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JAMA 100 Years Ago
October 22/29, 2003


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2003;290(16):2200. doi:10.1001/jama.290.16.2200-a

There is a certain formula in use by the British reviewer of American books that reads something like this: "The English reader will, of course, be offended by the eccentricities of spelling affected by our transatlantic confrères," or something to that effect. It is interesting, therefore, in this connection to note a comment by the editor of one of our British contemporaries1 which in a way criticises the spirit of conservatism in regard to all suggestions toward a simplification of the orthography of the language. It has its little fling, saying that "our American cousins, having no history and possessing no proprietary right to the language, being, in fact, only lodgers, so to speak, display no sort of reluctance to tamper with the ridiculous redundancies which our forefathers have bequeathed to us, and which our schoolmasters persist in maintaining to the discomfiture of the scholars and the curtailment of more useful studies." Aside from the little inaccuracies as to our proprietorship in the language, etc., the sentiment of the above quotation is good and "ridiculous redundancies" especially so. English as it is written in England, as well as "English as she is spoke" in that island, has its defects, and in neither case is it always and in all respects the best type of the common language of the Anglo-Saxon race. The British editor suggests that whether his countrymen like it or not, they will ultimately have to adopt the abbreviated transatlantic orthography. We hope that the change will be an earlier one than he seems to anticipate. It will not require any serious alteration of the mother tongue to make it a little less cumbrous in its spelling than is the prevalent insular British practice.