Archives for category: Orthography

Maybe we should pH balance our political vocabulary.

There should be fascism and phascism.

Fascism would be what actual fascists supported. You can read about their doctrines in Giovanni Gentile, for example. People who have actually read Gentile and Rocco and Mussolini would get to refer to fascism. And spell it right.

Everybody else would spell their understandings of the term, in their preferred loosey-goosey ways, without any historical justification (just like most uses), as “phascism.”

This would especially be the case for Marxists, who have always mischaracterized fascism for their own political advantage, and social justice warriors, who cannot explain the term in any plausible way, and libertarians, who think it makes sense to tar neo-mercantilism with the f-word.

Oh, and especially those people who spell Adolf Hitler’s name not with an “f” but with a “ph”: phascism is for you!

Not every modernization project is a step of progress. Consider what has happened to the orthography of those English words where you must use double vowels, and where the second vowel has a different sound than the first. They used to be written this way:

  • reëlect
  • coöperation
  • coördination

The two-dot diaeresis indicates an umlaut, or sound shift, from one letter to the next. This is obsolete everywhere but in the pages of The New Yorker, and occasionally here.

It was generally replaced with a hyphen:

  • re-elect
  • co-operation
  • co-ordination

This use of the hyphen helps the reader navigate the umlaut effect. Alas, that practice is now deprecated, and the current orthography leads us to the confusing double vowels:

  • reelect
  • cooperation
  • coordination

This is, to my way of thinking, the worst possible development, a sort of declension brought on (no doubt) by laziness and confusion. It’s especially bad when the word is coöperation. These days, it looks like “coop”eration — something to do with chicken coops. Indeed, that’s how I read it in this interesting critique of Paul Krugman’s blather of baby-sitter coöps. I read along for quite a ways not understanding what was being talked about. You coop babysitters up? Like chickens?

Is there any hope for a return to a reasonable orthographic convention? I wonder.