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SPELL IT OUT: The Curious, Enthralling and Extraordinary
Bibliophile price: £5.00
Who needs to be able to spell in these days of online spellchecks and predictive spelling? The problem is, as most of us have found to our cost, that the computer gets it wrong, and in fact spelling has never been more important: the consequences of misspelling an email address is an inbox blocked with "undeliverable" notices. English is a language notoriously rife with inconsistencies: think of the suffix "ough" and the ways it is pronounced in the words cough, hiccough (hiccup), though and through. The reason for the diversity is that English is a hybrid language which has sustained input from numerous sources over time, and the author approaches our national peculiarities chronologically. As Anglo Saxon moved into Middle English the final "e" on many words (as in "olde shoppe") was no longer pronounced, and instead it was used to lengthen the previous vowel, as in "hop" and "hope". Among the many orthographers trying to standardise the language was the monk Orrm and the 14th century poet Geoffrey Chaucer. With the invention of printing William Caxton introduced spelling that we can easily recognise today, and in the 18th century Samuel Johnson completed the standardisation with his creation of the Dictionary as a point of reference. By this time accurate English was a sign of status and the playwright Sheridan mocked the mistakes of his character Mrs Malaprop: "she's an intricate (insolent) little hussy". In the 20th century the internet has introduced many American usages and spellings, and using the historical approach the author suggests ways forward through the orthographical jungle. 328pp.

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