Weird Wills - bequeathing a new English language

Weird Wills - bequeathing a new English language

Weird Wills – bequeathing a new English language

by | Weird Wills

We all have pet hates about communication, things that irk us.  For example, some people are irritated by those who send texts and messages ALL IN CAPITALS.  Some people can’t bear an emoji…….

For legendary Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw, it was the lack of respect for their language shown by the English.

Indeed, in the preface of ‘Pygmalion’ he ranted “they spell it so abominably that no man can teach himself what it sounds like.”

But he had a solution that he included in his last will and testament.  When he died in 1950, his will revealed he had left a very substantial £100,000 for the creator of a new British alphabet of at least 40 characters.

Shaw was an educated man and he anticipated that this might not be an easy legacy to leave.  He stipulated that if the courts ruled against his new alphabet the money should be shared between the National Gallery of Ireland, the British Museum and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.  Shaw was correct in his prediction and the latter 2 institutes sued the estate.  The fund set aside for his alphabet was reduced to £18,300.

Shaw chose his trustees well.  They ran a competition for the creation of the new alphabet.  Kingsley Read was awarded £500 for his alphabet that could be written without indicating single sounds by groups of letters or by diacritical marks, amongst other rules.

The remaining money was used to publish Shaw’s “Androcles and the Lion” in the Shavian alphabet. It remains the only book widely published using Shavian characters.

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2018-06-05T07:59:04+00:00

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