Acting on ignorance

The Salt Lake Tribune writes about a private educational outfit that fired one of its employees because he wrote a blog post about the use of ‘homophones’ (words that sound the same while having different meanings and even different spellings) because they were afraid of “creating the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda.”

It reminds me of the time that the aide to the mayor of Washington DC had to resign because he used the word ‘niggardly’ in a statement and people took offense, not realizing that it was not a racial slur but meant miserly. He was rehired a month later after people realized that they looked like idiots for taking action based on ignorance.

Then there was the case of someone taking offense over the phrase ‘black hole’, not realizing that it was a metaphor for a place where things disappear but presumably thought that it was a hole filled with black people. He even retaliated by saying it should be called a ‘white hole’, apparently not realizing that that too is a scientific term that would be quite inappropriate as a metaphor.


  1. Dunc says

    I seem to recall that at the height of one of the paedophile panics in the UK a few years back, a consultant paediatrician was driven from her home by vigilantes…

  2. Chiroptera says

    From the linked article:

    Homophones, as any English grammarian can tell you, are words that sound the same but have different meanings and often different spellings — such as be and bee, through and threw, which and witch, their and there.

    Holy shit! Anyone who’s passed grade school should be able to tell you what a homophone is! I mean, unlike “niggardly,” it is emphatically not an obscure word that few people have seen before (at least it should be that few people have seen that word before) and the confusion here is simply unacceptable. I mean, the implied homophobia is bad enough, but this takes ignorance (especially in an “education outfit”) to very high levels!

    …he was let go for creating the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda.

    Did they actually say this? ‘Cause if they did, the use of the phrase “gay agenda” pretty much tells us all we need to know about this “outfit.”

    Most of them, he says, are at basic levels of English and are not ready for the more complicated concepts such as homophones.

    What? How the hell can you learn any language, starting at the very basic level, without being aware of what a homophone is?

  3. Chiroptera says

    Rereading the linked article, it looks like they were looking for any excuse to get rid of that guy. But they couldn’t make up a better one?

    P.S. There doesn’t seem to be a way to log into our FtB account to post a comment. Is that what the wordpress button is supposed to be for? It didn’t work for me. I had to go to the comment section in one of Ed Brayton’s posts to log in.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    Dunc @1: Here.

    Also, the executive who was fired for using the word ‘pedagogical’ in a memo.

    When I asked why, I was told that she wouldn’t stand for “perverts” working in her company.

  5. Mano Singham says

    Chiroptera @#3,

    I don’t know. I suggest you ask that question directly to our tech gurus by clicking on the Tech Issues link at the top left.

  6. khms says

    @2 Chiroptera

    What? How the hell can you learn any language, starting at the very basic level, without being aware of what a homophone is?

    Not every language is as homophone-rich as English (to/two/too, there/their/they’re, …). I don’t remember when I learned the word, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t at our equivalent of grade school, notwithstanding learning about a few such word pairs (I don’t remember any triple in German – there may be, but I can’t come up with one).

  7. Chiroptera says

    khms, #6:

    Homophones don’t have to be spelled differently. They are words with different meanings but the same pronunciation regardless of spelling. I’d be surprised that English is unique in regards to homophones; I’ve been led to believe that terrible puns are universal.

    But you may have a point: it may be the strange spelling of English exaggerates the importance of the concept. At any rate, I may be wrong about other languages; I still think that, if nothing else, the perverseness of English spelling makes the concept very important early on in learning to read and write that language. (Maybe, though, you don’t have to use the actual word “homophone” to point out these traps.)

  8. doublereed says

    I hope they never take any abstract algebra with all those homologies and homomorphisms.

    It’s like people don’t even understand where the word ‘homosexual’ comes from.

  9. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    So the heteroousians shouldn’t have accused the homoians, homoousians and homoiousians of heresy; they were all just filthy preverts anyway.

  10. Ed says

    They must hope that a lot of immigrants move to their town to save it from being the vaguely gay-sounding thing called a homogeneous society.

  11. nemistenem says

    There, their you, ewe, all, awl.
    I’d say “nowhere but in Utah,” but… this is ‘Merica.

  12. Chiroptera says

    Thanks for the reponses about logging in.

    I did send a message to tech support. Got an answer pretty quick. Somewhere in the left side bar there is a search box. In that widget there is a button that allows you to log in. A few more key strokes than I’m used to, but it works.

  13. says

    The question for me is, who would want to pay for classes when that “school” is run by someone so ignorant of the English language? How can someone so inept stay in business?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *