Why Teachers Deserve Presents – Part 2

This example is from The Oatmeal. Click on the link for
more hilarity, after you finish reading this blog, of course.

Welcome to Part 2 of Why Teachers Deserve Presents. Check out Part 1 if you missed it. Not only will you agree that teachers deserve presents for teaching this craziness, but you will be amazed at how much you know, or I guess, how much you should know.

Today’s lesson focuses on the ridiculous rules that exist in modern American English. If I remember my high school Latin class accurately, our language is a combination of Romance Languages (Spanish, Italian, etc., which are derived from Latin), German, and Old English. When you mash together that many languages, you’re bound to get some strange results. This is most apparent in our different “spelling rules” and the number of words out there that don’t follow the rules, or as we teachers tell our students, “don’t play fair”. Consider this:

Take a minute to ponder that.


Good. Now, consider two letters in our alphabet – C and X. I will now present for you why these two letters are mostly unnecessary, and perhaps only exist to drive teachers crazy. There are two sounds made by the letter C by itself. Think back to when you were practicing letter sounds with your kids (or when you were a kid). C can have a “hard sound” and sound like a K. Or it can have a “soft sound” and sound like an S. So what we have is “The kat kame to the sity in a kar”. The only case you might really need to use a C, phonetically speaking, anyway, is to make a word requiring the CH sound. What about X? X sounds like KS or Z, depending on where it is in the word. “The foks plays a zylophone.”

I don’t speak Spanish, but I did take Spanish in college. I seem to remember learning that all letters in the Spanish alphabet make the same sounds, no matter what (I’m sure someone will correct me in the comments  if that’s wrong). So A always says “ah”, E always says “ay”, I always says “ee”, and so on. Silent Es don’t exist in Spanish. What is that animal that digs underground? A mole. What’s that green stuff you put on nachos? Guacamole. See? I’m a little jealous.

Homophones make our lives even more interesting. I added one example at the beginning of this post. I told my third graders that if they can master the difference between “your” and “you’re”, they’ll be doing better than most internet users (I’m one of those too, so don’t get your panties in a twist). Reference the chart for several examples of homophones. These seem easy to us because we’ve been using them for years. Try introducing them to a young kid, especially one who learned a sensible language first. “She is about to turn two, too.” “He rode down the whole road and fell in a hole.” “I heard a herd of cattle. Can you hear them here?” Ugh.

I’m from a part of the country that isn’t considered to harbor accents, but I don’t think that’s true because of two words: “our” and “are”. These are not homophones!

Finally, the way we use combinations of words and figures of speech makes learning English correctly a tricky proposition. Consider this chart:

This reminds me of that lady that Mike Myers played on Saturday Night Live. “A pineapple is neither a pine nor an apple. Discuss.”

Anyway, bask in the pride that you now have realizing everything you didn’t know that you knew.

Now go find a teacher, and buy them a present.

2 thoughts on “Why Teachers Deserve Presents – Part 2

  1. Pingback: If You Want To Perform Magic, Teach Reading | Allison Maruska

  2. I try to keep this in mind while learning Japanese. I have been told by Japanese people that English is far easier to learn than Japanese is which doesn't help my efforts!


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