Stake nives and other stupid english.

I seam recal that in ye ol english, werds were spelled wytchever way the ryter felt the shood. And sometymes, to diferent way in the same sentince.
Somewhere along the line this got depricated, but why oh why, if the written originated from the spoken, do we have homonyms like “stake” and “steak”, silent letters like “knife” and words (I forget what this is called) that can be pronounced differently, and yet are spelled the same like “read”.

Also, why is that you see people who arent from countries that use the roman alphabet, come to an english speaking nation, and change their name to use the roman alphabet, but it aint spelled how it sounds?


[Insert Clever Quote Here]

PapaBear will no doubt correct me, but I’ll give a [partial] try:

Perhaps you recall incorrectly, or more precisely, *incompletely[i/]. As different user groups using English, whether as a “mother” language or as a mercantile lingua franca, attempted to write, there were of course differences, based on the representation of accent or on the use of particular borrow words from another language (Brits under Norman influence likelier to use French borrow words than, say the Welsh; Protestants vs. Catholics…)
Standardization of English only began with mass media (Bill S.) and with the dictionary.

As for “non-native” English speakers and their names, three likely sources for what you see as discrepancies:

. their mother tongue allows for wide variations between written and spoken language, particularly if their alphabet is ideographic, syllabic, or uses sounds not represented by our alphabet (think Chinese o Arabic);

. they choose to style the spelling of their name to reinforce their heritage (relatively recent; think “Sade”, pronounced “Sharday”);

. la Migra and Ellis Island; an old INS joke has an immigrant from China standing behind a Swede. When asked his name by the immigration officer, the Swede answers “Olaf Johanssen”; the officer stamps his papers, and calls the next person. The man from Sichuan (Szechuan, whatever) says “Tam Ting” and the officer promptly writes down “Olaf Johanssen” and stamps his papers. “Next !”


“Proverbs for Paranoids, 1: You may never get to touch the Master, but you can tickle his creatures.”

  • T.Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow.

Falcon2: Written language is often different from the spoken language. The way we write is trapped at about how it was spoken in the 1490’s i believe. Those silent e’s used to be voiced. “Stake” and “Steak” would have been said differently. So those homynyms in modern English weren’t way back then.Theres a poem by Chaucer in middle english, that doesnt rhyme anymore (if read like we read things in Modern English).

Many languages that do not use the roman alphabet, often are difficult to transliterate into the roman alphabet. Korean is a good example. The surname “Pak” can be spelled like “Park”. The name for the Korean Alphabet is sometimes written like Hangul, or Hankul.

Another troublesome character is the letter “C”. English speakers are familiar with the fact that “C” has no sound of its own - it either sounds like a “K” or an “S”. What English speakers fail to realize is that it has many other sounds in other languages, especially East European ones.

For example, family names ending in “-wic” as often incorrectly pronounced as “-wik”, and “-wicz” as “-wiks”. Both should be pronounced as “-witz” or “-witch”, depending on where the name is originally from. And maybe other factors to.

Other examples: “czar” is pronounced “tzar”, and “Czechoslovakia” is pronounced “check…”