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Why Is ‘Phonics’ Not Spelled The Way It Sounds? – ‘The Why’

Welcome to the latest edition of The Why.

Everywhere you look the media is pushing you telling you who to follow, what to watch and when to watch it.   You’re even sometimes told how to do it all.  Truth is, here at American Live Wire we do a bit of that too.  The big difference is we also tell you why.

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

“Why is phonics not spelled the way it sounds?” you ask? Again, this is one of those observational questions meant to elicit a laugh. Yet again, there is actually a common sense answer.

Why is phonics not spelled the way it sounds? Let’s review the definition of phonics first. According to Wikipedia phonics is “a method for teaching reading and writing the English language by developing learners’ phonemic awareness—the ability to hear, identify, and manipulate phonemes—in order to teach the correspondence between these sounds and the spelling patterns (graphemes) that represent them.” It was first attested in 1908 but the system itself harkens back to 1844.

phonics

Why is “phonics” not spelled the way it sounds?/Image: St.John’sCatholicprimary

So why is phonics not spelled the way it sounds? The English teacher within yours truly likes the theory espoused by someone on Yahoo who claims phonics is spelled the way it is because “they want to see if you’re paying attention.”

“But seriously”, you ask, “Why is phonics not spelled the way it sounds?” Double-checking the Online Etymology Dictionary confirmed suspicions that the word has its roots in Greek. It comes from the Greek word phone which means sound. Consider the words phonograph, telephone and of course phonics.

In the English language, the digraph “ph” usually stands for the “f” sound. Witness your pensive penman’s surname—Phoenix.  Simple.

Why is phonics not spelled the way it sounds? Now you know.

You ask the questions.  We provide the answers.

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.