0

Can it be said that the words which are spelled too weird get gradually eliminated from English or their spelling changes to more phonetic?

For instance I was thinking about the word "through" which is often nowadays written "thru". Similarly, "light" is often written "lite" and "night" is written "nite". Is there such trend in English?

  • 2
    We can say it, but we'd be wrong. I before e, except after c, or when it's weird... – user867 Oct 15 '15 at 23:03
  • 1
    "through" in my experience is more commonly re-written as "thru." I don't think there is any such trend, overall. "Lite" and "nite" are not ordinary spellings; they're mainly used as abbreviations or in brand names. New slang words with odd spellings are constantly being introduced, like "bae" or "doxx." What period of history are you thinking of? Trends in spelling are different at different times. – sumelic Oct 15 '15 at 23:10
  • If you think about it, 'lite' is a weird spelling for a word that is pronounced lyeet. What is that 'e' doing on the end? English spelling is so illogical and non-phonetic that we would lose half of our language [wee wud luuz haaf ov ar langwidg] if we removed words whose spelling was illogical. I would like to see a general adoption of the International Phonetic Alphabet. I don't suppose it will happen though. – chasly from UK Oct 15 '15 at 23:17
  • 1
    In particular, while "thru", "nite", and "lite" are often used, the "correct" words are almost always used in any formal communication, with the shortened versions being reserved for signs, informal communication, etc. I've seen no major change in this trend in the past 50 years. – Hot Licks Oct 16 '15 at 1:31
  • 2
    @Hot Licks "Near the end of 2010, the Associated Press announced that its stylebook, used by many newspaper editors and writers, would now allow for the use of drive-thru instead of drive-through." merriam-webster.com/blog/how-thru-turned-into-through.htm – Anixx Oct 16 '15 at 1:33
2

No. There is no such trend.

To convince yourself, think about the ‘-ight’ examples you give and then go through the alphabet:

bight
fight
light / lite
might
night / nite
right
sight
tight

Only in two out of eight is the non-standard spelling (which has been around for over fifty years) ever encountered. And then there are the -eight words:

eight
height
weight

English spelling is such that there is no simple ‘fix’, and the examples you cite derive from a need to save space, novelty, or the desire to create a ‘brand’ — Beatles and the like.

  • There are also dight and wight but they don't occur very often these days. Oxford even has aight but that's a contraction. – Andrew Leach Sep 24 '17 at 23:29
1

I work as a technical editor, and we always return words like these examples to their standard spellings; these examples, at least, are far more common in retail uses like "drive-thru" and "Lite Ranch salad dressing." I've also seen "thru" on highway signs, where space is at a premium. The only other examples that quickly come to mind are "donut" for "doughnut" (which apparently only caught on with Dunkin' Donuts) and dropping the "u" in words like "honour" and "harbour," a deliberate shift first made in Samuel Johnson's dictionary.

The tendency across the last four centuries or so has been toward standardized spellings (i.e., "orthographie" for "orthography") but not necessarily simpler ones. Efforts to simplify English have met with substantial resistance across the years, and reasonable objections.

To confirm your suggestion, I think I'd need to see a wider range of examples, in more extensive use.

  • 3
    I think that deliberate shift was Noah Webster's. Johnson spelled "honour" with a "u". – deadrat Oct 16 '15 at 2:01
  • @deadrat, I think you're right. I was going off memory and it was the very end of the workday, so I didn't want to stick around to check. – TheFontSnob Oct 18 '15 at 19:57
  • 1
    @TheFontSnob This reminds me of the apocryphal story of the speaker who intoned, "As Daniel Webster defined in his famous dictionary, ...." An audience member interrupted, "That was Noah, not Daniel." And the speaker replied, "Nonsense! Noah built the ark." – deadrat Oct 18 '15 at 20:07
-5

