Homophonophobia in Utah (Video)

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This has to be my favorite piece of news in quite some time. Last month Timothy Torkildson, a blogger in the employ of the Nomen Global Language Center, was fired after his boss, Clarke Woodger, expressed concern over promoting a “homosexual agenda.” Mr. Woodger, I will address you directly in rhyme form below, but for now please sit still and be quiet while the adults speak.

Mr. Torkildson, in a blog written for those learning English as a second language, wrote a piece called “Help with Homophones.” Homophones, as we all know, are words that sound the same, but through different spellings convey different meanings, like idle/idol or praise/prays. This concept can be difficult at first for English students, but understanding homophones is essential to learning English.

The Salt Lake Tribune (of course this happened in Utah) quotes Torkildson relating the conversation he had with his boss. Woodger reportedly had to look up the word homophone after reading the blog, and even after understanding its meaning was still phobic of the prefix “homo.”  Mr. Woodger said “Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality, I can no longer trust you.”

I’m almost willing to give Woodger a pass for not knowing the word; when I was in primary school these types of words were called homonyms. However, he fired Torkildson even after learning the word’s meaning.



The reason that I love this news so much is that it demonstrates the link between homophobia and ignorance. Many who fear what they call the “homosexual agenda” are also grossly misinformed about other basic issues.

And now, Mr. Woodger, I shall address you directly. I struggled with how to word a lesson on homophones for you; it’s not often that I write to such an audience. I am usually allowed to assume a certain level of competence with English and grammar. I have decided that your level of ignorance requires a return to a primary level where children learn from Dr. Seuss and Shel Silverstein.  I hope that this helps you to grasp the concept of homophones.


Listen, Clarke Woodger, attend to us here

There’s something we all think you really must hear.

Torkildson’s firing was simply not right,

And there’s a detail you missed when learning to write.


So listen closely the truth we will bare

This kind of stupid we just cannot bear.

Fear not the homophone, avert not your gaze,

It’s nothing to do with sex or with gays.


Don’t let the word elicit a groan

Til your knowledge of English and grammar has grown.

It’s simply a word whose sound that you knew

But with different spelling its meaning is new.


Like whirled is to world, like knead is to need,

As bowled is to bold and as cede is to seed.

We hope that we’re making the murkiness lessen

And you’ve learned something new from this rhyming lesson.


Words are ingredients like eggs and like flour;

Learn them and watch your rhetoric flower.

Your comprehension is now just a tiny bit higher;

Do you not think once again you should hire


Your former employee but after the raze

You inflicted last month he’ll no doubt want a raise.

And one final thing that we must say aloud:


Your judgment and hate are no longer allowed.

To your ignorance of grammar your views they are tied,

But your side, Clarke, is losing; we’re turning the tide.


I hope that has helped. If you have further questions about homophones, I’m sure that Mr Torkildson can help you.  Consider yourself fortunate, if it were not for the fact that he would have to explain this concept anew to a Utah judge I would recommend a lawsuit.


  • gvb

    Funny article and poem. But the word “illicit” in the third stanza should really be “elicit”–another homophone!

    • J. Michael Vaughn

      Thank you so much, I’ve changed it. Derp.

  • Guest

    Thank you so much, gvb. I’ve changed it. :)

  • Eruanion Nolaquen

    This man is the boss at a language center and doesn’t understand the language it teaches? i think they should fire him and rehire Mr. Torkildson

  • Lisa Silver

    Wow! Just wow! I don’t know what else to say except…ummm…wow!

  • Rebecca Fordin

    I loved it. Of course I always loved your works of art. I hope this poem find it’s way onto this man’s desk if for no other reason then this “boss” should be schooled. 😉

  • http://gravatar.com/gwhiteva gwhiteva

    Michael, this was great. Unfortunately, when we write something wonderful like this, we tend to make mistakes that we always catch in someone else. Look at your “it’s” in the last line of stanza three–a homophone! No need to thank me!

    • J_Michael_Vaughn

      I’ll thank you anyway. :)