Anglish: English without the imported stuff

Jorge Luis Borges made a case that the layers of loanwords are a good feature of English:


“Ghoti” doesn’t work positionally, true. But position dependent does not imply any consistency in a given position.
Cough, rough, bough, and through are a classic example set. All of which are orthographically not needed, since cawf(f), ruff (an onomatopoetic word itself!), bow (also a word!), and thru (ditto! abbv. for the same meaning!) work just fine. We have so many homonyms, homophones, and heteronyms. We have differences in spelling rules that tend to vary largely vary by formality register.

It also doesn’t help that English orthography and spelling were first formalized and standardized by non-English-speaking printers.

As a native speaker I’ll sometimes makeup words on the spot and the people I’m talking too will tend to agree intuitively on both their meaning and spelling, without any of us being quite able to explain why, even when those intuitive senses differ significantly from the basic and most common spelling and affix rules.


I was about to say, “isn’t that just Old English?” but it’s modern grammar and spelling… I dunno, feels like the taint of the Continental languages might be there in the modern forms. [/side-eyes these words for being too Norman]


Regardless of spelling convention, it’s the Latin alphabet. But inventing a new one to better accommodate older pronunciations would be a major tradeoff against making the point to a wider audience.



Among others, I would love to see these come back.


Ash was just useless and is well left behind.


At 3.11:
outrageous comes from French (and the French outrage from Latin, in Italian it’s the same “oltraggio”).
I remembered this video because the slip irked me.

EtA: this and other words make me think that the “-ous” suffix to make a noun into an adjective comes straight from Latin (-osus). I wonder whether there non Latin originated adjective with that structure.

Might have used something like upshaking, (taken from Swedish upprörande).

Disclaimer: lest someone thinks I speak Swedish, let me inform you that (after 15 years) my commandeering of the language is barely enough to pretend I know it on a BBS.
But I know Italian (native) and French, also Latin (as in the Scientific High School curriculum we had 5 years of Latin…).
And, you be the judge, English.


Internet is for þorn!
That one and ð (ETh) still survive in Icelandic and some other Nordic language, with, more or less, the sound you would expect.

When I was helping to plan a ~3 weeks trip in Iceland with CAI, I had added them to my keyboard layout to be able to correctly spell many places and names.

Icelandic in particular is a language that tries to keep foreign influences at a distance, even more than French.
Computer is tölva - a bag word composed by number “tala” and prophetess “völva” - pure genius.
The Swedish “dator” and French “ordinateur” pale in comparison.


There is a (controversial) theory that modern English descends not from Old English but Old Norse:

In brief: the proposition is that Old English died out in the wake of the Danish invasions of the ninth century, and was replaced by a dialect of Old Norse that borrowed heavily from the language it supplanted: that dialect evolved into Middle English, which in turn became modern English. The authors cite in evidence ways in which English is grammatically more similar to Norwegian than it is to its supposed West Germanic cousins.

Regardless of the truth or otherwise of this assertion, note that the fourth word of the quote from Uncleftish Beholding is unquestionably Norse in origin: if you want to speak English entirely without non-Anglo-Saxon borrowings, you’re going to have to find a new (or old) third-person-plural pronoun.

In British English, or at least my variety of it, “cough” is pronounced “coff”. That’s the problem with phonetic spellings: you need to decide whose pronunciation you’re going to represent.


That goes to prove that this kind of exercise, though amusing - I mean, it is originally from Punch, not from the Journal of Very Serious Academical Studies on Compared Linguistics - are quite pointless.
A bit like wondering how humans would look like if they evolved from octopuses instead of apes.


I wonder if any languages bite that bullet and just standardize phonetic rules but not word spellings? Kinda like how German allows compounds that are written as one word but not in dictionaries? It would make sense and indicate speaker accent and dialect when read aloud but would screw over anyobe needing to learn vocabulary.


The same kanji can often be read in number of different ways, but if you write the hiragana, their pronunciation is mostly unambiguous.


… of course the actual quote is “cribhouse whore”

and swapping in a euphemism hardly resolves the multiple problems with the whole concept

Not every “joke” needs to be dragged out of the archive every time somebody thinks it’s joke time

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And the fact that there’s no such thing as a fish.


At college, my games group used to play a Scrabble variant in which we weren’t allowed to use any word that was in the dictionary but it still had to be pronounceable and sound plausible in a sentence (I suspect it was prompted by that glorious episode of BlackAdder with Samuel Johnson’s dictionary.)


My favourite English loan word is Salaryman, taken from the Japanese “sarariiman” taken from the English Salary and Man.


Well, Old English was basically using the Latin alphabet (unless we want to go back to futhorc, but that’s… problematic). We still have the thorn, eth, and wynn, though they don’t get a lot of usage in English outside pronunciation guides… Some of the Middle English characters like yogh are more useful than Modern English spellings at consistent spelling rules (and conveying older pronunciations).

I personally find it difficult to distinguish the pronuciation of the eth and thorn… ironically I do use ash regularly.


Lots of compound words in the dictionary.

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… um, presumably one is voiced and the other is not, like d and t :confused:


Eth words like “this” and “that” can be felt in the vocal cords, thorn words like “thick” and “thin” can’t.

We are the English. Lower your shields and surrender your language. 
We will add your grammatical and phonetic distinctiveness to our own.
Your culture will adapt to service us.