Thursday 9 September 2010

Spelling #1

I used to have a copy of this poem by Frances Mackay on my classroom wall together with a longer piece about pronunciation that I will post later. I don't know if the children ever read it after the first time I pointed it out but it amused me.

No wonder I can't spell!

Learning the English language
Is not something at which I excel.
When so many words sound the same
It's no wonder that I can't spell!

Just look at the words that follow
And I'm sure that you will agree.
There's might and mite, and blue and blew
And flour and flower – do you see?

Which 'to' should I use in a sentence
When there's three different kinds to choose?
And three different 'so's and two different 'dough's;
Do you think it is done to confuse?

Well I think it is time that we changed it
To help other people like me.
Then I can stop worrying about spelling
Oh how wonderful that would be! (or is it bee?)


  1. Spelling is the only subject I never did well in. Thank goodness for spell check although it doesn't help with homophones.

  2. It certainly doesn't! I was always a good speller - probably the only thing I always did well in . . . LOL!

  3. Nessa: be carefully you don't mix up homophone and homophobe - could produce some interesting situations :)

  4. Interesting post.
    Like you, I was always a good speller. I still can't hear a new word or a new name without wondering how to spell it. I hate spell-check on principle, and I get myself into trouble by compulsively proofreading everything.
    Just yesterday I found some errors on my brother's company website. I sent him three e-mails before he finally suggested I edit the entire site and send him a single document containing all the corrections, so he could pass it on to his website elf.
    Sigh. It's not my fault. My other brother is the same because, when we were very young, Dad discovered he could keep us quiet in restaurants by having us proofread the menus.
    Please excuse my rant. The subject of spelling gets me going every time. ;~)
    Alberta, Canada

  5. I love the poem. The English language really is confusing. I wonder if other languages have the same problem.
    Spell check is helpful, but only if you know enough to reject its sometimes wrong suggestions!

  6. Not even Spell Check will save me in many cases. I think spelling will actually deteriorate more as people just rely on Spell Check.

  7. Cute poem and , oh how many more words with such stumbling blocks there are. One that gets a lot of misuse over here is accept and except. Sometimes the accent in the pronunciation leads to problems.

  8. Kay L - what a wise man your father was. Like you, misspellings just jump off the page at me and my father was the same. It's a mixed blessing ;-)
    Janie - you're absolutely right. It's the same with relying solely on calculators - there has to be an understanding of whether the numbers make sense.
    Kay - I fear you are correct :-)
    ChrisJ - pronunciation and stress placement certainly play their part in spelling. Pronunciation changes over time, too.

  9. English is a very difficult language to learn to many ESOL students. I told them I heard from a speaker, sometimes English is crazy. They laugh.

  10. Ann, it's such a mongrel language with roots in many different cultures. That's one of the reasons it's also such a beautiful and expressive language. Good luck with your students :-)

  11. Count me in with this plea. I believe creative minds like to create their own spellings,too - that's my story, and I'm sticking to it! lol :)

  12. Jinksy, spelling wasn't standardised until the 18th century and we all (they all - I'm not THAT old) managed to understand. I believe it was the Victorians who finally put the rules in place! They also covered up piano legs for modesty's sake so what did they know?


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