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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019) and AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021).

Monday, September 17, 2007

You say phenomics, I say phonemics ... let's call the whole thing off

Today's edition of The Australian has a front-page story (long enough to be continued over on page 2) about the parlous standards of primary school teachers in the state of Victoria. This does sound a bit scary, since not one of a group of 40 teachers managed to get full marks on a spelling test at 14-year-old standard, with such words as "subterranean", "miscellaneous", "embarrassing", and "adolescence". Worse, these folks weren't making one silly slip-up each: their average score on the test was only seven out of eleven.

However, the effect of the story is ruined when it goes on complaining about how teachers don't know "phenomics" (defined as "the sounds that make up words") or possess "a good phenomic understanding to help spell words". How embarrassing. How positively subterranean.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps phenomics is the study of phenomenology of economics? Or just being economic with the spelling of phonemic?

Anonymous said...

I suppose I should get the joke, or at least pretend to.

Russell Blackford said...

Stuart, the joke is just that the word The Australian wanted was not "phenomics" but "phonemics". Not exactly a spelling mistake, I suppose, but certainly a problem with written English in the same story in which the paper was making quite a fuss about the weaknesses of primary school teachers in that regard.

Thankfully, I don't seem to have mispelled "embarrresing" or "subteraneun" or "addalesence", or the other one, whatever it was, in my own post ... though I did use "subturranian" in a creative way.

Oh well, I thought it was funny when I read the article ... and I bet the journalist is pissed off if she's since worked out her mistake, or if it was made by someone who "corrected" her work before it went to print.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I see. Still, I doubt whether I could spell any of those words. I often joke that I belong to the "F7 generation", never having needed to learn how to spell anything advanced because there is always the good old spilchook on my compluter.