Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Wicked English Teacher Wednesday--June 2012

Hello. Welcome to my monthly feature where I rage against those who would cruelly abuse the conventions of written English. Today, I will try to control my ranting and my hyperventilating because my sister Chris, who hates the Wicked English Teacher, "always root[s] for the underdog" and thinks it's "mean to point out the faults of the dummies." 

Poor misunderstood Wicked English Teacher.

 I don't point out faults to be mean, nor do I wish to make the "dummies" feel dumb. In fact, little sister, I think you're the one being mean! Your attitude toward the "dummies" seems to imply that they are incapable of learning, that they are indeed dumb! You seem to think that we can hope to gain nothing by pointing out their errors.

 I, on the other hand, believe them to be fully capable of learning as intelligent adult human beings! But how shall they learn if no one will teach them the error of their ignorant, grammar-abusing ways? You would leave them to wander in darkness while I try my best to shine the light of proper punctuation onto their wretched lives.

SO!! Which of us is mean now??


 Excuse me while I return to business as usual for Wicked English Teacher Wednesday and rant about the inaccuracies littering the world wide web, cluttering the minds of innocent readers with incorrect usage, improper spelling, and just plain old bad grammar.

Let's begin with spelling issues, specifically the problem with homophones. Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. In my eighth-grade classroom, this trouble might arise when a student doesn't know whether to write "no" or "know." In the adult world, this error should never arise in any situation. And yet...

Common Homophone Confusion

We all see these common problems often, and folks often share their peevishness about them with the Wicked English Teacher.
  • there, they're, their
  • your, you're
  • whole, hole
The list of common errors goes on and on, but what about the less common errors. I'm sure some of these errors are proofreading errors. I also think part of the problem stems from not reading enough. When you hear a word but never read it, you will often spell what you think you heard.

Case in point: Just the other day, a very intelligent blogger wrote about how she "poured" over various websites in search of information. The correct verb, meaning to look at something very carefully for a long time, is "pored." She pored over the pages of the books, looking for the last vestiges of her self-esteem.

Now, I'm going to take long deep breaths while I tell you about this next example. A company that sells sailing excursions around the San Francisco Bay writes on their web site that the cruise "sails passed Pier 39." Of course none of my readers would make such an obvious error, but just in case this sailing company happens to be reading my blog, let's point out the incorrectly used word. 

  • "Passed" is the past tense form of the verb "to pass." I passed my brother in the race.
  • Past is the preposition that explains where the cruise goes in relation to Pier 39. We sail past Pier 39.
I hope the captain sails the boat better than the ad person writes the web site!

Other types of spelling errors

While these are not technically homophones, the errors do result from the sounds the writer is hearing and translating into writing.

I have seen this particular error multiple times: "Now uncover the pan, and Wa la! A fabulous dinner." 

Yes, seriously.

This gives me a headache.

"Wa la!" is not a word in any language of which I am aware; however, the French word "voilá" is used to call attention, to express satisfaction or approval, or to suggest an appearance as if by magic. (according to

There now. We have drawn attention to the error, shown how to correct it, and voilá! We will never see this mistake again.

Will we, class?

 One final exasperating error before we close and go to the cafeteria for lunch. I didn't write down the URL or even the context of this error, but it serves to point out the difference between hearing a word and reading a word when it comes to correctly spelling the word. Somewhere recently on the web, I saw the word pack used when the word pact was meant. These words aren't technically homophones, but they sound very much alike.

 It's obvious how such an error could occur, and this is why I stress the importance of getting your children to read as much as they possibly can. Not only do they increase their vocabularies, but they learn to correctly spell their existing vocabularies.

And that makes the Wicked English Teacher happy!

How about you? Have you seen any misspelled homophones around the web lately?  How about confusing similar sounding words that aren't really homophones, or foreign words spelled phonetically for English? Share! Share!

*No bloggers were actually injured in the production of this blog.