Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Rain in Spain

They say it falls mainly on the plain. Eliza Doolittle, in My Fair Lady, practices her vowel sounds endlessly. It seems she will never replace the "ow" with the "long a" sound. Henry Higgins ruthlessly drills her.

Writing teachers deal with similar issues. Today I drilled "they're", not "their"; "it's", not "its"; "too", not "to". And of course all the reverse combinations of troublesome homonyms. Accept and except are two word pairings that are continually confused. One could go on and on with all the regular words blunders.

I once had a student defiantly tell me in front of the whole class that there was no difference between "to" and "too". I respectfully told her she was welcome to her opinion about things that had some room for variations, but this was not one of those cases, and she was just plain wrong. Her defiance continued unabated, and so did her mediocre writing.

Become intelligently literate is as difficult as being able to perfectly enunciate language. So for now, I will continue with "here", not "hear" and "where", not "were", while the rain in Spain continues to fall mainly on the plain.


John Lynch said...

I would like to add "effect" and "affect" to the list.

rklllama said...

The they're, their, there confusion drives me crazy, and it is surprising sometimes where it crops up. I sometimes wonder if the mistake is made because the thought process behind creating a word is different. If you are writing the sounds no wonder you get confused, but if you are choosing to contract "they are" then it really isn't anything at all.

And this comes from the guy who always says "loose" when he really means "lose". It drives me batty, it really does. (I think I've finally taught myself not to do it though. I finally have the words set properly in my head.)

Lisa said...

AHHH! I made an error in the last paragraph! I swear, you cannot proofread too much.

And yes, John, I agree. Affect and effect seem to constantly stumble over each other.

Now if I could just get some certain individuals to say "by accident" instead of "on accident" I could die a blissfully happy woman.

L. H. Lynch said...

I remember "by accident" and "on purpose" because you always have to match the first letter of each with a consonant and a vowel.

"Effect" and "affect" are super difficult because even the meanings are very similar.

I am somewhat proud that, in spite of my struggles with spelling, I rarely confuse homonyms except by accident. My mistakes stem from entirely original spellings of words that have strange, irregularities to them. I have often noted that we "speAk" when we make "speEches," and that we speak of "comrades" and "comradeship" and then switch things up for "camaraderie."

Also, with regard (not "reguard") to "accept" and "except," I thought of a funny sentence: "We must accept all that is exceptional, except that which is unacceptable."