Thursday, February 28, 2008

let's just say...

I had absolutely no idea how much work History Honours was going to be. No idea.

Of course, it's now that the grinning Masters students choose to tell us that it was the worst year of their life.

Must! Look! On! The! Bright! Side!
- No exams.
- An honours room with own desk and swivelly chair, tea/coffee/fridge, photocopier and own key for all hours of the day.

Aaaand, that's about all I can manage.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Saturday, February 23, 2008

news?

My hometown newspaper - the Christchurch Press - has a reputation for being parochial, especially among my siblings. I would like to point out that over half of my siblings live in cities with infinitely worse newspapers (the Otago Daily Times, and The Worst, oops, West Australian, and Penang's newspaper which basically exists as a government advertisement), and to point out that the World News section in the Press is not bad at all and that the movie reviews are very good.

Today, however, my opinion of the Press has been drastically altered when I saw the front page article: "Who stole this blind boy's bike?"

The article starts, "A near-blind Christchurch albino boy is appealing to thieves to return his bike, which was stolen the first time he took it to school." This article, plus a huge picture of the little boy, takes up about half the front page.

There is something about these type of articles that makes me want to throw up. Yes, it's unfortunate, but hello? It's a bike! And he left it unlocked! As sad as it may be for him to lose it, I think page three or four at best, with maybe a small photo, would be sufficient. It's shameless use of someone's personal problems to generate media points and to sell a newspaper by pity. If that makes sense. It's almost as bad as the Australian current affairs show I saw which featured a "special guest invalid".

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, rioters in Serbia have just set fire to the American Embassy, inflation in Zimbabwe has risen to over 100,580% and floods and landslides in Indonesia have killed eleven and displaced 3500. And a boy in Christchurch who happens to be partially blind has lost his bike.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

wish me luck

Last week I started working again - I'm an ESL teacher at a language school that deals especially with Korean children, but I've been away from work for the last six months because of my overseas adventure. Last week I started with two boys aged thirteen and fourteen, who have reasonably okay English. The elder has been here four years so he understands a lot. And I was surprised to find myself really enjoying it, because I had dreaded going back to work.

This week, though... my boss asked me to take on another couple of hours on Thursdays, and before I heard anything about it, I agreed - then found out it would be with two small children, aged five or six, who only speak very simple English and can't really read or write yet. *screeeeeech* As you can probably tell from my blog, I find it hard to say things simply. I love teaching English from a technical point of view, but I have to be able to explain stuff, and mostly I've taught kids who are aged ten and up. In this lesson I will have to somehow fill two hours with "Cat. Caaaaaaatttttt. C. A. T. Cat." Okay, so my boss has given me a few more ideas than that, and a few resources to help me with this, and I am also armed with a game of Memory in case I really lose it. But I am so nervous. I told my boss I'd prefer to go into this on the understanding that if I really couldn't handle it I could pull out after a couple of weeks. But I'd rather not look wimpy and incompetent. Wish me luck!

UPDATE (22 Feb): So I've done it. And it was difficult. I won't be so terrified about it in future, but I think the two hours I spend with these kids every week is going to be hard work. Their spoken English is worse than I thought it would be so it makes it very hard to communicate certain things to them. They're both rather bouncy, as indeed most five or six year olds are, but the little boy is just a little too bouncy to stay tuned for two whole hours, even one. Oh well. Some of the teachers at school have to have about eight kids at once. I'm lucky. And the nice thing is that another teacher takes them on Tuesdays, so I can chat to him about what works or doesn't work with them.

Monday, February 18, 2008

perfection

I have just turned the television off. There was a documentary, called "Under the Knife", with Louis Theroux. Basically he spent a few weeks in Beverly Hills visiting a few plastic surgeons and following a few of their patients. For me, the worst part was the 50 year old male who looked like a sunburnt mannequin with moobs, or perhaps the woman who wanted her breasts to look just that little bit more symmetrical where they already looked like bulbous plastic balloons - actually the worst was a cute girl with a nice body who went under the knife quite radically and was so happy when her ex agreed that yes, she did look more beautiful and he'd quite like to get back with her. Each and every patient this reporter spoke with talked about the inner change their outer change brought, and how much happier and more confident they were.

