According to Yahoo News, a group of four people protested a spelling bee in Washington DC. The cause for the dissatisfaction? The complication of the English language:
Roberta Mahoney, 81, a former Fairfax County, Va. elementary school principal, said the current language obstructs 40 percent of the population from learning how to read, write and spell.
“Our alphabet has 425-plus ways of putting words together in illogical ways,” Mahoney said.
The protesting cohort distributed pins to willing passers-by with their logo, “Enuf is enuf. Enough is too much.”
According to literature distributed by the group, it makes more sense for “fruit” to be spelled as “froot,” “slow” should be “slo,” and “heifer” — a word spelled correctly during the first oral round of the bee Thursday by Texas competitor Ramesh Ghanta — should be “hefer.”
Logically speaking, these protesters have a point. The English language is indeed needlessly complex. The extent to which it hampers people from learning the language is something that I can only guess at…however, through the benefit of hindsight (or hindsite?), they can plan out how to optimally structure language. The problem is, language (verbal and written) is something that evolves in real time…and it’s almost impossible to control.
The problem that I have with the protester’s intent is that the English language is very robust because of it’s lack of planning, and inefficiency. The English language includes a lot of words, and a lot of ways to structure words that allow new concepts to have interesting (to say the least) naming conventions. This is a feature of evolution, and a feature that you would be hard-pressed to find in real-time planning.
The complexity of the English language is what makes the network resilient. Which is why I was happy to continue reading the article to find this paragraph:
Meanwhile, inside the hotel’s Independence Ballroom, 273 spellers celebrated the complexity of the language in all its glory, correctly spelling words like zaibatsu, vibrissae and biauriculate.
Cheers to you, novel spellers!
P.S. Matt Yglesias offers a different (decidedly pro) perspective.