Review – Spell It Out: The singular story of English spelling #Writing #Language #English

Spell it Out UK Amazon print

Spell it Out Amazon Kindle UK

5 Stars.

Spell It Out: The singular story of English Spelling – David Crystal.

Why is there an ‘h’ in ghost? William Caxton, inventor of the printing press and his Flemish employees are to blame: without a dictionary or style guide to hand in fifteenth century Bruges, the typesetters simply spelled it the way it sounded to their foreign ears, and it stuck. Seventy-five per cent of English spelling is regular but twenty-five per cent is complicated, and in Spell It Out our foremost linguistics expert David Crystal extends a helping hand to the confused and curious alike.

He unearths the stories behind the rogue words that confound us and explains why these peculiarities entered the mainstream, in an epic journey taking in sixth-century monks, French and Latin upstarts, the Industrial Revolution and the internet. By learning the history and the principles, Crystal shows how the spellings that break all the rules become easier to get right.

You can tell I’m a logophile (lover of words), as this book really appealed to me.  I love the vagaries of English, the whys and wherefores, the ‘really – that’s spelled like that?’ and the etymology of language. This book is a great resource – it covers the history of the English Language, and the ‘rules of spelling’ – many of which get defenestrated at every available opportunity. Crystal explains why.

English is a very confusing language – and I’m a native speaker! Similar sounds – such as ‘ou’ or ‘gh’ can be used in a large variety of words with different pronunciations:

(Spelling in red) coff as in cough; ow as in boughruff as in rough; thru as in through; doh as in doughnut. 

Thorough, plough, tough, borough etc.

And we have the one everyone knows – I before E except after C… unless … well Wiki has a whole page of them:

There are reasons – from lazy scribes to printers being things look nice, to foreign words being adulterated, to regional differences to text speak. It all makes sense (sort of).

Crystal keeps the book interesting, easy to understand and amusing. He knows his stuff, and it shows. I found it fascinating, and will definitely get the author’s other work. Mr Crystal – you have a new fan.

Recommended for logophiles, writers, and the curious.



Phobias – the bizarre, and the terrifying – Part 1

Chatting with some of my fellow Boo! authors about fear and phobias I remembered the great, and fascinating book I had a while back


As some of you know – I’m frightened of clowns  (Coulrophobia), puppets (Pupaphobia  and enclosed spaces (Claustrophobia). I’m not good with crowds or noisy places either, and dolls make my skin crawl.  Perhaps I can incorporate some into my characters….


Anyway that got me thinking about what phobias mean and which ones are out there:

The English suffixes -phobia-phobic-phobe (from Greek φόβος phobos, “fear”) occur in technical usage in psychiatry to construct words that describe irrational, abnormal, unwarranted, persistent, or disabling fear as a mental disorder (e.g. agoraphobia), in chemistry to describe chemical aversions (e.g. hydrophobic), in biology to describe organisms that dislike certain conditions (e.g. acidophobia), and in medicine to describe hypersensitivity to a stimulus, usually sensory (e.g. photophobia). In common usage, they also form words that describe dislike or hatred of a particular thing or subject. The suffix is antonymic to -phil-.

Ablutophobia – a fear of washing or bathing

Ablutophobia is an extreme and irrational fear of bathing, washing or cleaning. A fear of bathing can be observed in many children, but if this fear carries over into adolescence and adulthood, it often becomes ablutophobia. If left untreated, ablutophobia not only worsens in the physical affect, but also on the social life of the person suffering from the condition. People with ablutophobia will continue to avoid bathing and as a result may have to deal with the alienation and health issues that come with having poor hygiene.

Symptoms of Ablutophobia

Identifying ablutophobia should be quite easy. If the victim of the fear is an adolescent or adult and he or she fits the criteria below, the fear is very likely a genuine disorder. Some common symptoms of ablutophobia include:

  • Feelings of dread or panic when the prospect of bathing or washing comes up
  • Automatic or uncontrollable reactions in response to the fear
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling
  • Extreme avoidance


I can see how this could lead to problems.


Phonophobia, also called ligyrophobia or sonophobia, is a fear of or aversion to loud sounds—a type of specific phobia. It can also mean a fear of voices, or a fear of one’s own voice.[1] It is a very rare phobia which is often the symptom of hyperacusis. Sonophobia can refer to the hypersensitivity of a patient to sound and can be part of the diagnosis of a migraine. Occasionally it is called acousticophobia.[2]

The term phonophobia comes from Greek φωνή – phōnē, “sound”[3] and φόβος – phobos, “fear”.[4]

This one is based on religious beliefs – 666 being the Number of the Beast from the biblical Revelations. Although interestingly in some ancient Christian Theologists used this to numerically refer to the Emperor Nero, and arguably Domitian. Neither of which have an unblemished track record in dealing with either Christians or other such groups during their reign.

Preterist theologians typically support the numerical interpretation that 666 is the equivalent of the name and title, Nero Caesar (Roman Emperorfrom 54-68).[20][21][22][23][24][25] (whose name, written in Aramaic, can be valued at 666, using the Hebrew numerology of gematria), a manner of speaking against the emperor without the Roman authorities knowing. Also “Nero Caesar” in the Hebrew alphabet is נרון קסר NRON QSR, which when used as numbers represent 50 200 6 50 100 60 200, which add to 666.

The Greek term χάραγμα (charagma, “mark” in Revelation 13:16) was most commonly used for imprints on documents or coins. Charagma is well attested to have been an imperial seal of the Roman Empire used on official documents during the 1st and 2nd centuries.[26] In the reign of Emperor Decius (249–251 AD), those who did not possess the certificate of sacrifice (libellus) to Caesar could not pursue trades, a prohibition that conceivably goes back to Nero, reminding one of Revelation 13:17.[27]

Of course the jury is out on who or what the Beast is, was or will be….

The Regans changed their house number from 666 ST Cloud Rd, Bel Air to 668, a runner from a county high school in Kentucky refused to run under 666, forfeiting the chance at qualifying for the state championships, in 2015 US Representative Joe Barton changed the numbers of some bills he was introducing from 666 to 702 due to the ‘negative connotations’.

More phobias to follow in later posts.