Dot writes: Ken directed me to this piece by Frank Furedi on spelling. Furedi says that tolerating variant spellings is of a piece intellectually with a relativist approach to truth.
Celebrating variant truths, like variant spellings, is presented as a pluralistic gesture of tolerance. In fact it represents a reluctance to take education and its ideas seriously. And not surprisingly, those who do not take ideas seriously are also not very worried about how they are spelled.
Ken is unimpressed. I don’t think the analogy between spelling and truth can be pushed very far. Certainly it would be wrong to argue that the spelling of a word has the status of an unvarying truth (not that Furedi does so argue): spellings are historically contingent conventions. But it does occur to me that the very difficulty of English spelling, and the divergences of pronunciation between different varieties of English, make it all the more important to spell correctly. Because English spelling is often not transparent, it is that much harder to guess a word when the convention (the usual spelling) has not been followed.