Over the last year I'm sure I've put on weight. Not heaps, luckily. But since I broke my heel, I have been restricted from all normal exercise, and have been feeling just a bit worse than usual about it. I've been trying to cut out less healthy food while I can't do much exercise - but here's some advice: if you must have that sort of injury which restricts you from exercise, try not to do it just before Christmas. So basically Allie has been a little bit depressed about body image recently.

It feels strange then, that after seeing these "perfect" specimens of humanity onscreen, I suddenly feel like this weight has been lifted off my shoulders. These people, with all their imperfections observed, identified, marked on with a Sharpie, and treated - these people look abnormal, even bizarre, or at best unnatural. They have lost their natural contour, their identifying features. They are still unhappy with themselves; although they say they're not, they still think they just need a bit of a touch-up in future. Right now (I'm sure it won't last but I want to document this) I feel almost delirious with joy that I am a very, very normal person, that I have a lot of external imperfections, and that I am aware of the person inside me who is independent of what people see. And that I don't live in Beverly Hills.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

a contradictory me

I like to consider myself a reasonable person but have begun noticing a whole lot of inconsistencies in me, which are:

1) I want to challenge myself and become a better, more interesting person by forcing myself to be outgoing and adventurous. However, the moment I get the chance to do so, I freak out entirely and the same old same old seems so much safer. Example: I recently came to the agonising decision that I wanted to look for a new church. Decision made, now is the time for action. Have I acted? N. O.

2) I want to travel everywhere but I love my home and I miss it and crave it whenever I go away for a significant period of time. Example: by the time I came to the end of my stay in Perth, I couldn't wait to get home and almost disliked Perth. Flies, ridiculous heat, no rain, not fitting in with all the Peroxide Barbie inhabitants. Now I'm home, and I have been for a couple of months, and I've started thinking about some of the nicer things in Perth that I will miss. Gelato ice cream at Cottesloe Beach, the Swan river, the Cottesloe tea shop, the great church I attended there, not least my niece Ruby.

3) I want to travel here (Iceland):
just as much as I want to travel here (Dead Vlei, Namibia):


4) I miss having all my brothers and sisters around... but I really love not having to fight for the shower, or who gets to finish the Whittakers Hazelnut chocolate, or what TV show I'll watch.

5) My Big Dream is to be an author, but it's scary and hard work and sometimes I wonder if I believe in myself enough. I think I do - but I want to be convinced of it when I already am convinced of it.

6) This year I'll be doing Honours for History at uni. I am so glad to be leaving English behind me - the essays I write because I know they'll get me good marks, not because I believe them; the lecturers who think they are so superior to the rest of the population (not all the lecturers, I hasten to point out); and especially the constant snarky little comments about Christians or God by either the lecturers or the other students. All the same, I'll miss not being kept constantly on my toes. There's something invigorating about not-quite-persecution.

7) I want to earn money and spend money and save money and give away money - but I don't want to work. At all. I start again this week and am not looking forward to it.


Anyone else?

Friday, February 15, 2008

fueling my unrealistic expectations of life?

I mentioned in another post that I had been very naughty and ordered three DVDs from Amazon - adaptations of two Austens and one Bronte. They arrived on Saturday and I have been enjoying them so much for the last week. I am such a dork, and I live in fantasyland - but I LOVE it!!

