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Nu Speling

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"It's misspelled," said Vanessa. "Y-double-E-R."
"No, it's F-O-N-E-T-I-K," he corrected. "Within the next thirty years, English spelling will be rationalised."
"You reckon?" She pouted, skeptically.
"Not my theory," he said, stroking his mandarin moustaches. "I assume the lingo will muddle along with magical illogic as it has since the Yeer Dot, but orthographic reform is a tenet of Tomorrow Town."

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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    Comic Books 
  • 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).
  • "Meihem in ce Klasrum", a story by Dolton Edwards published in the classic SF anthology Treasury of Great Science Fiction (ed. Anthony Boucher), depicts a series of spelling changes slowly evolving the text into nearly unrecognisable English. Many variations have been made of the story, notably a shorter version attributed to Mark Twain (actually from letter to The Economist in 1971).
  • 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 Sonmi-451 section of Cloud Atlas is set in a time when linguistic shift has merged with Future Slang to make things nearly incomprehensible. To name just one example, the first "e" gets dropped from the word "expect".

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Doctor Who story "The Invisible Enemy", set in the 51st century, features "Imurjinsee 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.

    Video Games 
  • In Planetfall, signs and labels on the alien planet use this kind of spelling, such as a raygun labelled "Portabul Laazur".

    Web Video 
  • Tom Scott discusses how the actual English language has (and hasn't) changed over the years in "Ghoti and the Ministry of Helth", such as noting that "today" used to be spelled "to-day" back in the early 20th century.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons: Don Hertzfeldt's Couch Gag, which shows the terrifying "Sampsans" of the year 10,535, showcases a few new months (Aprall, Oktobar, Marchrüary — no Smarch, though), a new decimal calendar system, and "a"-heavy phrases like "outernet markat," "now availabal," and "epasode numbar."

    Real Life 
  • 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" (while the spelling is sometimes used in the 21st century, it is generally in the context of mockery) 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 not a spelling reform as such, English braille has recently (mid 2010s) undergone a fairly major orthographic overhaul which attempts to unify the contradictory codes used for literature, math, and computing. Among the modern amenities introduced are proper square brackets and curly braces, as well as the ability to indicate bold, italic, and underlined text, as well as CamelCase.
  • 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.
  • Starting in 1971, the government of Kerala decided to simplify the orthography of Malayalam to make writing, printing, and typing it easier, reducing it from a whopping 1,000 glyphs to just 250.
  • Simplified Chinese characters were introduced by the Chinese government in The '50s to make the language easier to write. The characters are simplified versions of the so-called Traditional Chinese characters.
  • 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.
    • Kazakhstan has also gone through Arabic, Latin and Cyrillic, with the current transition from Cyrillic to Latin beginning in 2017. As opposed to the Soviet-era Latin alphabet, the new Latin alphabet explicitly avoids "hooks or superfluous dots", instead preferring to use apopstrophes.
    • English itself abandoned the Runic alphabet in favor of Latin in the early Middle Ages. There have also been at least two attempts to introduce a non-Latin alternative alphabet for English: Deseret and Shavian. Deseret, as can be guessed from the name, was invented and promoted by the Mormon church in the 1850s. Shavian was invented in the 1960s by Kingsley Read and funded posthumously by George Bernard Shaw, whom the alphabet is named after. Although neither system caught on, both alphabets are supported on modern computers, so nothing is stopping you from using either alphabet today.
    • Korea used to use a variant of the ideographs shared by Chinese and Japanese, before King Sejong the Great invented a new phonetic alphabet called Hangul (pronounced "hahn-gool") where symbols representing consonant and vowel sounds are kind of Voltronned together into more complex symbols representing the syllables. It took centuries to catch on, and even by the end of the 20th century it was common for some publications to pepper their writing with the occasional Chinese character in parentheses to disambiguate homophones. However, these days it's been fully adopted as the official alphabet of both Koreas, with learning the older characters being purely optional in the South and straight-up banned in the North.
  • Germany had two spelling reforms in recent memory, one in 1903 and another during the early 2000s. The latter's aim was to make German writing phonetically as accurate as possible and actually revoked a few revisions from the former, such as the infamous "daß" turning back into "dass" (which is phonetically accurate), and reducing the formerly 52 comma rules to 9. This wasn't without controversy and resulted in some odd-looking words (for example "Schifffahrt" - ship cruise - now being spelt with 3 f's due to it being a combination of "Schiff" and "Fahrt"), but when the dust settled, it was generally regarded as a sensible move.
  • Spelling changes have also, together with pronunciation changes, historically been a sign of linguistic drift, as languages spoken in various places cut off from one another start using different spellings to reflect the local accent, which eventually becomes the local dialect, which eventually becomes another language entirely. This is how Latin split into the various "Romance languages" (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Romanian being the big ones), and how Afrikaans became a separate language from Dutch. Conversely, Arabic and Chinese retaining the same written spelling is why they are each often considered to be one language, even though there has been enough drift in pronunciation that some dialects are considered mutually unintelligible.

Alternative Title(s): Nu Spelling