I happened again this week...I can't remember the exact context anymore, but off I went on my rant...
"How do you pronounce this part of a word?" as I write -ough on the board. The students usually respond in chorus:
"Uff." "Ooo." "Owe." "Off."
So I start writing:
About this time the class starts laughing...as they start to realize what I'm getting at.
So we proceed:
On the board I write: mouse louse house
I ask, "What if you have more than one mouse? Then you have..."
I ask, "What if you have more than one louse?"
(Depending on the group, there is sometimes quite a pause here before someone eventually proposes:) "Lice?"
I ask, "How about more than one house? Hice? NO." and I write houses on the board.
We go on.
On the board: goose moose caboose
By now they are getting it: "Geese!" "Meese! Cabeese! HA!"
Finally, the clincher: "How would you pronounce this word?" as I write ghoti on the board.
To which, I respond, "Wrong!"
They look at me, bemused. "Of course it should be pronounced 'fish.'"
More bemused faces.
"gh" says "f" in enough.
"o" says "i" in women.
"ti" says "sh" in motion.
Clearly, ghoti should be pronounced "fish."
With a wink and a smile, "I hate English."
My students do know I'm joking. (Really.) They know me well enough to know that I like to chase rabbit trails like this just for sport. Generally, these just-for-fun mini-lessons are a one shot deal that help them get to know me, and hopefully help them see that I have interests and thoughts beyond just the subject I'm teaching them.
But then, a thoughtful student shared this with me this week after our exchange in class. Good points here. English is actually a wealth of treasures--and the oddities only add to the luster!