Mar 20

History Wednesday: Changing the Alphabet

I’m generally against capital punishment except in cases of dumbasses willfully using “alot” as a word. That said, I fully recognize English spelling rules do no one any favors. For example, the words “sail” and “sale” are pronounced exactly the same but have entirely different meanings. So are “scent,” “sent” and “cent.” And don’t even get me started on that “i before e” crap.

Over time many have noted the problem lies in the fact that we use an alphabet which essentially hasn’t changed in 1,000 years. The English of Chaucer’s time only bears a passing resemblance to the English of today. So why are we still using the same damn letters? My guess is a combination of force of habit and general laziness.

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The Georgian alphabet never caught on here, not even in Atlanta.
Image credit: GeorgianJorjadze

Today History Wednesday focuses less on a leader’s personal shortcomings and more on ideas which just never took off. Despite a shaky start, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints succeeded in attracting many converts, building many temples and strongly influencing the histories of several areas in the Western United States, particularly Utah. However, not all of their grand plans came to fruition. Take their original 1849 proposal for a “State of Deseret” as an example:

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It’s said during quiet nights on the Metro, you can still hear Congress laughing.
Image source: Mangoman88

Still, you have to hand it to the early Mormons. They were bound and determined to do things differently than their 19th Century contemporaries. Different religious texts, different marriage rules, different ecclesiastical organizations …

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… Eh, same facial hair.

Yup, ending up in Utah after being unceremoniously thrown out of every place else they’d been, the Saints wanted to do everything their way. They even created a new alphabet to communicate amongst themselves. Attempts to change the alphabet were nothing new, not even in the 19th Century. No less than Benjamin Franklin himself made such a proposal in the 1760s. However unlike Franklin, who apparently lost interest in his proposal soon after he made it, the Mormon Church made a serious effort to implement their alphabet for daily use. Thus, the Deseret alphabet was formulated.

LDS Church President Brigham Young, noting many of the same problems with English spelling rules that Franklin observed decades earlier, formed a committee at the recently-established University of Deseret (now the University of Utah) and charged them with creating a more phonetically friendly alphabet. In January 1854, the university announced it had succeeded.

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“Qapla’!”

Having between 38 and 40 letters in its various incarnations each corresponding to a different English phoneme, the Deseret alphabet was touted by Young as a solution to those silly spelling rules and that “the years that are now required to learn to read and spell can be devoted to other studies.” Young didn’t elaborate on what those other studies should be, but I’m willing to bet they didn’t involve 8 Ball.

Being a religion, the LDS Church set out to publish its scriptures in the alphabet, including the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants. For a time the Deseret News published a section in the alphabet as well. A couple of textbooks were thrown in for good measure. There’s even an extant headstone and coin utilizing the alphabet.

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“And you should see how it looks on gold plates, man!”

Unlike fry sauce and Jell-O molds, the Deseret alphabet never caught on in despite Young’s enthusiasm. Public indifference and the prohibitive costs of transcription and printing combined to doom the alphabet. After Young died in 1877, the project was quietly abandoned.

Still, the Deseret alphabet isn’t quite dead. It’s been part of the Unicode standard since 2001. It’s also the official alphabet of the Republic of Molossia.

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Such as it is.
Image credit: Kevin Baugh

Mar 15

Friday Crap Roundup V

Yes, that’s right ladies and gentlemen! It’s time once again for the Friday Crap Roundup! Now 30 percent dafter for your reading enjoyment!

Breaking Precedent, Rome Style

Earlier this week I opined on papal names and how they rarely deviate from accepted standards. Only six names had been used by popes since 1800. Well, make it seven thanks to Pope Francis. Now while he didn’t take my advice and go with something screwy, he broke a very longstanding precedent anyway. I like that sort of thing in religious leaders. As a matter of fact one has to go all the way back to 913 CE to find the last pope who chose a name never used by any of his predecessors.

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That’s right. Pope Lando.

And so with the conclave over I don’t expect to mention the papacy again for the foreseeable future. All the best to you guys out there in the Vatican.

Ignoring Precedent, Tulsa Style

Speaking of precedent, someone should explain the concept of judicial review to this guy, who actually said:

Just because the Supreme Court rules on something doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s constitutional …. I hear this all the time from Republicans – they say that the court is the arbitrator and after the arbitration is done, that’s the rules we have to live under and we can go forth and make legislation given those rules. That’s not the case.

Yeah, apparently he hasn’t heard of cases like Marbury v. Madison, Brown v. Board of Education, Roe v. Wade, and so forth. Judicial review, that is the prerogative of the court system to strike down unconstitutional laws, has been a central tenet of the American judicial system since, oh, 1803 or so. But you don’t need me to tell you that; anyone who paid attention in high school government class can tell you that.

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“And tell ’em the Big Marsh Man sent you!”

Well, apparently Jim Bridenstine wasn’t paying attention. Unfortunately, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives last year from the Tulsa, Oklahoma, area. C’mon, you guys. Politics is stupid enough without willfully electing this sort of cement-headedness.

Setting Precedent, Boise Style

Recently I wrote of my adventures (if you really want to call them that) with a mysterious person who may or may not be a woman known as “gr8tits2play.” Well, less than a week later, when one does a Google search for that name guess who comes up, like, a lot?

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Oh, lovely.

I suppose it’s in the common interest for me to inform you I’m not “gr8tits2play,” I don’t have a dead uncle in Mali with a fortune I need to smuggle into the United States, I’m not a representative of the lottery in the UK or anywhere else, and I have no problems whatsoever with penis size.

TMI? Fine, let’s move on.

Track of the Week

It’s been one of those weeks, but I hope to finish strong. I need to. Beachy will be here tonight.

In the meantime, play this over and over.

Mar 04

A Tale of Two Wesleys

In 2002 when I lived in Las Vegas I had a chance to see Wesley Willis. At the time I figured, meh, I could see him later. Well, I was mistaken. Willis died suddenly at age 40 in August 2003.

If you’re not familiar with Wesley Willis, you should be. He was a Chicago-based proprietor of awesome. Willis was responsible for some of the most inspired stream of consciousness observations of all time. He imparted them with the help of a cheesy keyboard too. He wasn’t a musician as much as he was a modern-day Muse. Sheer freakin’ genius.

NSFW, but still bloody brilliant.

By coincidence my first name is Wesley too. I’ve just gone by my middle name, Lane, my whole life.

Wesley Willis was schizophrenic. That was common knowledge among his fanbase. Indeed, some have accused his handlers of exploiting him as a result.

You know what? I call bullshit. I just happen to be severely bipolar. Nevertheless, I’m a published author, a former candidate for Congress and – if I may be so bold – a damn good writer in spite of it all. Indeed, perhaps BECAUSE of it all. I’m also a member of Mensa (albeit one who hasn’t paid dues recently). I use this blog to express my stream of consciousness in much the same way Willis did with his music. SB in many ways is my therapy.

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Being a bit off seems to be a prerequisite for good art.

By the way, as much as I respect Willis I don’t like being called Wesley myself. Please call me Lane, or at least something else. It’s all much appreciated.

Rock over Boise. Rock on Chicago. Franz, the good bread!™