before the video was finished!
      So let all the good things come to you!

  7. Pamala says:

    Fantastic! I’ve been all over the U.K. And I think I’ve met every accent you did! You brought a smile to my face hearing them! I’m from the states. Georgia to be specific. Even when I was i New York I know I heard that accent too. Just one thing.. just as it is in Britian, it’s the same here. We southeners don’t all sound alike! Some of us have a soft lilt to our accent. While others are harsh. Then there are those that “chew” their words! However you were spot on with your imitation of a southern good-ole-boy!
    I enjoyed this so much I’m going to share it with my girlfriends in Scotland. Which one of them is from York! She calls herself a hybrid!
    I also picked up on the Glaswegian.
    Well done.

    1. Pamala says:

      oops, sorry y’all! I left this comment on the wrong video.
      I did enjoy this gentlemans view on our butchered language. I can’t help but wonder, why videos like this never make it to the main stream media? I guess I really do know the answer, but it seems i don’t want to believe it.
      This is a good video. Its not tasteless, or violent, or offensive. (sans one word toward the end).
      I suppose I’ll just keep talking and spelling the same way as this gentleman. I just love it when I can understand someone the first time!

  8. Pamala says:

    sheesh, it seems I don’t know what I’m doing. I can’t figure out how to delete my original comment from the 102 yr old mans video.
    I am happy to see that my comment did appear under the right one!
    sry for the mix up.

    1. Adam says:

      The whole time I was thinking Gallagher. Reading through the comments I though no one knows where he stole this from.. but he did. You think he would have hidden it better even using the same prop. I even remember the skit.. why do we call them buildings when they are already built. Shouldn’t they just be builts? Why do we drive on the parkway and park in the drive way? America you gotta come up with some style.

  9. Bwah says:

    I lost it when he said cum.

    Seriously though he must have been a school teacher at some point in his 100+ years of life. This was a great demonstration and entertaining to boot.

  10. Eric says:

    Read “The Mother Tongue: English and How it Got That Way” by Bill Bryson. It explores why our language is so crazy. To sum it up: It’s based on many different languages: Greek, Spanish, Latin, German, and even English!
    So the idea that American English is “dumbed down” is ignorant.

  11. dowdicus says:

    This is a gallagher bit, and so, while it was craft when Gallagher did it in the 70s, it certainly can’t be said to not be creative or cliche.

  12. Fran Thwaites says:

    PLEASE! There is no such word as ” pronounciation” . Nor is H pronounced Haitch! Must we have ignorant people telling us the PronUNciation of words, or letters? It’s ” aitch” , not ” haitch”!!!! Please learn English before you teach it.

    1. Tom says:

      I’m just a dumb ol’ Scandinavian, but isn’t it pretty stupid to not have the sound of a letter in that letter’s name?

      Or should be just call letter completely random things now?

      If so, I vote we pronounce ‘B’ as “Erl”.

      1. meh says:

        I can think of a couple other examples where the “sound of the letter” wouldn’t be in the spelling (or “name”) of the letter. Q = kyou (no “kw” sound), W = dubbleyou (no “w” sound). So no, I don’t think it’s pretty stupid as you suggested.

  13. Mike says:

    Saying “Aitch” is just being lazy. In England, where we speak ‘English English’, we pronounce the H.

    You probably think “Herb” sounds like ” ‘erb”.

  14. Bill says:

    The main problem that I have with the American way of spelling is that it doesn’t really fix anything. For example, making -ise/-ize always be -ize is pointless if you’re not going to change “rise”, “despise”, “surprise”, “franchise”, and so on. Words like “paradise” (“paradice” would make more sense), “chase” (“chace” would make more sense) and “premise” (pointless final letter) would have been better candidates for spelling reform, and then there are words like “expertise”.

    P.S. It is foolish to criticise Americans for using “ain’t” and “gonna” when both words originated in England. In some parts of England these words are the norm, and, in places like the West of England (Somerset, Wiltshire, Dorset, etc.), where poor people are leaving the area because many wealthy people have moved there and the cost of living has skyrocketed, such words are increasingly becoming culturally important.

    P.P.S. Saying “aitch” is not lazy. “Haitch” is correct in Scotland and Ireland, but, generally, “aitch” is the correct word. Not that it particularly matters.

  15. Deep Thinker says:

    Proper language is strict with grammar, spelling and pronunciation
    Colloquial is much looser with grammar spelling and pronunciation.

    The use of Colloquial vs Proper only reflects social status or access to education and the consequent use and reuse environment of either. Those who spend more time on the streets or “blue collar” environments than in academia or business and government environments are likely to be colloquial more often than proper.

    Those who value you precision in communication are more likely to value Proper language.

  16. Sanja says:

    I am here to pay my Respect to You, Sir ! from a place faaar away from your continent, i must say you give me hope that america and americans are yet not to be considered as…lost :) as a linguist and a person who has since ever been in contact with “the word” and many different languages, i must say that your way of getting the message through is amazing ! i hope that you will make many more just like this one…you surely have creativeness in you and i admire that, Sir !

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