Friday, September 16, 2011

Stoking up spelling trubble


Does spelling matter? Residents of Stoke-on-Trent seem to think so, because they're worried that people will think they're thick if they see the name of their new shopping development.

This report from the BBC News website suggests that some locals feel that the name will reflect badly on them, while the agency behind the name thinks it gives the development "stand out quality"...maybe like the "stand out quality" of turning up to a funeral in pink lurex batty-riders, or declaring that your football team's new strip will be birthday suits.

Lots of businesses create deliberately deviant spellings to offer "stand out quality". Take Kwiksave, Kwikfit, Krispy Kreme and my old favourite (sadly no longer with us) Mr Byrite. At some point, a creative in an advertising agency decided that Qu and C were just old-fashioned and that K was where it was happening. K was cool...sorry Kool. Is there something intrinsically more exciting about K than C, or is the act of mis-spelling something part of the rebellious appeal of a brand? Vodafone chooses to use f instead of ph and Toys'R'Us abbreviates too, but do we see them as edgy, unconventional brands? Maybe not.

But is it harmless fun, or is this trendy phonetic spelling something that sends out mixed messages to younger people? Is it leading to an acceptance of bad spelling? One teacher quoted in the BBC piece, Mark Rayner, seems to think so:

In terms of grammar we are fighting a battle on many fronts, from text speak, on the internet, even in emails now you find shortened words are creeping in. Pupils regularly write C for see and U for you. But one hopes schools can still teach the correct spelling and grammar.
The need for an agreed spelling system is something that lies at the heart of the notion of Standard English: an accepted and recognised way of using English that provides mutual intelligibility for all speakers and writers. As we've seen many times though, the discussion around what the standard and accepted rules should be is fraught with other, non-linguistic worries.

Some people see apparently declining spelling standards as a measure of a nation's moral collapse (one minute they're spelling Krispy Kreme wrong the next minute they're looting it) while others argue that the English spelling system is so messed up in the first place that it should be radically overhauled.

So, edgy branding or idiotic illiteracy? The last word goes to a resident of Stoke-on-Trent who just says "It makes us look like the people in Stoke are thick".




2 comments:

suze said...

Hiya Dan, long time no see. I am not teaching anymore ... but as a Stokey browsing your blog again, I must join in here! While not usually a presciptivist I am in accord with the quoted resident on this issue .. it makes my skin crawl to see this deviant spelling proposal!

Dan said...

You're worse than Simon Heffer ;-)

Hope all's good with you.