Somehow, an official at a language school is easily confused by words that sound the same and fired someone for writing about… words that sound the same. Really, Tim Torkildson, a social media specialist, wrote a blog post about homophones, and he was fired because his school’s English as a second language students might think he was writing about something inappropriate.
There are several layers of awful to peal—sorry, peel. Those tricky homophones!—back here, so let’s take them one at a time. First, it’s incredibly disheartening that Clarke Woodger, owner of the Nomen Global Language Center in Utah, doesn’t know what a homophone is. I’m not just assuming that based on the firing, either. He told Torkildson that he actually had to look it up, according to a post on Torkildson’s personal blog:
I had to look up the word, because I didn’t know what the hell you were talking about. We don’t teach this kind of advanced stuff to our students, and it’s extremely inappropriate. Can you have your desk cleaned out by eleven this morning? I’ll have your check ready.
Then, there’s the fact that homophones, which the English language is full of, are a perfectly legitimate subject to cover with language students and not at all “advanced stuff” or “extremely inappropriate.”
And above all else, let’s remember that there’s nothing wrong with writing about LGBTQ things just like no one would complain if you wrote about straight people. I mean, sure, it might be inappropriate to cover any kind of sex in a blog post for a language school, but it’s certainly not Torkildson’s fault if Woodger, or anyone else, sees “homo” and his mind immediately jumps to the bedroom. And that was exactly what he told the Salt Lake Tribune his problem was, saying, “People at this level of English may see the ‘homo’ side and think it has something to do with gay sex.”
He tries to sound like he’s worried that sex is an inappropriate topic, but my guess is that he’s more concerned with how his students will react to the “gay” part than the “sex” part.
Woodger told Torkildson that he’s only suited for clerical work, but Torkildson disagrees and is currently looking for more work in social media. He says homophones are “one of the first subjects tackled when teaching ESL,”
witch which sounds like it’s probably a good idea considering that Woodger, a native English-speaker, has so much trouble with words that sound alike but have different meanings.
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