Submitted by goossun  •  January 14, 2005

B4 Dickens

I have always thought that “2 write” like this did not exist “B4″ the Internet and online chatting. But strange enough I saw in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations that he has used this kind of spelling to picture his illiterate character that is Pip when he is still living with his sister and Joe: “MI DEER JO I OPE U R KRWITE WELL I OP I SHAL SON B HABELL 4 2 TEEDGE U JO AN THEN WE SHORL B SO GLODD AN WEN I M PRENGTD 2 U JO WOT LARX AN BLEVE ME INF AN PIP.” Does anyone know of any earlier instance of such thing?

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Gossun, regarding "Steph, are you suggesting that Shakespeare spelled his words 'however he wanted?'", Shakespeare was quite inconsistent in his spelling throughout his works, as mentioned, often within the same paragraph. Even in his last will and testament he spelled his own name differently throughout the document.

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I noticed that too!
I was reading it the other day and I got to that part and I went, "ohmygod. Chatspeak." It's a funny book. X)

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Shakespeare definitely employed a lot of "wordplay." In particular, he toyed with homynyms and meter. These sort of techniques seem to be a dramatic precursor to the B4 world.

I'd suggest reading The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare (Russ McDonald, Beford/St. Martin's Press); two of the chapters outline the literary techniques and printing practices associated with the Bard.

In response to the more recent posts: In the chapter, "Where is your Text?", there are clear modern spelling examples of publisher preferences and idiosyncrasies dating back to the 1600s.

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Well, Shakespeare most definatly spelled his own name however he wanted. I wouldn't be suprised, if able to read the origional manuscripts, to see words being spelled two different ways in one paragraph.

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Oh, I don't particularly care about being brainier-than-thou, and I've known about Cawdrey since the second grade. You were the one who started with the uncalled-for sneer against Steph, not to mention your unbecoming little snit fit against Americans. But I understand, really. The effects of psychiatric medication aren't always as predictable as we'd like.

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Oi, Speedwell, don't come all brainier-than-thou on me. Robert Cawdrey's list of "hard words" has got nothing to do with the standardisation of spelling, which occurred in the 18th century, as well you know.

(I say "as well you know"; perhaps I should have said "as you would have known if you hadn't just got his name from a search engine".)

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But we are getting far from the subjevt here. My post was about deliberate alternative spelling in purpose. Of course it is wrong spelling to write 2 instead of to. because they are two different things. But it is also cool sometimes to write like this. I just wonted to know how far back we can trace this.

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Brad, if you were really as smart as you hope we think you are, you'd know who Robert Cawdrey was.

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LOL. I think Steph just meant, "There were no standard spelling rules in English before the time during which Webster wrote his famous dictionary."

Strictly speaking, there are still no "rules" for correct spelling. There are only customary, best-accepted spellings that are agreed upon by a majority of users of English (especially writers and teachers and compilers of dictionaries). The only penalty you pay for violating the conventions is looking gauche--and, in rare cases, appearing to say something you did not intend.

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Steph, are you suggesting that Shakespeare spelled his words "however he wanted?"

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Steph: I know you Americans think you own the internet as well as the world, but standised spelling came in quite a while before your parochial Webster's dictionary was written.

Ever heard of Dr Johnson?

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Back in the day before the Webster's dictionary, people used to spell words however they wanted because there was no correct spelling.

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I can't provide any older examples but I can attest that well B4 the internet was around it wasn't uncommon 2 C notes and ad slogans and such like that.

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