Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Sporadic E Skip

Around the middle of the last century, orthographic professionals suffered a surfeit of seizures brought on by numerous protests over the inconsistent application of the “I before E except after C” rule, or the Sporadic E Skip. This refers to the sporadic manner in which the “e” skips to one side or another of the “i” in willful violation of the rule. The orthos, as the orthographic fraternity refers to its members, thought about taking this bug out of spelling, because so many people were confused by the weird problems presented by it.
The demands for change were heightened by the swiftly evolving society of the post-war era. The boys who had defeated the Axis powers were now men attending college on the GI Bill. Suddenly, the veterans were competing with their neighbors for preeminence in the classroom, and spelling mattered. Honest men all, they could not in good conscience cheat, but they certainly didn’t wish to be accused of having gneiss, or other rock forms, in their heads.
Unfortunately, neither the vets nor the orthos anticipated the challenge posed by a group of prescient pedagogues, who foresaw declining respect for teachers if spelling was made less complicated. The teacher, they felt, should stand before the class as an omniscient deity, and the removal of the Sporadic E Skip would make spelling proficiency an attainable goal for even the below-average student. Rather than saying, “Heigh-ho and away we go,” when the orthos proposed their new rules, the teachers became intransigent and refused to implement them. They said it was the least they could do for the heirs to their profession.
Now the British, and what a bunch of weisenheimers they are, have buried their heads in their eiderdown pillows and decided the rule is deficient, unveiling another freight car full of evidence on how they forfeited their sovereignty of the language.

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