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Adventures of a stay-at-home, skeptical, homeschooling dad (etc.)


English is terrible, part 2 of 100000

"English is great: learn a few rules and you can misspell 99% of words pretty easily." -me

It's difficult for someone who learned it as a child to realize how screwed up English spelling is. As my daughter is learning to spell, I'm continually impressed by the sheer inanity of English.

I've talked previously about "i" before "e". This is a quick one about words with "gh". In short, English has a hard time with "gh". I won't even bother repeating the "rules" because they don't bloody help.


Gh makes the "i" long, like

Sigh: si.

Except sometimes it makes "ei" sound like "ay":

Sleigh: slay.

It makes an "f" sound:

Cough: koff.

Except only a few times:

Bough: bow.

And now back to "f":

Rough: ruff.

Sometimes it makes "ou" into an long "O":

Dough: doh.

Except when it makes an "ow" sound:

Plough: plow.

"F" sound!

Enough: enuff.



Oh yeah, gh is making "ei" into a long "i":

Sleight: slite.

Remember Sleigh → slay above? No longer applies. Maybe a "t" at the end cancels the long "i" sound?

Right: rite.


Ought: awt. Aught: awt.

Ok, so both of make the same sound.

Naught: nawt.

At least that matches "aught". Silly, but consistent.

Drought: drowt.

Except that this "ought" doesn't match "ought"…

Draught: draft.

… and this "aught" makes the "au" into a long "a" and adds back in an "f" sound. And we wonder why so many kids have dyslexia.


I like this sequence, because each word contains the same "ough", but a single letter changes the pronunciation each time.

Tough: tuff.
Though: thoh.
Thought: thawt.
Through: throo.
Thorough: thur-oh.

How the hell did I ever learn the spelling/pronunciation of all those? Did I?