Modern English Version
An easy way to show the audience that This Is The Future is for on-screen writing to be spelled differently, implying that official spelling rules have changed. Usually the intended implication is that the spelling has been reformed to deal with difficult words, but since the set designers usually aren't orthographic reform specialists, nor have much time to ponder subtleties, it can end up looking like the sign writers just couldn't spell very well. Another potential problem is the Eternal English issue — if your story is set three thousand years in the future, one might expect that the language had changed more than just in a few of the spellings. This trope is where spelling reform is used as a way of showing that the story is set in a different time. It doesn't cover Real Life attempts to reform the language, or in-story attempts to reform the language except where they've become successful and the new spelling is ubiquitous. It is also not to be confused with Funetik Aksent.
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- The early installments of Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire are bereft of the infamous 'ough': 'through' is spelt 'thru', 'though' is 'tho', 'thought' is 'thot', and so on. This might be a Phil Foglio idiosyncrasy rather than a world-building detail, though, because it also happens in other Foglio works of the period, not all of which are set in the future.
- In the Time Travel story of Blake and Mortimer, Mortimer discovers an apocalyptic future where civilization has fallen, the phonetic spellings he encounters are explained to have helped the downfall.
Films — Live-Action
- Just about every other word that isn't an obscenity is spelled or pronounced wrong in Idiocracy to demonstrate how much English has deteriorated (which is described in-universe as a mix of ebonics, valley girl, and assorted grunts and moans). Either that, or it's used incorrectly ("particular individual" seems to be the go-to term for "suspect" by the police, regardless of how it fits grammatically in a sentence) or replaced with something similar sounding — case in point, the Extreme Court. Other than that, the movie plays Eternal English relatively straight.
- Appears briefly in Zardoz when Zed looks at a sort of holographic shopping list that mentions "applz," "solt," and "lethur." Oddly enough, the word "soap" retains its old spelling.
- Parodied in "Tomorrow Town" by Kim Newman, set in a futurist commune where all writing must conform to a new "rational" spelling system that the founder predicts will be ubiquitous by the end of the century. Really (according to his co-founder), he's just always had dreadful spelling and rather than learn to spell properly he chose to foist his spelling on everybody else.
- In the short story Enoch Soames Max Beerbohm recounts how a man sells his soul to the devil in order to see what has become of his work one hundred years after his death. He is allowed to find his name in a literary catalogue written entirely in the phonetic spelling of the future — 1997.
- In A Sound of Thunder, after one of the characters accidentally kills a butterfly in the far past, it changes the present in several ways, including altering how things are spelled (as in the Enoch Soames example, the altered spelling is a lot like Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe).
- A short-short attributed to Mark Twain shows spelling reform quickly leading to incomprehensibility.
- "Meihem in ce Klasrum", a story by Dolton Edwards published in the classic SF anthology Treasury of Great Science Fiction (ed. Anthony Boucher), is reminiscent of the Twain example, except that by taking longer and letting you get used to each change in turn, it leaves you at the end reading what looks like pure gibberish with little effort.
- In the final chapters of Gradisil, not only does the spelling change but the letter eng (capital: Ŋ, lowercase: ŋ) is re-introduced.
- The entirety of the novel Riddley Walker is written in this style, though in this case it's because of a lack of a formal education system in a post nuclear-war England.
- In the Horseclans series, dialogue is rendered in modern English, but personal and place names use this (e.g. Harzburk, originally Harrisburg)
- In the Safehold novels, most personal names have gone through this after nine hundred years of lingual shift. Not an unrealistic assumption.
- In Dinner at Deviant's Palace, set After the End, writing has gone in for simplified and phonetic spellings; it's mentioned that although people still speak English, even people who are considered literate find old-time writing pretty much incomprehensible, or at least too much effort to bother with, because of all the strange spellings and superfluous letters.
- The Doctor Who story "The Invisible Enemy", set in the 51st century, features "Egsit" signs among other examples of variant spelling.
- In an episode of Stargate Universe, the crew visits a planet colonized and subsequently abandoned by a civilisation that was started a thousand years ago by 21st Century Earthlings who traveled back in time. Some shop signs and a newspaper reveal slight variations in spelling.
- The kind of writing used by younger people in texts and emails, as well as online chat, have led to many spelling innovations. Some believe that spellings such as "u" and "thru" will eventually replace longer variants such as "you" and "through". On the other hand, technology is improving to the point where these shorthand forms are no longer as necessary, and peer pressure is depreciating them outside of media which impose character limits.
- Madison Avenue advertising. Deliberately misspelling product names to avoid trademark infringement and to maneuver around legalities has led to names like "Froot Loops" and the "Fireflite". See Lite Crème for more information.
- The reason that Americans spell a lot of words differently from the rest of the English-speaking world. Noah Webster tried (with some success) to simplify English spelling and eliminate some of the inconsistencies. Some of his changes were accepted by Americans, such as dropping the "u" for words like "colour" and "labour," and a few of them even got adopted by the rest of the English speaking world (such as dropping the "k" from the end of words like "publick" and "musick"). Others didn't take, even among Americans, such as spelling "women" as "wimmen" or "soup" as "soop".
- Spelling reform was in vogue at the turn of the 20th century. Theodore Roosevelt was a big supporter of the idea, and he even instructed government printers to use reformed spellings in 1906. The move was unpopular, and Congress reversed his order within the year. Journalists of the time enjoyed teasing Roosevelt about this; when he attended a naval review reporters chartered a launch that followed the Navy ships bearing a banner that said "PRES BOT."
- While establishing this for English has obvious practical issues given how many countries use the language, some languages only used in a single country have successfully had part of their spelling changed. Generally speaking successful reforms avoided the most radical changes, and even then it could take some time before it became apparent if the reform had been commonly adopted or not.
- Some nations have changed not just the spelling, but the entire alphabet. This tends to follow a political upheaval.
- In the 1920s, Turkey changed from the Arabic to the Latin alphabet.
- Over the twentieth century, Azerbaijan has gone from Arabic to Soviet Latin to Cyrillic to Turkish Latin.