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Shoelaces and spelling

Brian Ferry

Throughout my time as a parent, I have been subjected to some awful children’s programming.

Usually, the things I remember about those shows make me want to physically remove the part of my brain that stores them.

Good news. Not all of it has been wretched. Among my favorites is Phineas and Ferb.

I even learned something from that show that I not only remember, but remember that I learned it from that show.

The usually plasticy thing on the end of a shoelace that helps the user push a bundle of fabric through a hole about the size of the bundle of fabric is called an aglet. I don’t recall if the whole episode was devoted to aglets or not, but there was a song.

“A-G-L-E-T. Don’t forget it.”

Well, I haven’t.

I also haven’t forgotten the time when one of my children (I have forgotten which child) pointed out, quite innocently, yet another problem with the English language.

The child was trying to write ‘aglet’ for some reason.

The child spelled it H-E-L-E-T.

Outrageous.

I explained that not only should that be a clearly-incorrect spelling — H and E together does not sound like ‘ag’, there’s a song to help one remember the correct spelling.

I spelled it aloud. Maybe even sang it.

A-G-L-E-T. Don’t forget it.

The child looked at me with a combination of confusion and annoyance and had the audacity to claim I was saying H-E-L-E-T.

Outrageous.

I was not saying H-E-L-E-T. I was saying A-G-L-E-T.

Of course, I was saying H-E-L-E-T and A-G-L-E-T to the child.

When you look at them, they’re not close.

If you’re been reading them as words, go ahead and spell them out.

When you say them without a lot of time between the letters, they are more than close. They are essentially identical. A-G and H-E. A-gee and aitch-ee.

After apologizing to the child for delivering a hard time about something that was clearly not the child’s fault, I (quietly) ranted and raved about the English language — clearly the party at fault.

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