Lipton’s Journal/January 24, 1955/231
Our resistance about changing the spelling of the English language, and our teaching of new methods of learning to read by syllables rather than by letters may have profound meaning sociostatically. It may be a sociostatic retreat that the teaching of reading is changing, it may be a sociostatic advance.
The little “curiosity” that English is spelled so unphonetically may be a very large and important actuality. I suspect that English more than other languages is very close to expressing psychic onomatopoeias. Therefore we muck it up with spellings which divert us from what is really being said. Thus receipt and deceat (I can no longer spell it—deceit, and seat. If they were spelled reseet, and deseet, and seat, the echo of receipt—our rage at potential deceit—would be obviously deceit and seat, which is somehow, I feel, tied up with our asses and our ass-holes. It would all be too evident.
Countries like France and Spain do not have such vast separations between society and soul—therefore, they can afford to spell more phonetically—their people aren’t burning so to close the discrepancy. There may well be a material (that is bio-chemical) basis to such things as National Character—it comes from language. Even in America no one can convince me that Southerners and Northerners are not seriously different.
- The chief reason words in English are often spelled un-phonetically is that its word stock, unlike those of French and Spanish, was drawn over several centuries from several languages, each of which has its own system of orthography and pronunciation, a process that continues.