Ragged Clown

It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing…

You say Cwawfee, I say…


One problem with bringing up kids in countries where they speak funny is when you get homework like this:

Underline the words that have a schwa sound and circle the vowel that makes the sound.

A schwa sound? What the bloody hell is a schwa sound?

Luckily they gave us …erm…the kids…some clues:

  • (A)bout
  • Less(o)n

I doubt there are two words in the English words that have less vowel sounds in common except maybe orange and Aardvark. Neither of those words, as best as I can tell, have a schwa sound. An oo sound maybe, if you are Canadian, but no schwa sound.

Luckily, we have an older child – he talks funny too – to help. Eldest rattled off the first few words:

  • Again – Ok, I can see that. If About has schwa then maybe again has one too.
  • We argued about silent. It seemed to have something in common with Lesson but, ultimately, we decided against.
  • Problem – Wait! What?

If I squint my ears I can be persuaded that the em syllable vaguely resembles a schwa but both my oddly-spoken offspring assured me that the schwa-like syllable was the first one.

We went through a whole verbal dance.

Funny-speaking son: prwaaablem

Normal-speaking father: problem. It’s a short o. Like pot.

Funny-speaking son: Not pr’bliiim….prwaaaawblem!

Funny-speaking daughter: prwwwaaaaaawwblem!!

Eventually, I was dismissed and the funny-speaking ones decided among themselves.

Need a parent to derive the quadratic formula for you? I am there! Got a theorem that needs proving? I can do that! Need help locating the fallacies in America’s founding mythology? That’s my strong point…but locating schwa sounds…?….

You’ll need to find a different parent or a funny-speaking sibling.