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Mr. Henry Holt furnished, as those who are readers of the Independent will recollect, an ingenious article to the effect that the annual loss attendant on the perplexed spelling of English approaches $100,000,000. If this sum could be picked up by any definite number of people, at any one time and place, in any current form, it would certainly create a scramble. But if we are to hunt for it, as for a gas that has escaped into the air, hardly aware of its presence when we have found it, the case is less pressing.

It seems to be a mistake to look upon life as having certain labors to be performed in an exact and mechanical way, and have done with them. It rather falls to each of us to fuss with our undertakings and fool with them till we are weary and then pass on and leave them to the next comer. The losses by ignorance, the losses by accident, the losses by negligence, are enormous, a much larger percentage of waste than can even be thought of in connection with bad spelling. We can hardly get a machine in good running order before it is superannuated; our big warships go to the bottom without firing a gun; our cities are pulled down and rebuilt long before the utility of previous toil is exhausted. Indeed, the more thrifty any man or community is, the more rapidly does the process of destruction proceed.

Printing, throughout, is one of the most wasteful of our activities. It would seem as if a large half of what we print was destined chiefly to consume material and time. Even the use of a grand library is largely ideal, only reached at long intervals. A great daily of twenty to forty pages reaches many eyes. Not one word in five hundred is of any interest to those who see it; nor does one word in a hundred subserve any definite use for those who read it.

Nor would the simpler spelling be all economy. We should be compelled to fling aside a lot of superfluous knowledge, very considerably increase our alphabet and acquire new skill in its use. If we are to have a single character for every single sound, we must familiarize ourselves with the tick of this new telegraphic message. Nor are we at all sure that our loose, frayed-out methods of thinking would take kindly to this exact

reproduction of the symbols of thought. We should doubtless find new ways of a mismatch, or, in lieu of it, become as stiff and mechanical as the instrument we were employing.

As things now are, it is hardly possible to bring our language up to the precision required of it. There is so much that is loose in speech that its reproduction in print must be somewhat careless. Our vowel sounds in unaccented syllables are indistinct in enunciation, and a half-dozen of them stand ready to do the same duty. The poor speller cannot tell, on any given occasion, which to call in. When the kindly teacher pronounces the word, syllable by syllable, making every part of it accented, the pupil may find his way through it, but the moment the word slides into its proper utterance, his knowledge disappears. Our speech is incapable of exact reproduction, it is not exact in its living form on our lips. Its slurred portions we may fill in as we choose. Such terminals as or and er, ance and ence, ible and able, play hide and seek with each other because they are on masquerade with no distinguishable difference of service.

Much the same may be said of double letters. Rarely does the pronunciation lead us to the correct result. Either form satisfies the ear. It is easy words that cost the poor speller the most worry. The vowels are all at loose ends, and a single 1 carries him as far as a double one. The discipline of learning to spell is not all lost. The ear and especially the eye are made more attentive, and one's intellectual feet are placed somewhat more squarely and firmly in the realm of language. It is in phonetic spelling itself that different persons, like poor skaters, slip about haphazard. When we can see thorough spelt thuro and not feel that we have driven over a stone, we are in a frame of mind suitable for reformed spelling. The instinct of surefootedness in the world of sounds is no more a thing to be learned than is the instinct of direction in a forest or a city. In both cases we approach an important primitive frame of mind.

We have reached the question we first propounded, is language a living thing? Or is it a mechanical thing which can be shaped and reshaped till it renders the same adequate service to all comers? That it can be somewhat helped by skillful criticism we make no doubt, but this is not the whole story. It holds in reserve its own secrets, which we simply explore. Language is not a living thing as a plant or an animal is a living thing, but a living thing as a branch or a brain; the product of organic activity elsewhere exercised, or the result of mental processes which have been pursued with no immediate intention of affecting structure. Language is the product of personal and national life, and takes on fullness and form pro

portioned to the service required of it. Language is not first shaped and then made the instrument of thought. Expression arises in and through language, and the two come into being together. The Greeks made the Greek language, and the language in turn made the Greeks. We do not suppose that the irregular forms of nouns and verbs were so many defects in the machine, but more often so many achievements, so many shorter routes by which the mind reached its goal. If we wish to make the brain more facile in any direction, we can do it only by repeated effort in the line required. No organic process submits itself absolutely to a mechanical use. The mechanic handles his tools, the writer his pen, the painter his brush with a knack of execution wholly his own. He rejects any rule which embarrasses his own instinctive effort.

The higher we go the more guidance do we find in the organic tendency. Spelling is more mechanical than pronunciation; pronunciation is at once suffused with inner light and color. We can no more frame advantageously a spelling which is henceforward to control pronunciation than we can frame a delivery which shall suffice to express the temper, the moral temperature, of the human soul. The rules of grammar must rest a little loosely on the mind, or we become mere grammarians, missing the idioms which help thought into liberty. Few languages show as much mechanical ingenuity of construction as the Chinese; it is not, therefore, an example of facile speech. Inheritance, organic force, instinct, insight, are all present in national life and in national language.

If we attempt extendedly to put language to rights under rules of construction we shall neither be able to win higher ground nor to hold the ground that we seem to have gained. If we have not succeeded in exterminating the growing tendency we shall at once begin to be embarrassed by it. Pronunciation is constantly undergoing slight changes. Reformed spelling would be in constant throes of effort to hold back these changing inflections. The word economic has, within a few years, been passing from economic to economic. This movement involves a change of vowel sounds which would need to be registered in a change of letters. It is not consonant with the history of living speech to suppose it capable of lying on the tongues of living men as so many well formed vocal pebbles, neither to be lost or worn or reshaped in daily use-use that is as careless, heedless and skillful as is the equilibrist with his balls.

Language must grow in form and volume. A portion of this growth is sure to come from other languages, languages not altogether in harmony with the receiving speech. Must these foreign words be subjected to violent pressure in reforma

tion, or are they to find their way in with a strange garb, now made doubly conspicuous and painful by our enforced uniformity?

What would become of proper names under this reconstruction of English; our own proper names and other names born and shaped anywhere on the earth's surface in grotesque ways? Many good citizens love to give a little spicy novelty to their own names, and Seely becomes Seelye, and Smith, Smythe. A man is entitled to his own fancies. I should have been better pleased if my ancestors had left me those lost letters "be" in Bascombe.

Our own names would be of small moment compared with those personal and geographical designations by which we get at the world's history. How long do we struggle with them till we reach a word which makes itself at home in all our minds, and loops up the tracery of events. Are we to have a committee to pick and shorten and shape words till they are English and nothing else? Or are we to let these words stand, like table rocks on a plain, the only remainder and reminder of a time gone by when things had not yet been fretted and flooded into smoothness? One may not often be conservative, and yet think it wise to go but slowly when we are throwing the very symbols of knowledge into pie.

One in the presence of a great speech feels like a gardener, watching an unusual shrub as by leaf and curve and twist it takes on its own idioms. A penknife is enough with which to correct its errors. I speak with more earnestness, and possibly with less wisdom, because I belong to that awkward squad which cannot, in six easy lessons, puncture even the rind of any human speech, much less suck dry its juices.

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