Caleb Crain committed the following malapropism to the electronic pages of the Times, which in itself leads people to believe it’s accurate. (Then Gruber linked to it, making matters worse.)

Wordspaces should not be taken for granted. Ancient Greek, the first alphabet to feature vowels, could be deciphered without wordspaces if you sounded it out, and did without them. Spaces or centered points divide words on early Roman monuments, but Latin, too, ceased to separate words by the second century. The loss is puzzling, because the eye has to work much harder to read unseparated text.

Shorter Caleb Crain: If it works for American, it oughta work for everybody. Numerous languages that are hale and hearty in the present day do just fine without wordspaces, though they tend to be extraneous off-brand gobbledygook like Chinese and Japanese. There are trickier examples (Thai, Lao, Khmer, Amharic, Malayalam, classical Mongolian), but the point is unchanged: If wordspaces were really necessary, every writing system would use them. And if anything, lengthier and lengthier URLs have shown that worspaces aren’t always even necessary for us.

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2009.12.03 14:08. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:

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