The alternate spelling will be incorporated into the language in many cases, added to dictionary; else we'll have an increasingly divergent lingua franca from the standard forcing the vernacular to choose sides.
In the USA we know from elections and stereotypes that "dumbing down" is quicker and more lasting than efforts to elevate our communication. Intellectual and verbal precision is commonly associated with arrogance. Or it is ignored. People don't want to admit they don't know at the same time they judge others for pretension of intellectual superiority. The result is a lack of actual communication that goes unacknowledged.
Along with this comes class/power division not only linguistically but morally as well. Lawyers and their subsets, politicians and corporate business people, don't lie. Yep, they don't consider broadly proclaiming purposeful misdirection and untruth, blatantly in opposition to facts, as morally wrong; they call it "engaging in puffery" and to be expected and not disregarded, often becoming the topic, replacing the initial argument that was fact based and decisions are made that affect people based on a fictitious hypothetical set of false presumptions, that everyone initially knew were false but that becomes irrelevant. Angels dancing on the head of a pin becoming law, deciding court cases, basically determining who suffers and who prospers, who lives and dies.
          My point being that this linguistic divide is also a moral issue and we ought to acknowledge that more fervently.
Also that instead of worrying about "through" and "thru" (I prefer "throu" because it retains its roots while also being conveniently shorter and having precedence; though since "thru" isn't easily confused with any other word there is no functional answer to why not change it, alas),
perhaps we ought to start at the top rather than the bottom,
abolish "puffery" before worrying about "lite", as one has immense moral and real life consequences while "lite" is just alternate spelling without consequence or benefit other than less letters, easier to spell (and does nothing to distinguish between weight and photons as products use the same spelling for both - if you're gonna mess with the language at least make it useful, please).
 
 high language - vernacular - lingua franca - lingua fraudulentus ("alt-fact")
The language (labeling) of products in our consumer society + cultural disdain for perceived snobbery (likely encouraged by business/political forces (see Rollo May's work about Apathy) to discourage puffery being challenged) + dealing with diverse regional/educational differences = lingua franca (trade language)

Vernacular shares the cultural biases and includes a wider range of situation appropriate (talking to parents, children, bosses, neighbors, church, etc) and allows use of more descriptive and precise terms, adjectives and adverbs (but not too much) and a limited set of emotional connotation (though highly important, often paramount, an increasingly simplified mad-sad-glad-nice emotional range is in use).

Lingua Fraudulentus is what I'm calling the language of lawyers, politicians and corporations, especially when addressing the public. It is highly emotional though simplistic and relies on deceptive postulation of alt-facts (hypothetical misdirection). While this includes what normal people would term lies, it is important to understand that the people that participate in this convince themselves of its validity. By repetition (or psychopathy), they believe their own words and conspire within their own system to validate their peers' stated views, even when arguing against them by not actually challenging the truth of assertions but just the conclusions drawn from those hypothetical (false) facts. Religious groups have done this for as long as we have knowledge and usually the powerful (aggregators of wealth and control) used them to introduce and enforce "alternative" beliefs (only introducing military/police force when absolutely necessary).
But that has changed and business/politics have taken this as their own, introducing non-factual beliefs directly and using punitive/reward economics and legislation to enforce their adoption.
  The real-world indicator of this is the largest number & percentage of imprisoned citizens to ever exist. I conclude this to be the vast disconnect between language (as moral/cultural belief) and reality. As the class/comfort divide widens based on fictitious construction, actual live humans knowingly or unknowingly rebel.

It is the pull of the lingua fraudulentus that pulls the vernacular further away from accurate "high language" in a more fundamental way than spelling controversy. While "lite" can be annoying, it doesn't change the meaning until marketing introduces it as something that is going to make someone less obese because the product contains less fat allthewhile knowing that fat doesn't make fat, sugar does and the sugar has often been increased (while expensive ingredients containing useful fat have been reduced). It's the fraudulent marketing that creates a public belief that continues despite the contrary factual evidence (people believe the word "lite" means low-fat meaning it will make them be less fat, which is wrong).

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.