Everyone probably knows the well-known comic attack on the vagaries of English spelling - originating with George Bernard Shaw - that GH-O-TI spells "fish." That's "GH" as in "couGH," "O" as in "wOmen," and "TI" as in "NaTIon," of course.
David Crystal blasts this attack out of the water as "complete naughtiness" in this entertaining and comprehensive survey of the richness of our native spelling.
"The spelling 'ti' is never used with this sound at the end of a word in English and the spelling 'gh' is never used with this sound at the beginning of a word," he explains.
"But people have been taken in by this sort of nonsense."
Kindly, he does not refer to the 40 phonemes of Shaw's "new alphabet" and the version of his Pygmalion which Penguin publishers produced using it.
But throughout he makes the case that the supposedly confused nature of English spelling is a sign of its richness and the heritage of its history.
Any attempt to rationalise such spelling would ultimately fail since as speech changes then spelling would have to change with it or become as disconnected from the voices of real people as, allegedly, it is today.
Crystal starts from the days when Latin was the lingua franca - an inappropriate term for what surely should be called the lingua latina - of its day.
He does not neglect contemporary internet-based spellings like "u" for "you," or "c" for "see."
Indeed, he is quite keen on these neologisms, declaring that "a popular myth of the early 2000s was that these substitutions were promoting illiteracy among young people. The reality is that this kind of language play actually enhances it."
Surprisingly, he makes no reference of Leet, the elite "secret" orthography of the internet.
Leet, or "1337," employs combinations of ASCII characters to replace Latinate letters and numbers or other symbols take the place of letters, such as "\/\/" for "W."