Persuasion is my favourite Jane Austen novel and so it was always going to be difficult to find the perfect film adaptation. I thought the actress who played Anne Elliot was quite a strange choice (although Captain Wentworth was dreamy), and I really disliked how they tried to use both endings - a bit inelegant really. (Jane Austen wrote one ending to this novel, scrapped it and wrote a second one, which is much better.) Still, overall I thought it was lovely. Some of the characters were very well cast, especially Sir Walter Elliot and Captain Wentworth. It was beautifully filmed. A lot of adaptations of this book have been a bit awkward because the book includes a lot of inner thoughts which are difficult to show on film, but this adaptation dealt with them very well. By the end of the movie I was thoroughly enjoying myself. :)
Northanger Abbey is high up there in my favourite Austen stories too. And this adaptation was almost perfect. I watched about half an hour of it and then started all over again because I just loved it so much and wanted to savour it! JJ Feild as Henry Tilney almost lived up to his character, who is in my opinion the most attractive Austen hero. Felicity Jones as Catherine Morland was almost exactly as I imagine her, very naive, very charming, very sweet. My one problem with it moved a bit too quickly through a few scenes at the abbey which are some of my favourites in the book. But with limited time, et cetera, I can understand why they chose those parts to shorten. All in all, it is a very pretty and lighthearted movie, which is SO good to see at this point of time when all these Austen movies are coming out full of heaving bosoms and melancholy music, which is just not how they are written, in my opinion.

Finally, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This 2006 adaptation showed on TV in New Zealand last year and I adored it, so finally got round to getting the DVD. It was TOTALLY worth it. I have been waiting for a good production of Jane Eyre for so long. Every other one I have seen has had huge problems with it. My initial objections to this were that Toby Stephens and Ruth Wilson are a little too good-looking to play Rochester and Jane. But by the end I so did not care! They were absolutely wonderful in it. I have a HUGE crush on Toby Stephens now. Goody, another male actor almost twice my age to salivate over.

So - I recommend ALL of these DVDs. No disappointment.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

favourite moments in Austen


It's pretty obvious I love Jane Austen. Sometimes I'm not sure why; as Virginia Woolf said, 'Of all great writers she is the most difficult to catch in the act of greatness'. All I know is that I enjoy her writing more and more with every reading. It's the package. It's generally not something you can pick out and show people which can be very annoying when you meet someone, usually male, who grunts out some inadequate criticism like "Jane Austen, why would you want to read her? Everyone knows they're going to get married at the end of the book!"

But today I want to share a few of my favourite funny moments from Jane Austen writings. (My very favourite passage isn't a humourous scene and is also the climax of Persuasion, so I don't want to share it with you and ruin the book for you, if you haven't read it.)

One is a recent discovery, from what is called her Juvenilia. She wrote a very short novel as a teenager called Love and Freindship [sic], which is a parody of some of the very OTT and unrealistic novels of the time. I love this moment, when Edward, who has just married someone imprudently, is being asked by his sister Augusta to reunite with his father for the sake of support and money.

“Never, never Augusta, will I so demean myself,” (said Edward). “Support! What Support will Laura want which she can receive from him?”
“Only those very insignificant ones of Victuals and Drink,” (answered she.)…
“And did you then never feel the pleasing Pangs of Love, Augusta?” (replied my Edward). “Does it appear impossible to your vile and corrupted Palate, to exist on Love? Can you not conceive the Luxury of living in every Distress that Poverty can inflict, with the object of your tenderest Affection?”

Silly but hilarious.

Another favourite moment is from Sense and Sensibility. The two sister heroines, Elinor and Marianne, are waiting in a shop for a long time because a young man is spending a ridiculous amount of time choosing a toothpick case. Finally...

At last the affair was decided. The ivory, the gold, and the pearls, all received their appointment; and the gentleman having named the last day on which his existence could be continued without the possession of the toothpick-case, drew on his gloves with leisurely care, and ... walked off with a happy air of real conceit and affected indifference.

Another is from Persuasion, involving the ridiculously vain Sir Walter Elliot.

‘He had never walked anywhere arm in arm with Colonel Wallis, (who was a fine military figure, though sandy-haired) without observing that every woman’s eye was upon him; every woman’s eye was sure to be upon Colonel Wallis.’ Modest Sir Walter! He was not allowed to escape, however. His daughter and Mrs Clay united in hinting that Sir Wallis’s companion might have just as good a figure as Colonel Wallis, and certainly was not sandy-haired.
‘How is Mary looking?’ said Sir Walter, in the height of his good humour.

And finally, here's one from Pride and Prejudice, with Mr and Mrs Bennet:

“Mr Bennet, how can you abuse your own children in such a way? You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion on my poor nerves.”
“You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least.”

