The English Language Is An Asshole

How the hell did I learn to read and write this godforsaken language, anyway?

My son is 5 years old and started kindergarten this year. We’ve been introduced to sight words, which Wikipedia describes thusly:

Sight words are commonly used words that young children are encouraged to memorize as a whole by sight, so that they can automatically recognize these words in print without having to use any strategies to decode.

My son gets assessed weekly (today’s the day!) on how well he knows these words. As we go through them I try to make things interesting by relating these words to other words or by using them in a sentence.

Several times this has led to situations where he’ll say things like “if you added (fill in the blank with a letter) to the end of this word it would make (fill in the blank with cute — but incorrect—attempt).

You see, the problem is that the English language is an asshole. It doesn’t want to be understood. It wants to trick you, lie to you and make you think there are rules and that there is order. Then it punches you right in the throat.

How the hell did I learn to read and write this godforsaken language, anyway? Then I majored in English?

Here are some examples that prove that the English language hates you:


  • though (sounds like o in no)
  • through (sounds like oo in too)
  • cough (sounds like off in offer)
  • rough (sounds like uff in suffer)
  • plough (sounds like ow in flower)
  • ought (sounds like aw in saw)


  • court (sounds like o in fort)
  • sour (sounds like ow in tower)
  • touch (sounds like uh in such)
  • tour (sounds like oo moor)

I before E Except After C

I’m sure most people have heard this. What a great little trick for remembering when to use “ie” versus “ei”. Hurray.

Oh. But there are over 90 exceptions to that rule. Things like:

  • Caffeine
  • Beige
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Neighbor
  • Sovereign
  • Forfeit

The Silent K —Why?!

Knight versus Night Knead versus Need Knot versus Not Knew versus New

Rhyme Time

Touch — Such — Crutch

Hear — Deer — Pier — Here

Oh, so if hear is pronounced like “heer” then…

Heart = Heert Heard = Heerd Hearth = Heerth

NO! Why would you think that?

Oh, sorry. Well then “pear” rhymes with “hear” right?

No. It sounds like pair.

Oh, ok. So then “hair” rhymes with pair?

YES! But there’s also “hare” and “pare”.

Ok, Let’s Talk About the “Uh” Sound

The letter “u” can make that sound right?


So, like the word “sun” then?

Yes, but there’s also “son”, which doesn’t sound like the o in “song”. To have the uh sound we write “sung”.

Oh, like your “tung” then?

No that’s “tongue”.

This is exhausting.

So then we have “ou” that can sound like uh. Or it can sound like, well just re-read the “ou” section above.

Some Words Don’t Sound Anything Like They Appear

Colonel: Sounds like kernel.

Wednesday: Sounds like Gwen’s day.

February: Sounds like Deb, you wary.

Asthma: Sounds like “as ma” used to say.

Jeopardy: Sounds like leopard-y.

Oh, so if it’s leopard then leotard sounds like “lettered”?

NO! Are you not paying attention. It sounds like “Leo tarred” the roof.

Well, at least when you know what a word sounds like, it always sounds that way, right?

Ha! Have you learned nothing?

  • The bandage was wound around the wound.
  • The farm was used to produce produce.
  • When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
  • The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  • I did not object to the object.
  • They were too close to the door to close it.

Ok, I have to go write words for a living…

Time to get to work writing emails all day, and somehow NOT completely butchering the English language.

Is that pronounced “butt-chering”? No, fictional second person! It’s clearly “b-ou-chering”.

Oh, ou like in “sour”.

No, like in “your”. Wrong again. Why can’t you just follow the rules?!

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