Saturday, February 27, 2010

ß vs. ss

As some of you may know, ß is not a B. The letter ß is called an eszett, and it's very unique: it is only found in the German language and it has no uppercase form. It represents a "condensed form" of "ss," so it makes a sharp "s" sound. However, the eszett it a dieing species. German and Austrian governments have these groups set up to eliminate the ß from the German language. The Swiss have already eliminated it, replacing it totally with an ß. As you can probably assume, many people are not happy with this. I think the only ones who would be happy with the change are those who write dictionaries and grammar books. Imagine what the reaction would be if the government organized a committee to officially change the English language to make it simpler. No more "ough"es or silent letters. I believe there would be an uprising. People would continue to spell the old way because they were forced to change, rather than just letting the language evolve on its own. I think English has simplified its spelling dramatically since, you know, the days of yore. I mean, just look at the spelling of the poem that I posted yesterday.

Some Germans have revolted against the man. The change of ß to "ss" has been official since 1996, which is when I and my family moved to Berlin. My German teachers complained about the change and how it was totally pointless. They felt they were loosing part of their culture by giving up this letter. How much culture can one letter of the alphabet hold? I guess a lot. The big newspaper of Germany, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung totally rebelled and ignores all of the rule changes. They use the ß every where they want. And I think that's a good thing. I don't think committee's should have to meet to change a language faster than it should. Maybe I'm wrong. What would have been better is if some prominent authors stopped using the ß in their works. Then maybe computer companies would change the German keyboard so you have to type a crazy complicated set of keys to get an ß to show up (maybe ctrl + alt + s + s + enter), so that it's such a pain that everyone wants to leave it out.

I like the eszett. And I like the weird spellings of the English language. I think it's important that people learn the rules about these things. It shows how much we care, or don't care, about the history of how we speak.

4 comments:

Greg said...

I'm a bit slow this morning.....can you clarify your comment "The Swiss have already eliminated it, replacing it totally with an ß." I'm not following - did the Swiss do away with it and replace with ss?

Katie said...

This is Bryan. Yeah, that was a typo. The Swiss replaced the eszett with the double s.

Lisa Lou said...

Language evolution is facsinating. I mean, look at the Book of Mormon. It's totally obvious that Moroni and Mormon wrote a thousand years later than Nephi. (Ok, well maybe not totally obvious...) The way of writing is completely different! Sometimes I wish I stuck with linguistics as a major.

Kathy Haynie said...

In Spanish, they have officially eliminated "ch" as a letter all by itself. The alphabet used to go a-b-c-ch-d-e-etc..., but now they skip the "ch" letter and just put "c" and "h" together. Ditto for "ll" but I don't think they've eliminated the "n" with the tilde (squiggly line) on top...yet...