So - there you go. I'm off to watch my new Northanger Abbey DVD which I very extravagantly ordered from Amazon and which arrived with Persuasion and Jane Eyre the other day. Hooray!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

weddings weddings everywhere

We-ell -the last few days have been big busy days but none bigger and busier than yesterday, Jane Doe's wedding. Jane and I spent a lot of time together this week, going to collect flowers, petticoats, etc, which was great. Here is Saturday, though:

Jane Doe herself - this photo makes her look nervous but she was actually scarily calm until about half an hour before the wedding!
Moi. When looking at this photo please consider that I had not had time at that point to utilise my Hollywood Fashion Tape, bought expressly for the occasion.
I didn't really get any photos of me in my full length dress so I've included this one to show the dress on Cat, the maid of honour. It was SUCH a pretty dress and we all felt great. Got so many compliments! :)

Being a bridesmaid prevented me from getting any photos of the service and following events up until the reception, but the basics are:
They got married.
It was a lovely service. I'm not just saying that. One of the nicest I've been to.
Great speeches, great afternoon tea.
Fun photos but it was... er... an experience hobbling around the Botanic Gardens in high heels.

After photos, we had a space of about an hour until the reception, so we went round to the newlyweds' new flat. This is Mr and Mrs Jane Doe on the threshold of their new home.
Mr and Mrs Jane Doe at the reception dinner - which was very, very nice. It was only family and the bridal party, so most of the speeches were made at the afternoon tea which came after the service.

Congratulations, Mr and Mrs Jane Doe!

Oh - and by the way - this is my 400th U2 vs Jane Austen blog post. Wow.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

How To Speak Like a Kiwi


A couple of posts ago, I ranted and raved about how English spelling shouldn't be simplified, and happened to mention one of the differences between New Zealand English and other forms. Sarakastic and Jenkneebee commented that they'd like to hear more - and as today is Waitangi Day, a national holiday and the anniversary of when the Maori tribes and the English Crown signed a treaty about land distribution etc, it seemed very appropriate!

It's difficult to know exactly where to start - perhaps it should be with this. The ways we are different or the same. In general, New Zealanders have lost some of the slight differences between sounds that most other English-speaking countries have, probably because we tend to speak very fast and aren't exactly strict with our diction. For example, when I was in Australia, people kept asking me if my name was Allie or Ellie - but in New Zealand we wouldn't hear the difference between them, so it took me a while to figure out what they meant. We would say both names as Allie.
Specifics:
1) New Zealanders are a little like Brits in that we say words like path or dance or can't with the same "a" sound as in hard, not as in ban or can.
2) As I mentioned in that other post, we don't use a "non-prevocalic r" - which means we don't pronounce the "r" in words like beard or hard, although obviously we still pronounce it in words like right, because it's at the start of a syllable. [Exception: those Kiwis who come from the very bottom of the South Island still pronounce the "r" in hard because there were a lot of Scottish settlers in that area.]
3) Non-NZers find it hard to understand us when we say words like bed - they sound more like bid. Likewise, bid sounds more like bud. :) Hence, Australians take the crap out of us for saying "fush and chups" whereas we think they say "feesh and cheeps". Also, if you want to say the word New Zealand and sound like a native, DO NOT say "New Zeeland". You'll immediately sound foreign. Most of us say "New Zilland". Horrible, but true.
4) We've lost differences between similar words such as pool and pull. Both come out sounding like pull. Words like tour and cure are starting to have only one syllable.
5) The difference that is probably most famous to linguists is that we no longer say the difference between the sounds in the words near and square. So, hair, hear, here, hare are all pronounced exactly the same, unlike in British English.
6) Another famous oddity of NZ English is that our sentences sound different, inflexion-wise. Most speakers of any language, when asking a question, will slightly raise their voices in pitch at the end of the sentence, so that people know it's a question. New Zealanders do that not only in questions but in a lot of statements.
7) We tend not to say the difference between woman and women.
8) We're quite casual about the less important words such as 'to' and 'the', so when we say a sentence like "I'm going to the shops" it generally comes out as "I'm going t' th' shops". That might be universal but NZers really do talk so fast that that's the norm.
9) The 'eye' sound often comes out sounding like 'oi' - this is what I like least about my accent, actually. So "nice" becomes "noice", etc etc.

