Allow me to begin my post with a confession: I love reading rage comics. Mostly because there’s almost always one that I can really identify with. Today’s no exception.
This comic reminded me of my childhood, though my similar incident didn’t involve a dictionary.
When I was young, my family did a fair amount of traveling. Up until my late teens, my father’s sister and family lived in Memphis, TN so we would travel there every summer for a week long visit. Apparently it was early in my life when I was still learning to read that we took one trip in particular that sticks out most to my mother. Every now and then, when we manage to travel together she brings it up.
Apparently there used to be signs along the highway which would indicate there was loose material on the shoulder. I think it was a green sign, but as they don’t seem to make them any longer, I cannot be 100% sure. Regardless of the colour of the sign, it stated simply: LOOSE MATERIAL. I vaguely remember asking my parents what “mater-el” was, to which my mother gave the corrected pronunciation of “ma-tier-i-al”. Of course I don’t know how old the blonde is supposed to be in the comic above, but it’s easy to mispronounce words at a young age.
This became even more obvious when I went to college and studied the English language as my major. I remember taking a class about the history of the English language and learning that English is the most difficult language in the world to learn. We have so many rules and exceptions to those rules (think of the “old school” mnemonic: ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’, or when it’s like ay as in ‘neighbor’ and ‘weigh’) that it’s little wonder non-English speakers find it such a daunting task to learn English.
Naturally, growing up I assumed that Americans had cornered the market on this whole complex English language (yes I know there are many other countries whose native language is English), until I traveled abroad to the original English speaking country: England. I recall on my second trip seeing a sign for Kirkby something-or-other. The second ‘k’ is silent, so it’s more like the name Kirby. Then there’s the bigger city and county names that are spelt longer than they are pronounced: Worcestershire (wooster-shir); Leicestershire (lester-shir); Gloucestershire (gloster-shir). There are countless others, but my favorite of all is quay. That one’s a real mind-blower. It’s pronounced ‘key’.
So the next time you hear a child who is learning to read mispronounce a word, gently correct her/him, but also remember she/he is working toward learning the most difficult language on Earth.