Monday, May 11, 2009

Where did you learn that word?

Ah, now for another post wherein I talk about my students learning the WRONG English.

Every week my reading group learns a new phonics word family. At the start of class today we were reviewing the "ore" family (more, store, etc.)

Me: Ok, class what are some "ore" family words?

Gregory: WAR WAR WAR!

I write w-o-r-e on the board.

Gregory: NO! WAR!

Me: How do you spell it?

Gregory (with supreme confidence): w-h-o-r-e

I wrote the letters on the board as he said them, and there I was with whore written on my English class whiteboard. It was like we were suddenly transported out of the cram school and into an American public bathroom stall.

Me: Where did you see this word?

I tried to ask innocuously, but clearly the "THIS IS A WORD YOU SHOULD NOT KNOW" vibes shone through, because Gregory just smiled with his lips closed and looked shifty eyed. Oh yeah, Gregory is 9.

Me: What does this word mean?

Gregory drew a picture of a glass of wine on the board. Okay, fair enough. We recently learned the "ine" family too, and I taught them "wine" and "whine." So maybe all these things got jumbled in his mind. But boy, did he look mischievous.

This reminds me of when my brother was in fourth grade, and I would tease him by calling his current love interest a strumpet. Not a very nice thing for me to call a little girl, I'll admit. But hey, I'm his older sister, and to me they're all floozies.

After much badgering, he finally asked what a strumpet was. I told him to look it up, which he did, making the same phonetic mistake my Chinese student made:

My Little Brother with the dictionary open: A WAR?


Heather Lea said...

When I was in grade school we had almost this exact same scenario unfold with a classmate who was relatively newly arrived from France. We were talking about "intense" words in English class. He wrote "whore" on the board. Our teacher nearly fainted. He then explained that "whore" was "when two countries fight each other over land or religion."

MitMoi said...

One of my favorite stories about Joshilyn Jackson and Karen Abbott (two authors) was when they were in S.F. on a book tour.

As they were checking in the concierge asked if they were there with the other novelist. Joshilyn asked what the other novelists book was about, "The Horrors of War" he replied. She, being a southern bell (and knowing Karen's book was about to very famous whores of Chicago) heard "Whores of War" ... and wanted to know if it was about the camp followers of the Civil War.

Of course Karen had to translate. H-orrors or War not WH-ores of war.

lol - makes me giggle every time I think about it.

Leslie said...

ya know, "whore" is kind of an unfair word...because off the top of my head I can't think of a single other English word that starts with "wh" but makes a "h" sound.

I sympathize with all mistake-makers.