Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cry, Sigh, Die

Intrigued by the title? Wondering if this is about the three stages of hospice care or the sequel to the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love? Well, I could take it in either of those directions, but the real story is much more mundane. It’s about spelling.

I’ve had this conversation often with my daughter Talia, who endured three years of trying to explain to first graders in Argentina how these three words could possibly rhyme. (Or should I say “righm” or “riem”?) As speakers of a logical, ordered and coherent language known as Spanish, where everything is spelled precisely how it sounds according to simple rules, they must think that English is absolutely insane. And when it comes to spelling, they’re right! (Ryte, riet, rite, rhyte?)

This came up in a little poem I was doing with 2nd graders about Grandpa Grigg and a pig and as native speakers, they were non-plussed. Having hung out around dry, fry, fly, my, pry, sly, sky, sty, shy, spy, spry, try, why, spent time with high and nigh and their cousins, blight, flight, might, night, right, sight, tight and had their share of pie, lie, tie, weird spellings of same-sound endings is just part of their linguistic landscape.

And more to come. Add to cry, sigh, die the words buy, chai, hi, rye and any wonder why kids are so confused? Imagine them writing (wryting? wrighting?) a little story that begins “Kie goes to trie to bie some chie and marble rie on the way to see The Life of Pie…" and getting back the corrections from the teacher: "Kai goes to try to buy some Chai and marble rye on the way to the Life of Pi." Can you blame the kid if he looks at it and wonder wie why ?

Yup, English is entirely loco— a word, by the way, which could only be spelled “loco” in Spanish, but might be spelled be lowco or luoco or loughco (think row, quo, dough) in English.  I imagine this is partly due to the mutt nature of the current vernacular. Current English is so interwoven with other languages that it defies the neat and tidy patterns of its pedigree neighbors. (Or naybors, nabors, nebors).

Wryting this is making me tighred so I’m going to sine off and say “By!”

Or is it “Bye?”

1 comment:

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