Brits and Yanks struck with embarasment embarrassment

New millenium spelling woes

It's official: English is going directly to hell in a handcart because more than half of native speakers of the lingo can't spell "embarrassed" - and even more have entered the new millennium without the foggiest idea of how 1,000 years pan out in our beloved mother tongue.

To be precise, 54 per cent of us are embarrassed by "embarrassed", while 60 per cent can't handle "millennium", according to a pole poll by the Spelling Society - a pack of linguistic do-gooders who reckon the time has come to introduce "a more simplified, phonetic system", as the Times puts it.

The Spelling Society probed the prowess of 1,000 British adults and an equal number of stateside guinea pigs. The results revealed that the Yanks were less adept in the spelling department, and could outdo their Blighty-bound cousins only in the matter of “definitely”.

Women, meanwhile, generally trumped the less gentle sex on all fronts, except when it came to organising a quick “liaison”.

The Spelling Society's chairman, Jack Bovill, insisted: “What is holding the UK and the USA back is the irregular spelling system."

This assertion will come as quite a surprise to those who are labouring under the illusion that English is the world's numero uno lingua franca spoken by trillions of people and coveted by those who can't. But Bovill is backed by Edward Baranowski of California State University, who declared: “We have different spellings for the same sound, silent letters, missing letters, and basically a system which reflects how English was spoken in the 13th to 15th centuries, not how it is spoken today. So many sound changes have occurred that are not reflected in modern spelling, that we are left with a fossilised system.”

If you fancy putting yourself to the test, the Times has a "Spelling Bee" here. ®

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