Gentleman and scholar: Frustration in English phonetics

I recollect my experience in the fourth-grade, and using spray-on AXE deodorant to double as a homemade flame-thrower against my childhood friend, Caleb Anderson. The good days. However, I also remember my sub-par Language Arts class afflicted by the “No Child Left Behind Act,” and having to endure lessons in words and spelling.

But then the teacher wrote a word that made no sense to me. The word was spelled C-O-L-O-N-E-L but pronounced “kernel.” After figuratively scraping together my mind of the floor, I thought to myself “no, this goes against everything that I have known.” Then, to my utter horror there were other such words, words that had no place sounding so different from the appropriate spelling. How could this be?

I shook my fist at unparalleled frustration. How could I even begin to learn and understand all those absurd multisyllabic pieces of manatee rubbish? It irked me. It irked me deeply. I could not possibly understand how this word, spelled like it was, manifested itself into such a dissimilar sound. In time, I came to accept these strange grammar abnormalities, but was still left to wonder their origin, and why I should so readily accept this atrocity.

Words like “pneumonic” with an unneeded letter, or “know” with the K so easily taunting me. “I’m here and there’s nothing you can do about it. I have shattered your world.” These were the words that the K spoke to the terrified fourth-grade me. Why the hell was it silent? Why? Who decided that this was the way things should be? I challenged these thoughts and ideas because the rules that they set in place made absolutely no sense to me.

To this day, I still seek out and ridicule the absurdity that at often times is associated with the English language. Loanwords, words created from the mind of a single individual, words that came to be from being conquerors, defeated, and in turn being conquered. So many variations and colloquialisms have emerged from the vast presence of English in the world; to say that rigid semantics apply to our grammar would be the equivalent to stating that Christianity and Nihilism are distant cousins in principles of thought.

Then I began to discover the flexibility that comes with growing more comfortable with the language. I was at an impasse; fascinated by everything that words could do, but maddened at the inconsistency some words had in their spelling. But it was the diversity that arose from the English language that I eventually had to accept.

I understand that the perspective held by the educated elite does not change overnight; however, I still ponder on the question of the infinite dialects that inhabit the world we live in, and if they themselves incorporate similar instances of phonetic incongruence, or if we are the culture that takes pride in our over-complexity of intricate syntax and grammar, while others may seem so much more straightforward in nature.

Recognizing the importance of the rules are necessary for communication, but seeing them as guidelines when utilizing your creativity is just as important. Despite the all-too-often frustrating nature, the blending, cutting, adding and subtracting of words is fascinating and amazing.

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