Friday, August 8, 2008
'Correct' Spelling and the 1611 AV
A recent news report on the BBC caught our attention. A university lecturer, fed up with having to correct spelling mistakes, has suggested that English might be relaxed to allow some variation in spelling. This immediately causes us to think of the 1611 Authorised Version of the Bible that we have. Not an actual 1611 printing, we hasten to add, but the 1911 reprint. Back in 1611, English spelling was quite fluid, and as long as a word sounded right, the spelling was fine. Would it really be so bad to go back to the 17th century in this respect?
We give some examples chosen at random:
Number 34. 21: "Sonne" for 'Son'
Numbers 35.7: "Fourty" for 'Forty'
Exodus 4.4: "And the LORD said unto Moses, Put Forth thine hand and take it by the taile: and he put foorth his hand, and caught it." Note two different spellings of 'forth', and the 'e' on the end of 'tail'
Exodus 4.8: "And it shall come to passe, if they will not beleeve thee, neither harken unto the voice of the first signe, that they will beleeve the voice of the latter signe." Note spellings of 'pass', 'believe' and 'sign'
Exodus 4.9: "Powre" for 'pour'
John 3.7: "Marveile" for 'marvel'
John 3.11: "Verely, verely I say unto thee, we speake that we doe know, and testifie that wee have seen; and yee receive not our witnesse." Note that the number of 'e's in 'we' is a matter of indifference, the same is true of 'ye', and of any word with a terminal letter 'e'. The letter 'e' can be added to the end of a word or not, depending on how the writer feels. Note also variant spelling of 'testify'.
John 4.25: "Commeth" for 'cometh'
John 4.30: "Citie" for 'city'
2 Corinthians 810: "Yeere" for 'year'
Our intention is not to make fun of the 1611 AV. No, we quote it to add to the debate on how strict spelling rules ought to be. Would it really hurt to allow all these wonderful 17th century spellings to be used in modern English?
For those Americans interested in our spelling, we advise popping over to the BBC website here.