Sparkly turquoise teeth

Last night my wife and I hosted a number of her friends with their husbands and children. Today I’ve been finding various things that the children left in various parts of the house. On one piece of paper, one child wrote “My teeth came out”. Another child crossed out teeth and wrote tooth underneath, then Incorrect and (in very big letters) Grammar. But there is nothing grammatically wrong with “My teeth came out”. The only difference between “My teeth came out” and “My tooth came out” is the number of teeth, one or more than one. Past tense came takes the same form for singular and plural. (Indeed, every English verb except be > was, were does.)

On another piece of paper are the words (all in upper case, which I won’t reproduce):

Name: [English from Hebrew girl’s name]
Age: 5
Last name: [Korean surname]
Favourite colour: Sparkly tourqouise

Judging from the quality of the handwriting, an older child asked a younger child and recorded her answers. Note the –our spellings, as are most common in Australia and some other parts of the English-speaking world. But she has wrongly assumed that turquoise follows the same pattern. It doesn’t: –or and –our are interchangeable in a small set of words (from Latin –or and French –eur), but as far as I know,  –ur and –our never are. Note also –qouise, obviously influenced by all those other –ou spellings. But qu and oi appear together far more often than qo (basically impossible in English; compare the Iranian city of Qom)) and ui (guide, guilt, juice etc) (note that ui has different pronunciations in those three words).

It’s actually a very sophisticated answer for a five-year-old. I wouldn’t have said that at that age, but then I wasn’t/still aren’t a girl. But it’s obviously easier for her to say than the other to write.

As far as I can remember, this is the first time I’ve ever written or typed turquoise, and had to think very carefully. I got it right both times. 


4 thoughts on “Sparkly turquoise teeth

  1. “I wasn’t/still aren’t a girl” … why not write “I wasn’t/still amn’t a girl”? I know that “amn’t” ain’t a word, but it ought to be one.


    • “Amn’t” is just not part of my English. I would never say/write “amn’t”. I just might use “ain’t” self-consciously. I have no problem with “aren’t I?” but “I aren’t” is awkward at best. I would naturally use “I’m not”, but was forced into “aren’t” by writing “I wasn’t” immediately before. I could have written “I wasn’t a girl and I’m still not”.
      An excellent language blogger, for whom “amn’t” *is* a word, explains “amn’t” better than I could:
      One Facebook friend suggested that I use “I’s not”.


      • I did not know that “amn’t” exists for Irish speakers of English. That’s oddly reassuring.

        There are many other gaps in English. For example, there’s no single word to complete the sentence “I hope there’s a restroom near here. I’m feeling so ___” (for either “number”),

        On the topic of contractions, something that annoys me is the near-ubiquitous use of “would’ve” and “could’ve” in *written* English, including formal news articles where other contractions would be out of place. Why is this? Could it be because writers aren’t sure whether the full form is “would have” or “would of” and they are splitting the difference?


  2. The Canadian Province of Newfoundland was settled, largely, by Irish fishermen. Modern residents of The Old Sod find their assaults on the language almost unintelligible.
    The King of France sent boatloads of unwilling, and unwanted, immigrants too settle the “French” Province of Quebec. The term ‘Prostitutes and Protestants’ comes up in research. Two hundred years later, Quebecois moviegoers require subtitles on movies they import from Paris. So, we have Irishmen who aren’t Irish, and Frenchmen who aren’t French. 😳

    Liked by 1 person

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