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edward long

Association of Old Crows


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Why do we bother with spelling?

Unlike chess, in spelling the middle game is irrelevant. All that matters is the right choice at the beginning and the end. The middle letters, which must be the correct set of letters, can be completely jumbled and the reader will not be confused. To wit: "Arocdnicg to rsceearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer are in the rghit pcale. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit pobelrm. Tihs is buseace the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe." How can this little known God-given ability of the human brain be exercised to simplify, and perhaps improve, our lives? Any ttguhohs you cveelr TED fklos?


Closing Statement from edward long

OK. OK. Spelling is important and we should continue to teach it and all the rules associated with it to those learning how to read, speak, and write our language. From Silverstein to Shakespeare; from subjects like cryptography and dyslexia, this debate was spirited and very much worth while. From the Netherlands to China we TEDsters hashed-out our feelings on this skill we call Language. It makes sense that the subject of written communication would interest TED folks, after all, what is more crucial to TED Conversations than wtitten communication? I asked two questions. Both were answered. We bother with spelling because it permits standardized rules of written communication. And, the only possible beneficial application for the remarkable ability of the human brain to unjumble familiar words almost as fast as reading correctly spelled words is to jumble words as a way to draw attention to them and add emphasis. We learned the idea of jumbling and unjumbling words is known in the academic world as TYPOGLYCEMIA, and THE JUMBLING EFFECT. Taht's all floks!

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    May 1 2013: This is an example of a wider phenomenon. Our brains have to take meaning from random and incomplete stimuli in most situations.

    Our ancestors could not wait to see a full and clear image of a lion before deciding to take action. They needed to act as soon as they saw a flash of something that matched, in any way, the pattern of a lion.

    As for a use for this specific ability with spelling to enhance our daily lives, nothing springs to mind. Though being reminded that our brains are constantly jumping to conclusions, which can sometimes be incorrect, is itself worthwhile.

    By the way I vaguely remember being taught that, when reading signs, people only look for the pattern of the word, which is why a typeface that gives the word a clear shape is usually chosen.
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      May 1 2013: Excellent observations Seamus! I doubt if US drivers would disregard a red, eight-sided sign displaying the big, bold white letters "SOTP". I think drivers would stop, without noticing the spelling error, based upon recognition of the shape, color composition, and positioning of the sign along with the number of letters in the word. Just as Igor yelled "Lion!" we would stop.

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