Those are most of the differences I can remember but there's sure to be more! Here's some examples I found on YouTube for you:
This video is about thirty seconds from a Flight of the Conchords episode. It is a very funny demonstration of the bed --> bid confusion. (Basically if you want to hear a NZ accent, watch any Flight of the Conchords episode and you'll get an excellent example, but this one is particularly about the Kiwi accent.)
This video is just one example of how Australians make fun of us! One of my favourite shows while I was living in Australia was The Chaser, a group of comedians who go and make fun of everyone. This is one of them trying to make Helen Clark, the NZ Prime Minister, say "six" - which to Australians, sounds like "sex".
And I haven't actually watched this video, but apparently it's a Channel One News item on how the NZ accent has changed over the last thirty years.

Other than pronunciation itself, New Zealanders have a lot of words we use all the time that no one else understands. I thought you should learn at least some:
Bach (pronounced 'batch') is a holiday home. Must be slightly rundown.
Togs = swimsuit.
Lollies = candy.
G'day. Aussies use this too, yes. Pretty self-explanatory - a shortening of "good day".
A hard case is someone who's a bit of a joker.
A hissy fit is a tantrum. Not just for toddlers, though.
To be knackered is to be exhausted.
To kick the bucket is to die.
To pack a sad is to get moody or morose.
Tramping is the equivalent of hiking, and is usually an overnight affair.
Mana is a Maori word, but is used widely to signify prestige, status or authority.
Mate = friend. Very very widespread.
Pakeha = non-Maori person/people. Usually of European descent. (Maori has no "s" sound so the plural is just Pakeha too.)
A Pom is an Englishman.
Scroggin is a mixture of anything, eg nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, that you take with you on tramps to eat as a snack.
Sweet as = A kind of equivalent of "no worries", "fine", "great".
Wopwops = isolated rural areas.
For more, visit this website.

Another major feature of New Zealand English is the Maori place names. Obviously places like my hometown, Christchurch, have English names, but a lot of towns, rivers, lakes, mountains etc have Maori names, and really there are two ways to pronounce these - the Anglicised way or the proper way. You will have to master both. Example:
Waikouaiti is a small town. In Maori it should be pronounced something like this - Why-koh-why-tee. But most Pakeha would call it Wack-a-white.
Taupo, a lake and town, is generally pronounced Tow-poh (Tow as in Cow), but should be pronounced Toh-por.
Aaand Lake Te Anau is often pronounced Tee-ar-now but should be Teh-ar-noh.

There's not a whole lot of variation within New Zealand English because we're quite a small, young nation. But - as I mentioned before - southerners tend to use the non-prevocalic "r". And there's another important group that have a sort of dialect of their own - Maori and Pacific Island New Zealand English! This is used a lot more in the north than the south and is a very cool accent, I think. I won't go into it but I will point you to some great examples.
This is Maori comedian Billy T. James who used to have a TV show way back.
This is a trailer for NZ's equivalent of The Simpsons - Bro'Town. Be warned, it's funny but if you're not into toilet humour...
Otherwise, watch a movie like Whale Rider.

Finally, I'm going to give you some phrases to practice. Say these over and over, do some study on YouTube, and perhaps you will be able to fool someone one day. Still, apparently the NZ accent is one of the hardest to imitate. Sir Anthony Hopkins tried, in The World's Fastest Indian, and he did quite well, but there were moments when he just couldn't get it right. The problem is that it's not just the actual sounds but the way you structure your sentences - they have to have the right rhythm and intonation and twang, which is quite difficult.
G'day mate = Guday mate.
NZ = Enzed. (Very important - NOT enzee).
I'd like some chicken chips = Ud luk sim chucken chups. (Don't exaggerate the "u" in chucken chups too much - it's really somewhere between "chips" and "chups".)
Good on you, mate = Goodonya mate.
She'll be right = Shill be roight. (as in, everything will be okay)
Give us a squiz = Givz a squiz (as in, give us a look)
Pop round for a cup of tea = Pop round fora cuppa.
Or - just add an "eh" onto the end of every observation. Ie, "She's looking good, eh." "I'm pretty tired, eh." "Work's hard, eh?"

