KABOOM! Homophone-phobia In Utah

headexplode

I thought this had to be a hoax.

I prayed it was a hoax.

It’s not a hoax.

Now I’m washing my brains off the ceiling using a rag on a stick.

Behold…from the Salt Lake Tribune:

“…the social-media specialist for a private Provo-based English language learning center wrote a blog explaining homophones, he was let go for creating the perception that the school promoted a gay agenda. Tim Torkildson says after he wrote the blog on the website of his employer, Nomen Global Language Center, his boss and Nomen owner Clarke Woodger, called him into his office and told him he was fired. As Torkildson tells it, Woodger said he could not trust him and that the blog about homophones was the last straw. “Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” Woodger complained, according to Torkildson, who posted the exchange on his Facebook page….”

Woodger denied that this was why Torkildson was fired, but undercut his denials by telling the paper that…

“…his school has taught 6,500 students from 58 countries during the past 15 years. Most of them, he says, are at basic levels of English and are not ready for the more complicated concepts such as homophones. “People at this level of English,” Woodger says, ” … may see the ‘homo’ side and think it has something to do with gay sex.”

Veteran readers here as well as collectors of bureaucratic embarrassments will recognize this as a repeat of the District of Columbia’s infamous “niggardly” incident, which also spawned the Ethics Alarms Niggardly Principles, in which a manager who had a vocabulary superior to the average Irish Setter was fired because he dared to use the word “niggardly” in the workplace, and either his supervisor didn’t know what the word means or took the position that the sensitivity of ignorant employees to words that sound a little like slurs but aren’t should be honored over those who understand how to communicate. Woodger’s conduct is arguably worse, since he runs a language learning center, and if you don’t know that a lot of English words sound like other words and have different meanings, you’re not going to do very well in the U.S.

This is best (worst?) example of the sad and corrosive phenomenon of capitulating to imaginary offense born of ignorance and political correctness hypersensitivity since Hallmark pulled a greeting card because of an NAACP protest claiming that “black holes” was a racial slur.

When our heads stop exploding over these things, we are doomed. On the plus side, when our brains are plastered on the ceiling, we can speak with those who think niggardly, homophone and “black holes” are offensive on equal intellectual terms.

___________________________

Pointer: Rick Jones

Sources: Salt Lake Tribune

 

14 thoughts on “KABOOM! Homophone-phobia In Utah

  1. Jack, If accurate I concur with you but I don’t believe it. Almost the entire story is based on what Torkildson stated.

    You point to where what appears to be direct statements to the reporter undercut his denial but I want to see his full quote, I want assurance that they were not taken out of context to support Torkildson claims.

    Woodger denied that this was why Torkildson was fired, but undercut his denials by telling the paper that…

    “…his school has taught 6,500 students from 58 countries during the past 15 years. Most of them, he says, are at basic levels of English and are not ready for the more complicated concepts such as homophones. “People at this level of English,” Woodger says, ” … may see the ‘homo’ side and think it has something to do with gay sex.”

    I read this after reading a negative story about that douche Jesse Ventura, with all the spin, lies, pandering and mis-characterizations of the Chris Kyle Estate/Jesse Ventura case fresh in my mind, I may be too suspicious of the media and their agenda.

      • After reading the homophone post I’m much more apt to agree with the school, even to a native speaker of English the post is pretty confusing and wrong to boot (or is that too boot or maybe two boot, hmm, could be tuit boot even) as homophones do not always have different spellings (ie goose down and down the hatch) which is implied by the post.

        At least the author of the story included ellipses in the quote so the reader can see that something is missing. Not being familiar with the writer or the column, I cannot be sure, but the impression I get from looking a few other stories with the Rolly byline is that the Paul Rolly column is not intended as serious news.

        • The 2014 post, not immediately available when this entry was written, is certainly not an inspired piece of literature. Compared to the “uncontroversial” 2011 version referenced by the SF Tribune blog, the 2014 piece, for instance, does not even set aside the examples word being discussed in italics or quotes: “Ail is to be sick. Ale is an alcoholic beverage” versus ” ‘Ail’ is to be sick. ‘Ale’ is an alcoholic beverage”.

          To a non-English speaker reading this out of the blue, the sentences could be complete gibberish. (The formatting is also poor, but this may be a defect of archiving service.) The 2011 piece also sidesteps any potential confusion of the meaning of “homo-” by explaining its Greek origins

          The writer was employed for only three months, the average probationary period in many fields. If his writing were consistently of this low quality, at a school who’s blog header promises “… qualified and experienced faculty, dedicated staff, …”, then his dismissal would be entirely uncontroversial, except for vague comments regarding the “homo-” confusion. The quality of writing was indeed the publicly stated reason for the dismissal.

          The “homo-” confusion comments, made in the only semi-private context of an employee-employer situation, might be slightly telling of the owner’s personal beliefs, but do not themselves strongly point towards it being the primary reason for dismissal. The employee could have been embarrassed by his dismissal, and sought to discredit his former employer by exaggerating and distorting his exit conversation. As the blog entries are all signed under the same name, it is not easily apparent what his contributions are to compare.

          As Jack has previously posted, “homophobia”, etc, is a strict-liability belief. Now that the owners beliefs, if accurate, are out in public, he has only himself to blame for holding them. However, poor writing would seem to be the original reason for the dismissal, rather than a conscious and explicit effort to avoid any association with homosexuality on the blog.

      • As an English speaker transplanted in Germany for several years I was often in the situation of helping non-native speakers with some of the quirks of English that they found confusing.
        Homophones are tricky to people who don’t have similar types of words in their own language.

        If this story is true then it is proof that some Americans have just reached a new level of stupidity.

        Maybe to protect the delicate ears of Utah we should remove all words with the homo prefix from the language – just in case reading or speaking it could make you gay, or make people think you support gays.

  2. To be fair, when I first “homophone”, I saw “homophobe”; but then, I haven’t had my morning coffee yet…

  3. Woodger says that these students are at basic levels of English so learning the differences of such words as
    eye/I
    wear/where
    to/too
    is a concept which is too advanced yet for some reason he believes these same students already have some knowledge of the prefix “homo” and any introduction of a word with the prefix “homo” might cause the students to believe that these words pertain to gay sex?

    If they don’t know the difference between eye and I…why would he presume that they know the prefix “homo”?

    If this is actually true…I think that maybe Woodger spends a little too much time thinking about gay sects…I mean sex.

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