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A Magazine of Literature and Life
Once in so often the advocates of "fonetik refawrm" relieve the loneliness of their isolation by emitting a fresh "appeal" or "exortation" to the world at large, which has quite forgotten their existence. The latest one of these sporadic spasms occurred in a recent number of the Independent. That periodical begs every one to join it in adopting twelve barbaric bits of cacography, identical, we believe, with the list which was approved more than a decade since by the American Philological Society and about five years ago by the National Educational Association. Among the twelve forms which the Independent urges every one to adopt are prolog, thoro, thorofare, thru, and tho; and the rest are like unto them. Of course the approval of the Philological Society and of the Educational Association has had no influence with any one. Nobody would take to wearing nose-rings or to shaving one side of the head, just because a small body of earnest persons recommended it; and with equally good taste and judgment the public has eschewed fantastic freaks of spelling. Even the Independent admits that it has "stood almost alone" in its adoption of the grotesque. And naturally. For who cares how many minutes a day he loses by spelling decently, rather than like a vulgarian? We are all willing to give these minutes freely, for there are a good many things more valuable than time.
Johnson, in a letter published in the Sun,
On this head, however, Mr. Rossiter
A mathematician among the reformers has made nice measurements of the comparative widths of the letters and counted the frequency of their occurrence, and thence computed the space that would be saved in books if the letters that he considers useless were omitted. He thus displays an amusing ignorance of typography. Assuming the accuracy of his computation, if the type of a book were set up in one long line that line would be shortened as he suggests. But books are broken into pages, and the pages into paragraphs, and the paragraphs are made up of When comparatively short lines. positor has set a line of type, if the last word does not quite fill the line he puts more space between the words, or if the last word is a little too much he diminishes the space between the words and thus gets it in. Contemplation of this fact for ten seconds will convince any one that the proposed "reform" would not diminish by a single page the bulk of any book.
Mr. Johnson also narrates what he rightly styles "an interesting reminiscence," which sheds a good deal of light upon the ingenuous ways and scientific sincerity of the cacographic cranks. We quote the paragraph in full, because the
story is so very characteristic of a certain type of reformer:
About three years ago, I think, I received an invitation to attend a meeting of "spelling reformers" in this city, with a request that if I could not be present I would send a letter expressing my views. I sent such a letter, setting forth views widely different from those of the "reformers," and the secretary received it. But when he went to the meeting
he remembered to take all the other letters he had received, and singularly forgot to take that one. He told the assembled reformers he had received such a letter from me, but had left it at home. As there are no messenger boys in New York, of course he could not send for it, and none of the reformers offered to go and get it. So the letters that told them what they already believed were read to them, and the one letter that would have told them something else was not read. Common sense and common honesty would suggest that as my letter had been invited, and its absence was due to the fault of the secretary, it should have been included in the published proceedings. But it was not. Would it be ungenerous in me to harbour a suspicion that the "spelling reformers" do not wish to listen to anything on the other side
of the question? *
The Independent has been canvassing its readers and other persons with a view to getting them to take a sort of pledge to use the twelve queer spellings on its list. It says hopefully that of the persons approached, four out of five have promised to use these twelve spellings "in This their private correspondence." seems to us a most reprehensible restriction. They are unwilling to offend the public at large by the eccentricity of their spelling, but they have no scruples whatever against outraging their intimate and valued friends. By the way, the Independent mentions as usual the names of those persons who years ago gave their approval to the original list of the Twelve Words. Among them is that amiable. linguistic anarchist, Professor Thomas R. Lounsbury. Now we should like to ask the Professor just one simple question. For the past three or four years, he and his faithful Achates, Professor Brander Matthews, have been labouring to prove that in language there is no such thing
as authority in language, save only usage. Usage is King, and to usage must every appeal be taken. Very well, then. Usage has established a definite system of spelling English words. Why not follow usage, stop kicking forever against the pricks, and recognise the fact that nobody cares a hoot for the Twelve Spellings, or for mathematical demonstrations over a question of pure taste?