But really, the most important thing of all towards being accepted as a Kiwi is to understand that the Australian accent is sillier than ours.

Monday, February 04, 2008

ten of the mostest

Here is it; my random pick of ten of the mostest.

1) Most Inane Hymn Verse:

God holds the key of all unknown, and I am glad,
If other hands should hold the key,
Or if he trusted it to me,
I might be sad (I might be sad).
We sung this at church last night and really! What a pointless verse! What is it trying to say? Absolutely nothing! It seems to me that those elderly people who complain about modern church music lacking thoughtfulness have forgotten about the existence of hymns like this. Besides that, the rhyming is dreadful.

2) Most Beautiful Bride:

Grace Kelly wedding Prince Rainier of Monaco. I was flicking through a book about this couple today at the library, saw a couple of photos of their wedding, and decided that if I looked one sixteenth as good as Princess Grace looked on my wedding day, I would be ecstatic.

3) Most Ridiculous Place Name:

This is a New Zealand one (wait for it...):
Tetaumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu.
How's that for a tongue twister!
It means: "The hilltop where Tamatea, with big knees, conqueror of mountains, eater of land, traveller over land and sea, played his Koauau (Maori flute) to his beloved".

4) Most Liked Objects in my Bedroom (clockwise from top left):

- Palm tree coat hanger which my sister Viv gave me for Christmas. I have a very small room so I've never had space for my numerous bags (Allie's favourite accessories) except on the floor. Now, problem solved! I love it!
- Bookcase. There's nothing special about the actual bookcase, but it's tall and imposing, full to bursting of my favourite books, and has a pretty paper chain I made hanging down the side.
- My lantern, which my sister Rachel gave me for Christmas. This is made out of scrap metal and came with a collection of different coloured tealights to go inside.
- My U2 concert ticket from 2006, framed. :)
- A watercolour painting of Penang, from when I went to Malaysia last year. This time I went I decided I'd like to bring home something durable and attractive, instead of just pirated DVDs and fake label clothing. When I got home I framed it, and I love it!
- Posters. One is a photo of Edvard Grieg, my favourite composer - I found it at a second hand bookshop and intend to frame it eventually. The other is the front cover of my programme from a Jacques Loussier Trio concert, with their autographs.

5) Most Amazing Photo:

I did a course at university last year called "Resistance and Conformity in Nazi Germany". Our lecturer showed us this photo, a crowd of workers doing the Nazi salute. You may need to click on it to get a larger version, but there is one man in the crowd (circled) standing with his arms folded. For all we know he may just have been scratching his elbow or something, but it looks very much as if he was making a stand. Brave, brave person. I keep this photo stuck up on my wardrobe door because if there's one thing I learnt in this course, it would be very, very easy and likely for me to be everyone else in the photo, and I would much rather be that man.

6) Most Disliked Habits of Other People:

Pressing books on me to borrow that I don't want to read. Anecdote competitions, where someone has to one-up every other person on interesting anecdotes. When driving, indicating for corners far too early (- Dad). Eating too fast or too noisily. And so on. All of which I occasionally succumb to.

7) Most Enjoyed Recent Purchase:

As I have mentioned before, my friend Jane Doe is getting married this Saturday, and it has been decided that the bridesmaids will wear silver jewellery - of which I lack anything nice. So today I went shopping at a proper jeweller's instead of my usual cheapo not-quite-so-good-quality shops. The result was this necklace; only a silver chain and silver cross, but so nice, and I loved the atmosphere of the shop with the realness and expensiveness all around me. Mmm... I think I've been hooked...

8) Most Successfully Eccentric Song:

Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody. I lurve this song.

9) Most Magical Place in New Zealand:

Mount Cook National Park. There's something about staring at the mountain over the crystal blue waters of Lake Pukaki. And then driving round the lake to the mountains; everything's so BIG, bewitching.

