Middle of Nowhere Productions

The 1934 Spelling Revolution

By Matt (Colonel)

The Spelling Revolution of 1934 marks a little known time in the history of New York. Mostly lost due to the politics of modern academia, the event is still well known to a handful of the surviving participants.

 

The Spelling Revolution has its routes in the prohibition laws of the ‘roaring twenties' and the attempts by the French to limit the expansion of the French language. By placing a limit of 50 000 words on the French language many of the great French artists, notably Voltaire and Victor Hugo became enraged at what they perceived as a restriction on their creativity. This began an exodus of the cream of French artists to the US, the land of opportunity (and creamed turnips as it was wrongly believed at the time).

 

Upon the arrival of the first boat load of French writers to New York a ripple effect spread throughout the city. Many for saw a new age of creative extremism, unhindered by the restrictive values of the old world, in which they would be free to produce whatever they wished. Soon works of art and literature, considered too far thinking only a few months before were appearing all over New York. For some it was a new Renaissance. For others, it was simply another step in the decline of decent values and morals.

 

The powerful Pennsylvanian Mountain folk lobbyists began pushing for restrictions on the creative output of the New York art fraternity. Many ideas were looked at but it was decided that a limit on the English language would be the best option. They expected that a repeat of what happened in France would occur and many artists would simply flee to another country, Paraguay perhaps?

 

What they weren't expecting was the Spelling Revolution. On the day the Congress passed the Word Make Less of Act 1934 the Time published a list of new words in flagrant contravention of the new law. (Such words included Mionaglonglassoma – the act of placing ones hands on ones head and screaming “my pants were stolen by a one eyed barnacle”) The community of New York was shocked when the writers for Time magazine were arrested for breaching the new law. The scene of such revolutionary thinkers being placed in jail, simply for expressing their creative thoughts was too much for many free thinking liberals.

 

Soon many well known artists were breaching the new law. Ernest Hemmingway shocked the conservative world when he climbed atop the Empire State building, wearing only a pair of red underwear, and spray painted the word “Authennticite” down the side instead of “Authenticity”.

 

Soon many people were attempting to out do each other in their extreme use of spelling and punctuation. Rival gangs began forming to push new ways of spelling. The phonetic gang began to swell in numbers when they proposed spelling every word phonetically. This however created a backlash amongst the hard core art fraternity who began to look down on anyone who failed to use at least four numbers and two drawings of Henry Ford in every word. The most bitter clashes were between the Accent, Umlaut and Cedilla gangs who proposed writing and pronouncing every thing with their respective marks.

Many contemporaries of the time commented that the Spelling Revolution was marked by the way in which its participants were constantly cutting their feet by living so far on the edge. (Some even argued that Arthur Miller fell off it when he spelt multi-use document – 6δ73:=♣☼░╤122`~][ΞΞθ4 عگ8 34]]\ЧЙТ \][єжіќџ33)

 

But how long could this revolution last. The phonetic gang and Cedilla gang lost many of their members in a bitter street battle fought over the spelling of the word guitar. (The fact that the two leaders slept with the same woman may also have had something to do with the fight but as one historian of the time commented, “Who cares if they slept with her? The women only spelt her name with four pictures of the Mona Lisa!”) This bloody battle tired everyone of the Revolution and it soon began to lose momentum.

 

The considered end was in the summer of 1937 when the chief editor of the Baltimore Daily Bugler declined to follow the latest trend and spell his name with a detailed cross section of the Pocket Battleship Graf Spee. As the extreme forms of spelling began to decline so too did interest in the Revolution. No longer maintaining its shock value the community had come to except outlandish behaviour from the artistic community. The Word Make Less of Act 1934 was repealed in 1938 and the Revolution came to its official close

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