That said, at least I understand a little of why we’ve had such a mess inflicted upon us, courtesy of this neat little book:
Spell Bound; The Surprising Origins and Astonishing Secrets of English Spelling by James Essinger.
Unfortunately, he doesn’t seem inclined to read it and become enlightened (and perhaps save his long-suffering mother another diatribe about the illogicality and plain stupidity of English spelling.)
So if you’re foaming at the mouth trying to get your youngster to understand there’s a perfectly valid reason why “cough” doesn’t rhyme with “dough”, and why we don’t spell words the way they sound, then this little gem of a book might be for you.
BUT, if your kid is whining in your ear about the spelling list he has to learn for the Spell-a-thon, and you don’t feel like forking out NZ$30 and wading through 300 odd pages of lively explanation that ranges from “the sophisticated writing systems of the ancient Sumerians through to the tongue twisters of Middle English, the popular National Spelling Bee, and the mobile phone text-messaging of today” to give him or her an explanation that will satisfy them, then this 10-minute-long YouTube gem from The Open University could be a better option.
If nothing else, it’s an entertaining and educational ten minutes–and it doesn’t get much better than that.