April 17, 2012

The Unknown Rules of the English Language

Tags: Reading Horizons News, Teaching Reading Tips

“No. Crème brûlée can never be Jell-O. YOU could never be Jell-O!” As Julia Roberts perfectly explains to Cameron Diaz in My Best Friends Wedding. Sometimes people want things to be different than they really are, but despite these good intentions, sometimes you just have to accept that crème brûlée will never be Jell-O.

So… I have a really silly pet peeve. And it has to do with something trying to be Jell-O when it clearly isn’t Jell-O. I hate when people say that “ghoti” can be pronounced “fish.” It drives me crazy. Because… it can’t. I’m pretty sure it’s just suppose to be a riddle-ish kind of joke, but I don’t think it’s funny. I think it’s annoying… just like I find riddles to be annoying. Because: “Ghoti” could never be pronounced “fish!" Sure, the people who say this is so have this grand explanation:

  • "gh" as in enough
  • "o" as in women
  • "ti" as in nation

But what these people fail to acknowledge is that those sounds only make those sounds based on the surrounding sounds and their position in those words. The proof is in the following bit of pudding (or should I say, Jell-O?):

decoding strategies poster

To learn more of the unknown rules of English, use Reading Horizons Online Reading Workshop:


Generic placeholder image
eddie said

cinco años de colegio y cinco de licenciatura en ingles y hasta ahora es que vengo a ver estas reglas. si me las hubieran enseñado antes creo que aprender ingles hubiera sido mas facil.

Translation: "Five years of college and five of English Bachelor's Degree and so far [this is the first time] I come to see these rules. If they had taught me [these] before I think learning English would have been easier.

Generic placeholder image
KD said

WOW!!! This is excellent! Why am I not surprised that this isn't a part of our school systems?? EVERY SCHOOL IN THE U.S.!! I have a feeling there's many more like this that are being overlooked. Instead of putting so much empyhasis on MOVING the BODY...THE BRAIN NEEDS TO BE EXERCISED, TOO!! There's hope...only about 13 months left until we have a a new President!! One (and the First Lady!!) that'll hopefully put major emyphasis on resurrecting our ENTIRE CURRICULM/SCHOOL SYSTEMS!!

Thanks so much for sharing this info.!!! :-)


Generic placeholder image
HeyMikey said

So sad this is now "Unknown"—it was all standard elementary school curriculum in the early ‘60s… No wonder my kids never learned to spell

Generic placeholder image
alex said

but the exceptions need to be known.
rule #4: silent E, "opposite" (i isn't a diphthong) "live" (short i) - not all Es in final position are silent.
rule #5. exception is FRIEND. (silent first vowel and long second vowel).
rule #6 just isn't clear. do you mean consonant clusters?
shouldn't rule #7 read: "when two consonants follow a vowel, the consonants split"?

Generic placeholder image
admin said

@alex of course! Exceptions are important to point out and for students to learn. We try and address exceptions AFTER students learn the rule. That way they don't give too much emphasis to the exceptions. But yes, exceptions are important.

Generic placeholder image


Leave Comment

Authors: No content items.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Fill out this form to sign-up for our monthly newsletter.