Monday, October 10, 2005

And a Crank, Too

I'm at it again. Inventing alphabets. My guilty pleasure. I spent at least two hours this morning fiddling with the script for representing English that appears in embryo on the napkin below, writing out bits of poetry in it, looking for unsightly letter-combinations and how to correct them. Does anybody else do this? I suppose I picked up the vice from Tolkien, when I was a teenager. I have journals written in half a dozen different alphabets lying about.

English already has an alphabet, I know, but the Roman alphabet painfully spells out things that English doesn't need spelled out, and leaves out other things that should be. Unstressed central vowels, for instance. Why bother? We write them in dozens of different ways, but a schwa is a schwa is a schwa. Much more elegant to assume that every consonant is followed by a schwa, and just mark it if it's something different. When you get to the stressed vowels, though, the situation is reversed -- too few letters for the sounds, with silly rules for doubling consonants and going off to the end of the word to look for silent 'e's. It was absurd even back when there really was a difference in the length of of "short" and "long" vowels. Now it's just a curse. -- And then those ridiculous digraphs for consonants that Latin (and Norman French) didn't have -- ch, sh, th, dg! It's a wonder anybody ever learns how to spell English.

Er, yes, I am aware that this makes me a crank.

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