Sunday, April 24, 2005

The 't' in Whistle

Martha once began taking a course in the teaching of reading. The instructor was introducing some phonetic notions, & was speaking of silent letters, such as, of course, the 'e' in "date." She asked people to name some more. The 'k' in "knight," good. The 'g' in "gnaw." Martha raised her hand and proposed the 't' in "whistle."

"No, the 't' in whistle is sounded," said the instructor. Baffled, Martha sat there, saying the word "whistle" to herself, trying to hear the 't'.

Finally she raised her hand again. "You can hear the 't' in whistle?" she asked. "Yes," replied the teacher firmly.

"Could you say whistle for me?" persisted Martha.

"Whissel!" said the instructor. -- And now comes the scary part. Every budding young reading teacher in the classroom agreed that they could hear that 't'.

That was the end of Martha's inclination to get a teaching certificate. So a couple dozen people who can hear the 't' in "whistle" (if a teacher tells them they can) are now teaching reading, and Martha is not.

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