A Totally Random Prompt

Q: Why do we need 26? If you could change the alphabet, what would you do? Add? Subtract? Combine? Simplify? Write about it.

A: Just off the top of my head, I’d make a few changes to make spelling more logical. First of all, I’d deal with all the non-vowel two-sound letters, such as C, G, Q, X, and Y. I’d officially introduce alternate spellings of words to use unimistakable unisound letters. Thus kelt, kuaff, jiraffe, zylophone, etc.

I’d then deprecate the less used and/or more confusing sounds of the two-sound letters. C would be reserved for that gargled H sound. G would never be used for a J sound. J would never make an H sound. X would be the "ks" sound, not the double-G as in eggs, nor a Z sound. Y would never be used as a vowel. I would then introduce more alternate spellings such as calapenyo, drinx, etc.

I’d then officially add diacritical marks to the alphabet in order to cue speakers as to the correct pronunciations of words.

Of course, in reality, too many people would complain that the alphabet must remain backward compatible so that even the most ancient of texts could still be understood. So while this rules out any modifications to the existing letters, it doesn’t necessarily rule out adding more letters to our 26-character hodgepodge, such as the Ç, the Æ, and the beloved Ñ, nor does it rule out implementing diacritical marks.

Even doing that would cause a programming nightmare to ensue, as the ASCII character set is a proud tradition dating back to the 1960s, a time in which it was thought so incredibly unlikely that anybody would type the word jalapeño into a computer that the act was rendered more or less impossible. Even today, some programmers still have an ASCII bound mentality, routinely permitting their creations to accept only the characters A-Z, a-z, and 0-9. (To be fair, this is usually done for the sake of security, to prevent wise guys from overwriting /etc/passwd or claiming their name is Robert’);DROP TABLE Students;–, etc.)

That still doesn’t completely rule out introducing official alternate spellings of words, but since English, especially American English, doesn’t have a governing committee the way that some languages do (such as the French language of France) any attempt to introduce alternate spellings will no doubt be looked upon as yet another sign of a failing educational system.

So in the end, the answer is even if it was possible to change the alphabet, I don’t think I would try.

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One thought on “A Totally Random Prompt”

  1. Just off the top of your head!?! Are you kidding me? That was very nearly a linguistics dissertation. Sheesh…
    “Just off the top of my head,” he says.
    God, I feel so… quotidian.

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