Well, Somebody Doesn’t Know What “Homophones” Are

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It's either Clarke Woodger, who reportedly fired an employee for blogging about them, or people for whom English is a second language. It is plausible to think many in the latter group might not know what "homophones" are, but to join Team Woodger you must also believe that those people (1) would know enough English to recognize "homo" and (2) are also stupid enough to think it is always associated with sexuality.

That's what Woodger believes, according to Tim Torkildson, who says he was fired from his job at Nomen Global Language Center after he wrote a blog post for the company site explaining what "homophones" are. The post itself is now gone, but Torkildson told the Salt Lake Tribune he was "careful to write a straightforward explanation of homophones" because he knew part of the word could be, as the Tribune put it, "politically charged."

According to Torkildson, this is what happened next:

"I'm letting you go because I can't trust you," said [Woodger]. "This blog about homophones was the last straw. Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality."

I said nothing, stunned into silence.

"I had to look up the word," he continued, "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."

I nodded, mute.

Again, that's Torkildson's account, and based on a quick look at his Facebook page he appears to be something of a wise guy. Always trying to be funny, you know? You can't trust people like that. So maybe this was just him goofing around again?

If so, the Tribune is in on the prank, because it says it reached Woodger for comment, and here are those comments:

Woodger says his reaction to Torkildson's blog has nothing to do with homosexuality but that Torkildson had caused him concern because he would "go off on tangents" in his blogs that would be confusing and sometimes could be considered offensive….

Woodger says his school has taught 6,500 students from 58 countries during the past 15 years. Most of them, he says, are at basic levels of English and are not ready for the more complicated concepts such as homophones.

Well, there you go. Apparently it had nothing to do with— 

"People at this level of English," Woodger says, "… may see the 'homo' side and think it has something to do with gay sex."

Wait, what? You just said….

In the unlikely event that you, like Mr. Woodger, do not know what "homophones" are (assuming that part of the story is also true), they are words that sound alike but are otherwise different, such as ritewriteright, and wright.

I'd link to some sites for you but I don't want to be accused of promoting the homophonic agenda. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Employment in Utah is generally "at will," meaning one can be fired for any reason or no reason at all, subject to limited exceptions including "when termination violates clear and substantial Utah public policy." Given that Utah public policy apparently does not prohibit firing someone for being homosexual, it seems very unlikely that it would prohibit firing someone for using a term that you, if an idiot, wrongly believe has something to do with homosexuals.

That seems like a good question for the Utah Labor Commission, though. I'll let you know if they answer it.