The current trend embraced by designers, hip-hop artists and even Madonna, for crying out loud, isn't new. It's an old idea taken to xtrms.

Why wst spc?

Madonna's new recording, MDNA,* is being released today. The reviews aren't anything to write home about, but if you do write home, make sure you leave out a few vowels. Madonna may not be setting trends anymore, but she's still quick to digest them and spit them out, and it seems her vowels are withering just as quickly as everybody else's.

Madonna's partners in this crime of omission are the usual suspects: dance music artists and the fashion community. A very quick search will find you too many vowel-less band names to list, but not necessarily explain why emptying your vowels seems to be such a good idea. My favourite right now is DLRN. It's short for DeLorean, which does mean they've reduced their printing costs by 50 per cent, but still leaves you wondering, until you know, what they're really called. Darling? Deloraine? Dulurun?

Eunoia, or N

There is a noble heritage of letter omission in Canadian literature, or at least of letter selection. The unchallenged master of the genre is Christian Bok, whose 2001 best-seller Eunoia, incredibly, uses only one vowell at a time. There is an "A" chapter, an "E" chapter, etc. There is also an appendix-like section that uses no vowels at all, such as the poem And Sometimes. But Bok isn't vowelist, or even letterist. He just realized, in his words, that "Each vowel has its own personality" and wanted to give the each their due.

It's worth noting that the word Eunoia means "beautiful thinking." Let's hope Bok never goes into design, or he'll have to republish it under the title N.


The no vowels trend first jumped to our attention when Toronto's yearly celebration of fashion, Fashion Week, changed its logo to FSHN WK. (Here's a piece about it in LXRY Mgzn) It's true, FSHN WK takes place in a vast and ridiculous concrete tent that annually eviscerates a completely innocent green space in downtown Toronto, but their logo hardly takes any space at all.

JRDN and brgr

We then noticed the RB artst JRDN and the Nw Yrk brgr chain, brgr. I kind of like brgr. It forces you to thnk about wh thy'd do that. Trns out they sll thmslvs as being abt nt hvng fllr.


Nt nw d (that's idea)

It's not hard to see where this is coming from. Texting and Twitter have pushed us to find ways of saying more with less, and that's not a bad thing. The absurdities in English spelling -- light, wrought, should, and so many more -- may well not survive under such pressure, and if they don't, it will be a victory that was a very, very long time coming. Some people have been trying to simplify English spelling since before there were standardized spellings, most notably GB Shaw, who willed a percentage of his considerable estate toward the idea.

Ts bt Dmcrcy

But Shaw wasn't doing it to be cool. He wanted to increase literacy. He wanted the language to be easier to use, and therefore, to get more people using it.

Whch brngs s prtty mch fl crcl, dnt y thnk? Ys, lvng t vwls mks wrtng mr pzzlng, n thrfr cl n knd f fn t fgr t, bt bynd crtn pnt, t mks t mpssble t ndrstnd, nd thn w'r rght bck whr w strtd.


Wht d y thnk? Tll s n th cmmnt bx. G hd! T wn't tk mch spc!


*Editor's note: MDNA is also a play on MDMA, the clinical abbreviation for the drug ecstacy, long associated with dance and rave music. Madonna has been taking a good deal of heat for her new album's casual references to a potentially harmful drug. We especially like that a lot of that heat is coming from Joel Zimmerman, the Canadian electronic music superstar who, instead of calling himself ZMMRMN, chooses the name Deadmau5, complete with vowels, and even an additional consonant.

posted by Tom Allen on Mar 26, 2012