Saturday, 12 May 2012


Yesterday I spent time with some children looking at the different ways that ‘ugh’ is pronounced – and proving that you cannot be rigid about ‘phonics’ with the English language. Try reading these aloud…

though, through, thought, cough, bough, slough [as in snakeskin] caught, laughter, lough [as in Belfast] and hiccough.

The children were fascinated by hiccough. I explained that hiccup and a hiccough are actually the same thing. It is spelled hiccough because, 400 years ago, it was believed that the act of hiccupping was related to coughing. The medical term is singultus, from the Latin singult, "the act of catching one's breath while sobbing".


Earlier in the week we had studied apostrophes – and we decided that whoever prepared this sign must have been unsure about how many Marshals there are. At least it doesn’t say driver’s!! [this is another of the signs by the Equestrian Stadium in Greenwich Park]

And is this an instruction for the drivers’ benefit?

Or is it a piece of information about the drivers’ behaviour?

One pupil thought that hic-cough sounded like something you would say to a friend who was annoying you [Oh, just hick off, will you!] and has decided she may use this one in future!!


  1. Ugh ! we take it for granted don't we ?,but to someone new to the English language .....Oo -er! love Jan x

  2. Fun! There are several French place names (and we've visited a number) that sound like mild swear words in English. Plouhinec is a lovely little place, but does sound like someone has found a new way to express their anger...

    Thanks for your kind comment. The shock hit this afternoon and I spent a lot of time staring into space and mindlessly weeding (it was a good way to pass the time!) Ben's gone out to a party we were both invited to, but I decided I needed the evening in (OK, with 5 boys, but still, they prefer to ignore me, anyway...)

  3. I remember when we were being inspected I "did" a Literacy lesson using this poem ( The children enjoyed it and I think the Inspector did too...but I can't remember what part of the National Curriculum I was targeting at the time! Your assembly sounds great fun.

  4. One that stumps me every time is Slough (as in Slough of Despond, or the Big Slough in Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House" books. I've looked it up but the proper pronunciation just won't stick in my memory.

    What a very unaccountable language we have. I have great respect (and pity) for anyone trying to learn English as a second language.


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