Archive for January 18th, 2008

Ideas That Made Too Much Sense. Part 2.

Friday, January 18th, 2008



Did you ever wonder why psychology starts with a “p”, Michael has no “k”, and ski isn’t spelled ‘skee’? Well multimillionaire, industrialist Andrew Carnegie did. In the early 1900’s he was approached by world-reknown linguists who had a revolutionary plan to simplify spelling. They convinced him that if everyone spelled words phonetically, it would somehow lead to world peace. Although that logical thought process is a little hard to follow, Carnegie thought that simple spelling was a wonderful idea.

Phonetic spelling puts together letters that represented the sounds of the words when spoken. Good become ‘gud’, though would be spelled ‘tho’……….well, you get the idea.

In 1906, Carnegie formed the ‘Simplified Spelling Board’ with a stated goal of changing English into a language of phonetic spelling – 300 words at a time. Since English is comprised of more than 400,000 words, the change would certainly be gradual – at least in the beginning. (English has, by far, more words than any other language. The French are a distant second with about 150,000) .


“Karee a big stik”

At any rate, this great idea excited President Theodore Roosevelt who probably was not the world’s most talented speller anyway. On August 29, 1906 he ordered the U.S. Printer to begin using the “new spelling” on all executive branch publications. The reaction was instantaneous and overwhelming – practically everyone hated it!

Newspapers across the land ridiculed the new idea and Congress was outraged enough to start debating it immediately. The Times of London laughingly questioned the President’s ability to spell and TR quickly decided this might not be such a ‘bully’ idea after all. He withdrew his support and withdrew himself into the White House refusing to discuss the matter further.

Carnegie too had had ‘enuf’. He went on to other projects and forbade anyone to even discuss the new spelling idea in his presence.


Ideas That Made Too Much Sense. Part 1.

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Some ideas make perfect sense and would be great improvements over what we have today. But their main obstacle is ‘change’. People don’t like to change. Most people would rather tolerate inconvenience, nonsense, and even stupidity, as long as it’s familiar. Things don’t have to make sense. They just have to make sense to them.






In the early 20th century, George Eastman of Eastman Kodak and others, figured out that the Gregorian calendar, which had been in use for thousands of years, didn’t make sense. There were different number of days each month and even a different number of days every four years. Different countries added their own strange flourishes contributing to a general mayhem of conflicting dates

After a good deal of research, Eastman decided that if the 52-week year was divided into four quarters of exactly 13 weeks each, everyone would benefit. At least it would be a good start. The months would keep the same names and each would be 28 days long with a short “month” between June and July (named “Sol”)   in which everyone could take a vacation (as they do in Europe). Billing cycles, accounting systems, delivery schedules, even payroll periods, all over the world, could be coordinated into one logical grid. Industries and businesses, both here and abroad, would mesh on the same, predicable course.

But resistance to change takes many forms. One is stupidity (“On what day would the Fourth of July fall?”). Another is confusion (“What would happen to all the extra days?”). And, of course, there was a flood of traditionalism (“If 12-months a year were good enough for my grandparents……..”).

Eventually Eastman got frustrated with the whole business and gave up the idea – except in his own company which enjoys a 13-week business calendar to this day.