Wednesday, January 24, 2018
Explain it to a Five-Year-Old: English
"Okay, let's hear it."
Making cringey face. "Close, but it's actually D-O-N-E."
He makes bigger cringey face. "But that's not right. If you have an E at the end, it should be a long O. Because the E is silent and gives its strength to the O to make it long."
Wringing hands together. "Well, yes, in most cases, but not in this one."
"Okay." Scribbles out DUN, rewrites DONE. "How about circus? S-I-R--"
"No, it starts with a C."
"And another C. It's C-I-R-C-U-S."
Little eyebrow furrows together. "So the C makes an ess sound and a kuh sound in the same word?"
"Mmm hmm, you see modern English is sort of a mash-up of other languages, so it doesn't always make sense."
"Okay." Tears off page. Starts with a new one. "I think I get it. Fun, F-O-N-E."
Reaching for wine bottle, getting corkscrew. "No. In that one the O would be long, so it would be fone, except phone you spell with a P-H that makes an eff sound when you put them together." Filling glass of wine to brim.
Son sets down pencil. "How am I supposed to know when an eff sound is an F and when it's a P-H?"
Drinks long sip of wine. "Well it's an F in fun, fairy and food; and a PH in words like phone and graph."
Guzzling wine. "I don't know. It just is. You just have to memorize it."
"I'll never know all this stuff." Pushes notepad off the table and pouts.
"Hey, it takes a long time." Kneeling down beside him. "There are adults who don't get all this stuff."
Brightening. "Really? There are grown-ups who can't spell?"
Thinking back to Facebook feed and gross appropriations of 'your.' "Yes, absolutely."