No matter how much we wish this was a case of a paper overselling its headline, it is absolutely true: A social-media specialist for a private language school in Provo, Utah, has been fired because he wrote a blog piece about homophones, which his employer worried would make the school seem gay somehow. You see, Nomen Global Language Center is a school for foreigns learning English, and owner Clarke Woodger was very upset at blogger Tim Torkildson (all names in this story are real, even if they sound like they’re from a Dickens novel set in Lake Wobegon) for using that word. So here’s what happens when you write a Facebook post about words that sound the same but have different meanings, but you work for an ash whole:
As Torkildson tells it, Woodger said he could not trust him and that the blog about homophones was the last straw.
“Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” Woodger complained, according to Torkildson, who posted the exchange on his Facebook page.
Torkildson says he was careful to write a straightforward explanation of homophones. He knew the “homo” part of the word could be politically charged, but he thought the explanation of that quirky part of the English language would be educational.
Nomen initially removed the post from its Facebook page, and then by late Wednesday evening, the entire Facebook page appeared to have been pulled. We found the account of the firing on Torkildson’s blog, and if Torkildson is to believed, Woodger sounds like the PERFECT person to be running a school:
“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.
“Good. You’ve done a good job on most things, but you’re just not reliable enough. I never have any idea what you’re going to do next. I can’t run my business that way. You’d probably make a great college professor, but since you don’t have a degree you’ll never get that kind of work. I would advise you to try something clerical, where you’ll be closely supervised and have immediate goals at all times. That’s the only kind of job you’ll ever succeed at. I’ll be happy to give you a good reference. Good-bye, and good luck.”
OK, so maybe the perfect person to be running a private school in Provo Freakin’ Utah.
It’s probably worth noting that Mr. Torkildson doesn’t appear to be some wild-eyed radical who’s out to poison English learners’ minds with radical homophone ideology — a brief look at his Facebook and blog shows him to be a political conservative, a devout Mormon, and a perfectly nice, unobjectionable blogger. If he needs a reverse character reference from a leftish cussy mommyblog (or from “far-left thugs,” if you prefer), we’re quite happy to say that Tim Torkildson is far too organized and straitlaced to ever fit in with us mangy commulibs at Wonkette.
The Salt Lake Tribune’s Paul Rolly checked Torkildson’s story with Mr. Woodger, who explained that the students who attend Nomen are at a very basic level of English, and just aren’t ready for “complicated concepts” like homophones, which is why students are forbidden from reading John Donne, lest they mistakenly think they’re attending school on an island. Here’s an illustration Torkildson included in his story of the firing, and, presumably, in the dangerously confusing blog post:
Brain-meltingly advanced stuff, isn’t it?
Woodger also explained his concern with Torkildson’s blog wasn’t related to homosexuality at all, no no no, but rather said that Torkildson would sometimes “go off on tangents” that might be confusing to students, who despite being adults, must apparently be treated like morons because they don’t speak English:
“People at this level of English,” Woodger says, ” … may see the ‘homo’ side and think it has something to do with gay sex.”
Remember, the firing had nothing to do with the homo stuff, either.
We wish all the best to Mr. Torkildson, and as for Mr. Woodger, we might suggest that he change his name to “Gradgrind.”