|The following is reprinted from The Best of Uncle John's Bathroom Reader.
At the turn of the century, Andrew Carnegie spent more than $200,000 in an attempt to simplify spelling. Here are a few of the details of that forgotten episode in American history.
E-Z DUZ IT
In 1906, millionaire industrialist Andrew Carnegie was approached by
|Melvin Melvil Dewey, the head of the New York libraries, and Brander Matthews, a Columbia University professor, with a revolutionary plan to simplify spelling. Carnegie was enthusiastic. He believed that easier spelling could lead to world peace. Together, the threesome formed the Simplified Spelling Board; their expressed goal was to convince authorities to begin changing the spelling of 300 words.
Among the words targeted were though (tho), confessed (confest), dropped (dropt), through (thru), kissed (kist), fixed (fixt), enough (enuf), prologue (prolog), thoroughfare (thorofare) and depressed (deprest).
President Theodore Roosevelt was an instant convert to the plan. On August 29, 1906, he ordered the U.S. Printer to use the new spelling on all executive branch publications. For a moment, it looked like simplified spelling would be instituted nationwide.
Roosevelt’s plan made front-page news, both here and abroad. Unfortunately for TR, most of the publicity was unfavorable. U.S. newspaper mocked the idea, and the London Times ridiculed him with a headline reading “Roosevelt Spelling Makes Britons Laugh.”
Congress was outraged by Roosevelt’s decree, too. In late 1906, they started to debate the idea on the floor of the House. Sensing an embarrassing political defeat, Roosevelt quickly withdrew his support for the plan.
WEL, THATZ THAT.
Carnegie was deeply disappointed. A practical man, he dropped his financial support for the Simplified Spelling Board, writing, “I think I have been patient long enuf … I have a much better use of $25,000 a year.”