The copyright of Basic English

"Winston Churchill had the British government purchase the copyright to Basic" abc-pop-mindp. 108–9

So... an entire language meant for "non-native speakers" (British colonies) has had its copyright assigned to the British government?

"[...] The Cabinet Conclusion of 24 June 1946 stated that "the Government should continue to promote the use of Basic English by official means." On 17 April 1947, the Basic English Foundation was formed, with Ogden as Chairman ... A year later he resigned and in June 1948, the copyright in Basic English was assigned to the Trustees of the Basic English Foundation. [...]" ogden-bio-bib

And funnily enough, Churchill's heirs have sought to charge a biographer of his to use his words.

Singer is somewhat obsessed with Churchill, running an entire bookstore devoted to Churchill. As such, he actually says he's had a very good relationship with Churchill's heirs for years. But when he finally sought to write a book on Churchill himself, the family went the usual route and claimed no quotations unless you pay. The approximate rate: 50 cents per word. Quoting other Churchill relatives also costs money and the rates may differ. As Singer explains, he basically had to significantly cut back on what he quoted, and completely excise some Churchill family members from the book. But he did have to pay for the 3,872 words he used that included direct quotations from Churchill -- though the family gave him a slight discount, such that he had to pay £950 -- which works out to about 40 cents per word.

H.G. Wells wrote about basic english in The Shape of Things to Come

The word list can be found on wiki. The word "he" is to be found under "Operations - 100 words". "She" does not exist in Basic English. "Male" can be found under "Qualities - 100 descriptive words", and "female" relegated to "Qualities - 50 opposites".


abc-pop-mind Illich, Ivan, and Barry Sanders. 2011. ABC: The Alphabetization of the Popular Mind. Marion Boyers. ↩︎ 1

ogden-bio-bib Gordon, W. Terrence. C.K. Ogden: A Bio-bibliographic Study. ↩︎ 1