Quiz: The Shavian Alphabet

George Bernard Shaw’s socialism extended beyond his writings and into the letters themselves. He believed the English alphabet was needlessly complicated and confusing; different sounds may be made by the same letter, or the same sound may be made with different letters. For example, in an anecdote commonly misattributed to Shaw, Charles Ollier wrote a letter sharing how his son determined that “fish” might also be spelled “ghoti:”

Shaw found this complication more than inconvenient; he believed it impeded literacy and progress, particularly for the poor. To remedy this, his will included a large bequest for the development of a new alphabet that would simplify spelling. The characters should look different from the Latin alphabet to avoid further confusion. Each letter should only represent one sound, and each sound should only be represented by one letter.

Ronald Kingsley Reade won the resulting 1950 competition, with the alphabet seen here:

Letters above the line are for single sounds; images below the line are for common combined sounds or words. (source)

How would you fare using the Shavian Alphabet? In the quiz below, some quotes from Mrs. Warren’s Profession have been translated into the Shavian Alphabet. Can you decode the messages?

How did you do? Stop by the board in our lobby to see how you measure up to other codebreakers, and then enjoy our production of Mrs. Warren’s Profession.

Join us at Lantern Theater Company for Mrs. Warren’s Profession. Update: The show has been extended through October 16, 2016; visit our website for tickets and information.