PROVO, Utah – A blog about homophones – words that sound the same though spelled differently – has allegedly cost one writer his job with a learning center on the grounds that the article could have led readers to conclude the organization is associated with homosexuality.
Social-media specialist Tim Torkildson claims that after he wrote a blog about same-sounding words, he was called into the office of Nomen Global Language Center owner Clarke Woodger and fired.
“As Torkildson tells it, Woodger said he could not trust him and that the blog about homophones was the last straw,” the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
“Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” Woodger complained, according to an account of the run-in found on Torklidson’s personal website.
“I had to look up the word,” Woodger allegedly added, “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.”
Wrote Torklidson: “I said nothing, stunned into silence.”
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Torkildson was careful to include a straightforward explanation of homophones because “he knew the ‘homo’ part of the word could be politically charged, but he thought the explanation of that quirky part of the English language would be educational.”
Woodger disputes that his decision to fire Torklidson was based on fears of having his company appear pro-gay. Instead, Woodger says he had grown tired of Torkildson’s blogs because they would “go off on tangents,” creating confusion for the company’s clientele, which is mostly made up of English language learners who are seeking admission to U.S. colleges and universities, the newspaper reports.
Woodger tells the Salt Lake Tribune that most of his customers are at basic levels of English and are not ready for the more complicated concepts such as homophones.
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Torkildson countered on his personal website that homophones are “one of the first subjects tackled when teaching ESL (English as a second language). It is a subject that has been taught and discussed with absolutely no controversy for well over a hundred years.”