Linguists have been predicting the change for decades and the 2016 edition of the only record of standard Australian English will make it official: from now on ‘ask’ is spelled ‘arks’ to match the most common pronunciation of the word.
Macquarie Dictionary made the announcement ahead of its 2016 Word of The Year announcement due later this month which will likely be irritating, faintly ridiculous and dropped from common teen parlance within a week.
Living languages such as English are constantly evolving, but the latest change to spelling – whilst welcomed by teachers and academics – has provoked outrage from traditionalists.
Nola Farnsworth, a retired English teacher and founder of the Lane Cove Ladies’ Language League is fiercely opposed to the changes. “When standards start to slip, society suffers,” she says. The league historically campaigns against swearing on television and the use of ‘Americanisms’ in Australian theatre but Mrs Fletcher vows they’ll fight “to the death – and beyond, if necessary” to prevent any further “bestiality to Her Majesty’s tongue”.
Language expert Eric Moore from the Australian Linguistics Society says the league’s fears are unfounded: “Many English words have changed over the centuries, “ he said. “For instance, the word bird was originally spelled and indeed pronounced brid, wasp used to be waps and not so long ago anyone who felt inclined to say ‘your call is important to us’ simply blurted out ‘I deserve to have my genitals cut to ribbons.’”
The results of the federal government’s next NAPLAN testing for Australian school students is expected to show a sharp increase in student literacy once the changes come into effect and Australia could even beat South Korea and Finland in the OECD’s world education rankings once ‘definitely’ is changed to ‘defiantly’ and ‘lose’ officially becomes ‘loose’.