Monday, July 20, 2015

Cough, Though, and Rough -- There's a Reason

We've all heard rants on the confusing irregularities of our English language:  "Why doesn't cough rhyme with though?"  "If the plural of goose is geese, why isn't the plural of moose meese?" Most of us have even seen this image floating about the internet when some woe-is-me English student is especially distraught:

Richard Lederer has a point -- our language can seem confusing.  This is why on the very first day of British Literature class, before we've even taken out our notebooks and pencils, and before we have opened our literature books,  I show my students the image above and tell my class, "English is a crazy language."  I then show them the fictional word ghoti, and inevitably one of the kids sitting near the back will call out, "I saw that on the internet!  It's fish!" The studious kiddos (who are reaching for their notepads already) cast nervous glances around the classroom as I affirm the internet-meme savant's observation.  If you take the gh from laugh, the o from women, and the ti from lotion, these sounds do sound out the word fish.  It's true.  Our language is messed-up, awkward, and seemingly random, but I emphasize that the English language is not arbitrary.  These incongruous spellings, awkward pronunciations, and frustrating usage rules have a rich history that begins with soldiers who painted themselves blue like smurfs and refused to bathe.  (Finally, each student has begun to take down notes, and the real "lesson" has begun.)

This fun attention-grabber is my favorite way to start the year!  What tricks do you use to hook your students' attention for a semester of English class?  Comment below!

Also, check out my fellow ELA bloggers' ideas through the link-up below.  Happy Back-to-School season!

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