Simplified Spelling

Theodore Roosevelt is best known for reshaping the U.S. Navy, the Panama Canal, charging up the hill in Cuba, and as a hero of conservation.

But during his lifetime, he failed at one priority.

He disliked the spelling of many common English words, so much so that as president in 1906 he ordered the U.S. Government Printing Office to use a simplified spelling of 300 English words.

Words like blessed, depressed, kissed, would become blest, deprest, and kist.

Congress revolted. The Supreme Court simply ignored the executive order and continued to issue opinions using conventional spelling. Congress voted 142-25 to repeal the order that same year.

He’d failed. But the “man in the arena” had gone down swinging.

However, after his death in 1919 many of the recommended words would take hold in printed language. His list gave us the current spellings of words like valor, wagon, plow, program, omelet, and behavior (among others).

So maybe he didn’t fail.

Maybe his “failure” got the ball rolling for next generation.

Are you failing or getting the ball rolling?

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