Me thinks 1

August 21, 2008

I was struck by the very great difference in the standard of the two letters (Letters, 14 August) you published last week in response to my article on variant spelling ("Just spell it like it is", 7 August).

William Gibson, of Oxford Brookes University, employs a form of argument known in philosophy as a reductio ad absurdum in which a proposition is disproved by showing that logically it leads to absurd conclusions.

But nothing in what I said in my article implied that my argument could logically be extended to mathematics or history, and no reasonable person could infer that it did. So is this then what passes for scholarship at Oxford Brookes?

But congratulations and very well done indeed to Keith Haines of Belfast for spotting that my name is a near anagram of the word "mistaken"; absolutely brilliant, I thought.

What is it about spelling that seems to bring out the best and the worst in people? I would have thought that mine was a remarkably modest proposal. I am not advocating that the poor of Ireland should have more babies so that the rich have something to eat.

All I am saying is that since we already have in the English language some widely accepted variant spellings we might well allow a few more, especially where this reflects current usage.

Written communication, and indeed civilisation as we know it, has not come to an end despite the existence of the variant spellings we already allow, and we have no reason to suppose that it would if we allowed a few more.

In case you did not work it out for yourselves, and I know Haines was way ahead of me, "Me thinks" is also an anagram of my name.

Ken Smith, Bucks New University.

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