Internet silently turning rhubarb into rubarb

By Harry Wallop

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

The internet will make some English misspellings acceptable, according to one of Britain's most senior linguists, who predicts that in 50 years many common words will be spelt without "irritating" silent letters.

David Crystal, professor of linguistics at Bangor University, told the Telegraph Hay Festival it would be "inevitable" that people would drop the 'p' from receipt, and change the 'c' from necessary into a 's', as well as "simplifying" other words.

Crystal started monitoring the word "rhubarb" 10 years ago, by typing the correct spelling into a search engine, and then typing in the word without the 'h'. He said: "I got millions of hits for rhubarb with the 'h', and just one or two without the 'h'. I did the same job a few years later, and without the 'h' got hundreds of hits, and then a few years later hundreds of thousands of hits. Rhubarb is still the dominant one by a factor of 50.

"But think ahead 50 years - and this is the time frame over which spellings change - and rhubarb with the 'h' and rhubarb without 'h' will be equal.

"The internet will influence spelling. It will get rid of some letters that irritate us, the letters that instinctively we feel shouldn't be there.

- Daily Telegraph UK

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