However, stiff competition is put up by the place pictured below, Bealey Valley (in Arthur's Pass National Park). Evenings like this one, in 2006, are not easily forgotten.


10) Most Wasteful Use of My Time:

Playing with photo software on my computer. This is supposed to be a charcoal version of me and Jane Doe. It's fun but really quite pointless.

This isn't precisely a meme as I made it up entirely by myself, but I tag anyone who wants to create their own random list of the mostest!

Next up: How To Speak Like Me (requested by Sarakastic and Jenkneebee).

Saturday, February 02, 2008

"sensible" spelling

Enough is enough. I have read one too many silly letters to our local newspaper about how the world would be a better place if English was spelt "sensibly". Here is my rant, err, response - Why English Is Just Fine How It Is.

1) Having a worldwide standard written English is a BIG bonus, especially as English becomes more and more global. It is worth preserving. Second language learners, although they may not believe it, are benefited by this, not crippled by the idiosyncrasies of the language.

2) There is no such thing as a standard spoken English. There never has been and there never will be. We all speak dialects - even the Queen. :) So - if everyone decided English is silly the way it is and decided to create a new universal spelling, it's more than likely that spelling changes would be dominated by American or British dialects. So where does that leave me? I don't speak English the same way people in the States speak it. People from the south of England itself speak a totally different dialect to people from the north. In the end I'd still be spelling English in a way that is a little or a lot different to how I speak it - not so "sensible" an option, really, is it? The only other option is that every dialect group has their own standard English - and that is totally impractical in the global village. It's already annoying enough having the few spelling differences between American English and everyone else's.

3) Sensible spelling advocates trot out phonetic pronunciation as the ideal thing. What they don't realise is that their concept of spelling is so ingrained that even when they pretend to spell "sensibly" they hold onto non-phonetic techniques of spelling. For example - unless you're from Scotland or somewhere similar, you don't actually pronounce the "r" in hurt. But "sensible spellers" leave it in because they don't know how to write that sound phonetically; it would look strange to them if they tried.

4) English has a huge amount of vowel sounds compared to other languages. When doing Linguistics I was taught about fifteen basic vowel sounds that appear in English. But there are only five vowel letters, or symbols, in written English - so how can we simplify English spelling but still maintain these differences? As in the last point, the presence of the silent "r" in some words is really important, or we would read hurt as hut, or burn as bun. Even silent "e"s are important, or how else could we tell the difference between, for example, bate and bat? They seem to be a pet peeve of sensible spellers but actually perform an important function.

5) People who write in "sensible" spelling as an example of the better way to do it, like I saw in today's newspaper, think they've done it in the most obvious and reasonable way. In fact their writing is littered with inconsistencies in spelling. Every single person says things in a slightly different way, however tiny the difference, and it would be incredibly annoying to have to decipher everything you read according to someone else's dialectal oddities.

6) Every seemingly random thing about English spelling actually came about for a very good reason. For example: words like money and love are spelt with 'o' instead of 'u' because it was seen in the early modern period that with cursive writing, letters like m u n are difficult to read in a row. The English language has a fascinating and rich history; why should we drop that? I don't want a plastic committee-created language that has a "sensible" reason for everything. Besides, with so many borrowed words, it is incredibly useful when learning other languages like French or German to be able to easily recognise brother-words, or guess at their spelling.

7) It is actually a very practical and important thing in the modern world to have to spell things correctly and in one particular way. If you spell someone's email address wrong, or type in a URL incorrectly - you're not going to get to the right destination.

8) Finally - it just looks MESSY and is LAZY. I make spelling mistakes now and then and I'm certainly not going to scoff at genuine mistakes or typos, especially in a non-professional environment. Neither do I mind if English undergoes natural change; that's the mark of a healthy and living language. But! Laziness is not an adequate reason to change the entire language just to suit you. Because if you got exactly what you wanted, you can depend upon it that it wouldn't suit anyone else.

Okay. I've worn myself out. Sorry about all the quotation marks around the word "sensible". I'll be impressed if you've read all this. For a reward, I direct you to a slightly more funny response to the sensible spelling debate, which is here.