Pinyin.Info has a new reading: Responses to objections to romanization, written by the brilliant linguist Y.R. Chao in 1916, when he was a young man of 24.
It’s an unfortunate irony that another writing associated with Chao, the famous “stone lions” (a.k.a. shi, shi, shi) piece, is often mistakenly cited as evidence that the author opposed romanization. In fact, Chao favored using romanization for Mandarin, as his essay reveals.
It’s written in the form of 16 “objections,” each followed by Chao’s reply. For example:
Obj. 8 Alphabetized Chinese loses its etymology.
Rep. 8 This argument is like that often urged against simplified English spelling and is to be met similarly. In actual usage, how much attention do we give to etymology in words like 學, 暴, 發, 旋, 之, through, draught, etiquette, row, disaster? Of how many of these very common words do you know the original meaning? It is not to be denied, of course, that it is useful to know the etymology of words by looking them up, and our future dictionaries of alphabetized polysyllabic words should no doubt give their derivations.
The etymology of disaster (which is pretty cool) is certainly easy enough for an educated person to guess, if you stop to think about it. But I must admit I never had.
I have added notes following the text.