English — oddities, trivia and mysteries


Names, and accents

I was interviewed by a BBC guy, and so am quoted in this article: How are you Spelling That?

It's been a few months years. Cool that it's still there. It was an article about the death of "Moog," who invented the synthesizer (now known as "keyboard" to musicians, pretty much), and whose name didn't sound the way it looks.

But... on that page is a link to something about accents in the Britain, called the BBC Voices Project. It is very cool, and there are links to other things about accents and dialects in English. bbc.co.uk/voices/

(Some of the interactive maps and games don't work anymore, but articles are still there.)

Alternative phrasing

One day when Kirby was a toddler, his dad said carefully and clearly, "Kirby, close the cabinet." Kirby gazed back with no understanding. Keith tried again sweetly: "Close the cabinet!" Nothing. I saw the impasse, and said quickly, "Kirby, shut the door." He lit up with recognition and SLAM, it was done.

That day, I decided to try to use more than one word when I communicated with my kids. I knew that in England, after the Norman conquest, simple legal matters had been be stated in English and French both, and some of those phrases still exist, like "will and testament," "aid and abet," "give and bequeath," and "null and void." So for the sake of my children understanding both my child-of-Texans self AND my child-of-Bostonians husband (Boston and Michigan and Canada, but NOT Texas), I began to paraphrase. "Kirby, can you hand me that blue cup? The plastic mug that's on the counter?" Or "Let's go to the park, okay? We'll walk down to the swings and picnic tables."

The rest of "Words, Words, Words"

Are you moving your lips when you read?

A friend of mine told me a story once I thought would surely "come across my desk" one way or another, but it hasn't, and I've waited 25 years (and looked, some). He said that a Roman soldier during the occupation of Britain wrote in a journal that when the Britons read, they didn't move their lips.

The idea stuck with me, because it means the Romans (he and Romans he had noticed) DID move their lips, or read aloud, perhaps.

It's easy to blame the Norman Conquest in 1066 for English's overflowing vocabulary. We kept French words AND their English equivalents, by the thousands. Words were lost and abandoned from both sets, but English has more words than any other language, I've heard. And in reading English, as you're all aware, we have tons of homonyms, such as the "their/there/they're" set.

Phonics isn't a great tool to use for learning to read English. And learning to read English isn't the same as learning to sound out English anyway. I have a theory (moving toward belief) that written English is a visual language. And maybe it's not just because of the French ruling for so long, and maybe it's not just because of the Catholic church's layers of Latin in song, story and court of law.

Maybe English has been and is still a language to read without moving one's lips.

So I'm hoping someone who's needing a topic for a thesis or a dissertation will find those answers and send them to me. Thanks in advance, all o'ya'll!

I figured it out in 2023. I have a good working possibility, anyway, and I wrote it up, in the box at the bottom, here:
Silent Reading

Short version: They were all reading Latin, but it wasn't the Brits' native language.

Something about spelling bees

"Today's friendly competitions cover many fields, including a geography bee, a history bee, a math bee, and, of course, a spelling bee. A spelling bee is possible only in a language like English, where spelling and pronunciation of words have often diverged. In many languages, such as Hindi or Spanish, words are pronounced just as they are written, so a spelling bee would make no sense."

(From the "A Word a Day" list, June 2005)
"The music and magic of words -- that's what A.Word.A.Day (AWAD) is about."


Language Arts

Teach vs. Learn


Silent Reading


Books & bookworship


Do You Speak American?

The Story of English
This was on VHS tape at the time, but someone has put it online: The Story of English

The Septic's Companion:
A British Slang Dictionary—A dictionary of British slang, written by a Scotsman living in America
This site is sick! It's mad. It's brilliant. It's pretty cool.

Geography History Math Reading Music Art

Connections Deschooling Parenting Considerations