Ours Is a Mongrel Language

Mark Twain, America’s foremost humorist, used to rail about grammar and spelling:

…simplified spelling is all right, but, like chastity, you can carry it too far.
– The Alphabet and Simplified Spelling speech, December 9, 1907

Twain argued that American English is a mongrel language: “I don’t see any use in having a uniform and arbitrary way of spelling words. We might as well make all clothes alike and cook all dishes alike. Sameness is tiresome; variety is pleasing. I have a correspondent whose letters are always a refreshment to me, there is such a breezy unfettered originality about his orthography. He always spells Kow with a large K. Now that is just as good as to spell it with a small one. It is better. It gives the imagination a broader field, a wider scope. It suggests to the mind a grand, vague, impressive new kind of a cow.”

Perhaps mongrelism is a prevailing characteristic of our Republic. Just cheque out thems sines abov and belowe.

[Two greats of illustration and cartooning pass: Ronald Searle (1920-2011) and Simms Taback (1932-2011)].

3 thoughts on “Ours Is a Mongrel Language

  1. Claire Bronson

    I write  on walls for a living and I love it when people find my inevitable mis-spellings. It gives me the chance to use my favorite Twain quote: “It’s a small person that can spell a word only one way!”
    Great article, thanks!

  2. The Sediment Blog

    That’s “should”, by the way.

    /* Style Definitions */
    {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”;
    mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt;
    font-family:”Times New Roman”;

    <a href=”http://www.sedimentblog.com”>The Sediment Blog</a>

  3. Mindy A

    Often, people would misspell a word basically because of how it’s pronounced and that confuses them when trying to spell it correctly. I don’t have a problem with that simply because I’m deaf and I memorize what a word shoud look like correctly spelled and I remember how to spell it the way I like to remember by sections. For example, I like to remember how to spell this way by sections: “en-thus-ias-tic” so I will know how to spell it right without depending on the pronouncation. I don’t care about it because I can’t hear! Ha ha…