This subject classification system was devised by an American, Melvil Dewey (1851-1931). He was christened Melville, but being an advocate of a rationalized spelling system preferred to spell his name Melvil.
One of his publications (1912) was entitled Abridged Decimal classification and relativ index for libraries, clippings, notes, etc.. Note the spelling of relativ. Dewey believed in eliminating redundant and misleading vowel letters. He founded a Spelling Reform Association in 1886. You can see a sample of his rationalized spelling here. (I’m surprised, really, that he didn’t change the spelling of his surname to Dewy.)
I was reminded of the issue of spelling reform by reading this morning of the memorial tributes left by people mourning the tragic death of a teenager who fell from a tower block in London. According to my newspaper, one tribute read
RIP my darling, luv u 2 bitz. Gone but never forgotten.
This is not a bit of private informal txtng but a kind of public document, displayed in circumstances that can only be characterized as formal. In the absence of any official rationalization of spelling, people are more and more doing their own thing. Luv represents the pronunciation directly; love doesn’t.
Consistency might also demand gon in place of gone.
The indefatigable Masha Bell, author of Understanding English Spelling (Pegasus, 2004), has recently been discussing “surplus -e endings” in her blog (1 August).
As she points out, the use of final silent -e to signal a long vowel (as in rate, compare rat, and hope as against hop) is undermined by cases of final silent -e that have no such function: determine, famine, medicine etc.
She also compares the ‘redundant’ -e in such words as accurate, adequate, delicate, private, with the ‘phonic reliability’ of words such as accelerate, assassinate, calculate. (She doesn’t use phonetic transcription, which would perhaps bring the point out more clearly: ˈækjʊrət, ˈædɪkwət, ˈdelɪkət but əkˈseləreɪt, əˈsæsɪneɪt, ˈkælkjuleɪt.) This implies, interestingly, that perhaps we ought to complicate our spelling by introducing a difference between moderate (verb, ˈmɒdəreɪt) and moderat (adjective, ˈmɒd(ə)rət), or separate (verb, ˈsepəreɪt) and separat (adjective, ˈsep(ə)rət) and other similar pairs.
It would certainly, I think, be advantageous to abolish the -e not only in love but also in have and give. These three very basic words immediately undermine the ‘magic e’ rule that reading beginners are taught. It would be nice, too, to be able to distinguish liv (verb, lɪv) from live (adjective, laɪv).