English is a notoriously difficult language to learn to speak—and it's perhaps even harder to write. Benjamin Franklin—who was born on this day in 1706—certainly thought so, which is why he proposed getting rid of certain letters that make redundant sounds. Why have the letter “C,” for example, when all the sounds it makes can be covered by “S”or “K”?

Other letters he thought were completely replaceable: J, Q, W, X, and Y. Cutting all of these “useless” letters wouldn’t shorten the alphabet, however, because Franklin also proposed six entirely new letters, including one to replace the “sh” sound and one that makes a soft “o” sound. Check out this letter he wrote using his phonetic alphabet:

Since kids these days are still learning the ABCs and not the ABDs, it’s clear that Franklin didn’t get his way. Though he managed to convince famous lexicographer Noah Webster that a phonetic alphabet would be best for the new country, they couldn’t convince anyone else. The public was unimpressed with the idea, and Franklin eventually gave up.