Friday 2 June 2023

A thotoughly confusing new word? By Steve Way


I’m calling on your creativity again folks. (Let’s face it, if anyone, you’re the people to ask!)

I’ve moaned many a time about the language teaching agency that I work with based in Madrid. They are masters at the art of ‘spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar’. Time and again my colleagues and I have begged them to use a proof-reader but our pleas fall on deaf ears. At times I’ve been tempted to offer one of my grandchildren as a candidate since they would clearly do a better job of spotting errors than whoever is (or isn’t!) doing so.

I’m sure, like me, you’ve missed out glaring errors proofreading your own work. It’s amazing isn’t it how, since we very clearly know what the sentence is meant to say, we miss what we’d normally spot instantly? I found that reading the pieces with children helped me spot my mistakes as reading at a pace appropriate for them forced me to read in a different way. Annoyingly this sometimes wasn’t until after some of the pieces had been published!

Last week the work supplied to us was aimed at introducing the students to adjectives such as ‘shrewd’ and ‘courteous’. Slap bang in the middle of this list was an intriguing word, namely ‘thotough’. Clearly they hadn’t been thorough when compiling the list.

This is where you come in. I would be interested to know if you can think of a meaning for this new word that the agency have inadvertently invented. I have two suggestions but I’m sure you will have many more both in quantity and quality. I thought it could mean, ‘someone who is quite tough but afraid of spiders’ or ‘a person prone to toothache’.

In the same week another piece asked the students, ‘have you watched any good shoes recently?’, which possibly in some contexts might make sense but the work was based on TV shoes. Whenever we meet from now on, I’m sure my colleagues and I are going to ask each other if we’ve been watching any good shoes.

Their material contains countless other spelling errors, answers printed alongside questions and they once claimed that, ‘the past participle of eat is ate’. However, their most embarrassing error appeared in a series of articles about clothing. Again, slap bang in the middle of the article (how do they manage it) they had misspelled ‘shirt’ by leaving out the r. Believing I’d noticed this blunder in good time I contacted the agency and they later assured me that the situation had been dealt with. Naively believing them, I introduced my students to the article and was horrified to see that the r was still absent. Fortunately, either because of politeness and sensibility or due to the context, the student read ‘shirt’ and I quickly moved on.

Funnily enough in my first year of teaching, with a class of eight-year-olds, I was initially astonished to see the same offending word slap bang (!) in the middle of a piece of one of the children’s pieces of writing. As she was such a quiet, inoffensive student I managed to restrain what would have been my automatic response to admonish her and had the presence of mind to ask her what she had written. The relevant section read something like this, ‘… and then I found a sheet of paper…’ Relieved that the girl had simply had a creative approach to phonics that just needed modifying, I made sure that she was fully conversant with the spelling of ‘sheet’.

So friends, the meaning of thotough… ?

1 comment:

Andrew Preston said...
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