We don't know why it should be so, but there certainly is a concerted effort to bring in new endings in the case of two or three ordinary English words. The most curious example is found in the words "offspring" and "craft," of which hitherto there has been only one form for singular and plural alike. But now we find both in books and newspapers mention of "offsprings," and (as yet only in newspapers) descriptions of "the harbour crowded with gaily decorated crafts (!)," and so on. Of course this sort of thing takes its rise in ignorance; but if not stopped it will create confusion in the mind of the average person, and in the end lead to further barbarisms. Per
haps after a while we shall hear not merely of "offsprings" and "crafts," but less esteemed Sun of this city has officially of "sheeps" and "shads." The more or decided to spell "kidnapped" and "kidnapping" with one p. Such, we observe, has been its rule for months. We cannot ascribe ignorance to the Sun, and it has never favoured spelling-reform. Why, then, “kidnaped” and “kidnaping”?
There is, of course, always the chance. that the coming autumn season will bring a new book from a new source that will cause us all to "sit up and take notice." Not that we are anticipating any such book, only there is the possibility. But in looking ahead in a general way we have to confine ourselves to the writers to whom we have been in the habit of turning for season after season—to the men and women whose reputations, such as they are, are established. So far as
The Coming Season.
we know, there is to be no new Kipling book, nor are we at all likely to hear from Conan Doyle. Nor will there be anything to show any signs of recent activity on the part of either Mr. James Lane Allen or Mr. Richard Harding Davis. There will be books by Dr. Van Dyke and Mr. F. Hopkinson Smith. Mr. Winston Churchill, who for the past six or eight years has been having a new novel published in the early summer of every other year, will take his chance in the autumn struggle with a love story entitled Coniston. Mrs. Katherine Cecil Thurston will follow up the success of that vastly overrated book, The Masquerader, with The Gambler, which is to appear some time this month. There is to be a new Cholmondeley novel, but it is doubtful if it is put between covers before the early spring. Mr. F. Marion Crawford's Fair Margaret, which has been running serially, will be issued about October 1st. Mr. Stewart Edward White's name, together with that of his collaborator, Mr. Samuel Hopkins Adams, will be on the title-page of The Mystery, to appear late this month. Mrs. Mary Wilkins Freeman's The Debtor is to be issued in October. There will be no novel from Mr. Howells, but he will be represented by a collection of London Films, while Mark Twain will publish Editorial Wild Oats, which, for the honour of one who was once a great American humourist, we fervently hope will be found infinitely better than his other works of recent years. In Nedra, an autumn book, Mr. George Barr McCutcheon forsakes Graustark for an island somewhere in the Indian Ocean. Mr. Jack London's The Game is of very recent date, yet this indefatigable worker will be represented by a new juvenile, and Mr. Booth Tarkington will follow up The Beautiful Lady with a long novel, The Conquest of Canaan.
epigram from you, with autograph for publication in "Toasts, Roasts and Epigrams."
This book is designed to be a compilation of wit, humour and intellectual sayings of celebrated men and women of America.
It aims to be a cheery, helpful, entertaining melange; a banquet in itself, spiced with variety; serving to aid dinner givers in embellishing banquet lists, and at the same time preserve some of the good things of presentday brains, discriminatively sought and spontaneously given.
If you are disposed to supply one or more epigrams or toasts on selected appropriate subjects, they will be gratefully received.
Thanking you in advance for prompt reply, I am Sincerely yours,
It seems as if almost any one might help him, to judge by the things one sees in print. No one can talk for five minutes without saying something that in the back part of a magazine or in the pages of Life would serve as an epigram or that Miss Ellen Thorneycroft Fowler could turn instantly to good account. An epigram nowadays is any short platitude italicised or done by George Ade into slang and capital letters. Give a proverb a black eye or an old saw false teeth; take any sentence and Tomlawsonise it, and the thing is done. "Sleep and the world sleeps with you; snore and you snore alone," was once considered an epigram and quoted by Augustin Thomas in his play. This has served as a model for many thousands of them during the past year. Others may be made by beginning with "Woman is like a-" and thinking of something she is not like and sticking to it till it seems to mean more than it ever could. Another recipe, much used in newspaper work, is, Be homely and forcible, concluding wherever possible with a moral thump. "The trouble with a handsome scarf-pin is that neckties thereafter have to live up to it. People ought to remember this when they join a church." All epigrams herein described should be sent at once to Great Falls, Montana. It is a worthy charity, and there could be no better place for them than in that "cheery melange," "embellishing the banquet lists," very far out West.