Truly. Normally this man can do no wrong. His column* is just the right blend of information and righteous anger and dry wit and irreverence, and sort of everything that's right about the Guardian and none of what's wrong.
And then this ("Let's write our language as we speak it. Then at least our children will be able to spell properly"). Cue Five Stages of Grief:
1. Denial. "Surely not. But he's a sensible person! Perhaps I've just read too many statistics today and I misread it! Perhaps it's ironic?"
2. Anger. "Well, this is just bloody stupid, isn't it? Stupid idiots. Who doesn't know how to spell?"**
3. Bargaining. Weeell - not so much. MOVING ON.
4. Depression. "Oh God, I'm officially snobbish, elitist, and PREMATURELY ELDERLY."
5. Acceptance. "Marcel, you and I will just have to agree to disagree."
Because, for some reason, the thought of simplifying spelling fills me with horror. And that thought ALSO fills me with horror, because - well, because that's what pedantic old farts do, they quibble about irrelevancies and write Strongly Worded Letters to The Times.
I feel I can totally justify my obsession with correct punctuation. That is for clarity. But spelling is different - bad spelling doesn't obscure meaning the way bad punctuation does. I mean, today I was reading Henry IV's claim to the throne:
And it was easy, it was fine, I stumbled maybe once. So, like Marcel says, we'd get used to it soon enough, if all those problematic silent consonants were stripped away.
But still, it makes me feel somehow icky. WHY? What madness is this? Yes, I love the way English is spelt because I'm geeky about etymology - the P in psychotherapy is there because it comes from the Greek. (What mongrel bastard word is "sycho"?) But surely that's not enough of a reason? It's a personal reason, but not one that is objectively, empirically, fundamentally justified. Especially given the ease with which I learnt to spell; it's fine for me, I can do it (with a few minor exceptions, like "column", apparently), but so many people do struggle, and I shouldn't make life harder for them just because I'm a bit nostalgic.
I don't have an answer to this conundrum. But I have come to realise why I felt so betrayed by dear Marcel. Because whatever clear, coherent, egalitarian reasons one may come up with for simplifying spelling, I can't help but feel that to do so would be ever so slightly Orwellian, and very New Labour, like all those godawful euphemisms that are imported from the States, or the endless management speak. That to do so would be to lose something magical and beguiling and subtle and romantic. And of all people, I thought Marcel Berlins would see that too.
But no. It seems that I must wend my solitary, nostalgic, elitist, pretentious but dogged way, all alone.
*I just had to type that FOUR TIMES. coloumn. colomn. column. column??? Ironic, one must say, give the subject matter of this particular post...
**Obviously me. Don't judge, anger isn't rational.
ETA: Honesty compels me to admit that I have had to go back twice to correct two spelling mistakes. In my defence (m'lud), they were typos. But still. *looks sheepish*