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From:  Bill Reese
Date:  Thu Jun 29, 2000  3:16 am
Subject:  Re: standardized spellings

"Angus B. Grieve-Smith" wrote:

> Oh, I didn't tell people exactly what to do. :-) I told them
> what kinds of things would make the computer do what they wanted, which is
> very different. Society is much more complicated than a computer.

I'm tending to wonder about that. Every time I look at a computer it thumbs
it's floppy at me.

> I disagree that it happens in an efficient manner to begin with,
> and that any efficiency that might be there has much to do with
> standardization. And you don't have to misspell to throw someone off.

I'm always looking for the "right" way to say something - for the most
succinct. While I enjoy using words in imaginative ways, I also enjoy
brevity. As a civil design engineer responsible for construction plans, I
have a responsibility to get across everything in a set of plans as briefly
and accurate as possible. Word mispellings are seen as giving the impression
of a lack of knowledge - which you don't want in engineering. I have, at
times, had to revise wording to accomodate court rulings where it was argued
that telling the contractor "to" do something is different than saying he
"shall" or "will." On the other hand, I could sew my daughter's phone to her
ear and she'd be happy. What can a teenage girl possibly be talking about
that long? Somehow I don't think it has anything to do with efficiency ...
(notice the three dots ... the ellipsis? ... properly spaced ... ) :-)

> We have British and American versions of English spellings, but we
> don't have New England versions (pahk the cah), Western Pennsylvania
> versions (warsh), etc. That's because only two groups, one English and
> one American, had enough power to establish their own standards.

"Warsh" is Ohioan, too. I used to "warsh" things until people told me it
sounded funny.

> I'm all for ASL dictionaries, as long as people don't point to a
> dictionary and tell a native signer that their sign is "wrong."
> Dictionaries can be a tremendous help to learners, but when they start
> being arbiters of language that's where I get off.

I don't think learners are the only people that use dictionaries. Unless you
count us all as learners all the time. Which we possibly are. I'm constantly
using dictionaries. I did to look up "succinct" in this email - to make sure
I have the "exact" use of the word. That's important to me. I don't take
words lightly. I want them to express exactly the ideas I'm communicating.

When I'm using sign I also want to use it in the same manner. However, and
this has enlightened my viewpoint a bit, I've noticed that the group I sign
within oftentimes will know a sign to mean a certain concept but only within
the group. Someone may have misunderstood the sign they were taught and, in
turn, carried that missunderstanding over to the group. Suddenly we all find
that the sign is "not quite right", despite having used it and understood it
within the group. Lesson learned? That within a certain associative group,
communication may evolve different than the more inclusive group. However,
standardization of spelling and concepts in sign allow us to transcend the
group and that's where I see standardization having a definitive plus.

I believe a language evolves through a different mechanism than
standardization. People like change, to try things new. It's that constant
search for uniqueness that allows us to change our language - to introduce new
or foreign words - in such a manner as to set aside a word or concept that was
previously used for the concept or idea. In this way, we are not doing away
with the standard for the word put aside, we are merely replacing it and
establishing a standard for the new word.

What would happen if some of us started spelling "groovy" as "gruvy." Er ...
bad example? :-)

Bill Reese

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