8 Here’s the tunic, as a WIP. Are you thinking, gee what a deep neckline that has? You’re right. This is one to wear, as the “What Not to Wear” people put it, with a cami.

I think maybe I always cut too large a size. This is turning out to be a nice swingy overblouse, but I don’t think it was designed that way.

Nonetheless, it’s pretty. And I succeeded with the buttonhole, and didn’t do too badly with the topstitching either, so I’m happy. I need to make more buttonholes and then I’ll just have hand stitching to do

This linen is wonderful. Linen is wonderful, in fact, isn’t it?

I did this sewing last night while watching the Olympics with my husband. There was a bit on kites, and he told me about a kite-builder he knew back in his homeland who made an enormous kite and put bamboo whistles on the string, so that it sang when it flew. That is also quite wonderful.

Afterwards, I finished up Righting the Mother Tongue, a book that I’m reviewing for Amazon Vine. I started it a while back, but set it aside because it was dull. I’m not sure it’s fair to hold dullness against a history of spelling. Not only is the history of spelling intrinsically dull, but I knew most of it already.

However, it has caused me to think about spelling, and in particular about those words for which there are acceptable variations.

Now, “acceptable” is a bit rough here. For example, I often check with clients to see whether they favor “ensure” or “insure,” in the sense of “make sure,” so that I can match whatever they might later add on their own. Same with “inquire” and “enquire.”

And, having read about equal numbers of British and American books, I find that I use some British/American spellings in free variation — not “flavour” or “gaol,” of course, but “traveler” and “traveller” or “gray” and “grey.” It was interesting to see how big a deal it was to the people who fought to make those changes.

In fact, the history of spelling reform was the part that was most interesting to me. I don’t really get it. The examples of  reformed spelling that they offered were hard to read, for one thing. And, while I can see that the heady days when a person could write down anything they wanted to and call it English had some disadvantages, I really can’t see how someone could get that het up over final Es.

We can see, right now, how the process of deciding on a settled spelling comes about. A client recently pointed out to me that I had used two different spellings of “ecommerce,” and wondered whether I had done so for some reason relating to the Dark Art. Actually, I had been intending to write his preferred “e-commerce,” but my preferred “ecommerce” (it’s stronger for search) crept in.

This client also uses “e-mail” where I use “email” and “web site” where I use “website” (stronger for search). Since I spend about four hours a week writing on these subjects for this guy, I have found that I now write “web site” in my own stuff quite frequently.

“Website” is enough stronger for search than “web site” that I did suggest to him that he consider switching, at least in the invisible parts of his websites, but otherwise, I don’t care. He offered me four different spellings of “ecommerce,” and none was enough stronger for search to matter. Here they are:

  • ecommerce
  • eCommerce
  • e-commerce
  • E-commerce

Now, when you are writing things, you probably don’t care what is stronger for search. But actually, that is a good modern way to discover what spelling decisions have always relied on: what’s the most common way to do it?

Spelling reformers don’t rely on this sensible question. They go with “What’s the best way to spell this word?”

So, if we were spelling reformers, this would be our chance. We could determine which of the possible spellings of “ecommerce” is the best, and jump in right now while it’s still unsettled and root for that version. And there I think we’d be up against the whole problem of spelling reform: there really isn’t a consistent way to determine which is best.

“Ecommerce” is the simplest, but it doesn’t reflect the history of the word in the way that the hyphenated choices do. There is no pronunciation difference among the choices — but when people try to reform English spelling according to pronunciation, they postpone the inevitable as our language changes and varies across time and space.

Do you ever yearn for those times when a man could spell his own name six different ways in a single document? Or do you hate the current uncertainty over how to spell electronic stuff, not to mention “k” and “bai”?