Simon Horobin, Professor of English Language and Literature, University of Oxford, recently published a book with the above title. As widely reported (here, here and here), he spoke about the subject at the UK’s Hay Festival this year. Much of the reaction was predictably hostile, which only goes to show how few took the trouble to read what he actually said, or, having read it, were able to understand its import.
In this article in ‘Oxford Today’, he asks ‘What’s happening to English Spelling?’, and wryly observes that for some ‘learning to spell correctly is seen as character-building, a rite of passage, a test of moral fibre, like taking cold showers or early morning runs’ and that ‘those who have taken the trouble to learn it have considerable investment in ensuring that others are obliged to do the same.’
His central point is that ‘we should accept changes in spelling as part of the natural evolution of our language.’ This is not to say that English needs a wholesale change to its spelling system, as some claim. What it does mean is that spelling, like everything else in the language, has changed, is changing, and will continue to change, whether we like it or not.