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DEAR READER: SaypYu hopes to help the world's population with understanding each other

Sunday, September 15, 2013 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:53 p.m. CDT, Monday, September 16, 2013

*Tyree Byndom is the winner of the August contest. An earlier version of this column misspelled his last name.

COLUMBIA — The frustration level caused by the English language's confusion of spellings, definitions and nuances has reached a fever pitch for some folks. To end the perceived madness, they have launched SaypYu — the Spell as You Pronounce Universal project

As described in a recent email, the group says this collaborative projects aims to build "a list of words from all languages spelling phonetically using a 24-letter alphabet." It drops out the letters C, Q and X because these can be replaced by K and/or S, and it adds the letter schwa — a backward E. That alone could sink the group's effort because there's not an available backward E on keyboards, though, it offers the solution of using an asterisk instead. 

I could certainly endorse any idea that makes languages more understandable and universal. Wouldn't it be wonderful to spell "laugh" as "laf" and to simplify all those other confusions of spelling? But I'm not convinced that SaypYu makes that happen. The project proposes spelling "bough," "cough," "though" and "through" as "baw," "kof," "dhow" and "thruu." Coupled with the clunking asterisk solution, I don't see much of an improvement here over the confusion of English.

It is, however, a crowd-sourcing project, which means anyone can join in — post suggested changes, alternate spellings and pronunciation guides. Since a form of crowd-sourcing was the basis for the "Oxford English Dictionary," maybe this project will come to fruition, too. (Read "The Meaning of Everything" and "The Professor and the Madman," both by Simon Winchester, to learn more about the creation of the OED.)

Text messages with their own spelling shortcuts and the burgeoning of international communications in a growing number of languages could both push this latest attempt at spelling reform take hold, writes Jeff Nilsson, website editor of the Saturday Evening Post.

Successful or not, the group has an admirable goal. On its website, it says: "We hope that this will lead to a better understanding between people who speak different languages and to more openness to other cultures. This might help making our cosmopolitan world a more peaceful and harmonious place."


During August there were nine participants in the Show Me the Errors contest. They submitted 15 suggested corrections, and Tyree Byndom* is the winner of the drawing for August. He will receive a Missourian T-shirt and a copy of "The Professor and The Madman" by Simon Winchester.

Maggie Walter is an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism and an interactive news editor at ColumbiaMissourian.com. In case you're looking for a reason to celebrate this month, check out the 2013 Bizarre and Unique Holiday listings. For example, it's International Square Dancing Month, National Blueberry Popsicle Month and Better Breakfast Month. Also listed are daily holidays, special and wacky days. Today is Felt Hat Day — the day men traditionally put away their felt hats; Monday is National Play Doh Day and Sept. 21 is both International Peace Day and Elephant Appreciation Day.


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