Ever heard of “homophonia?” We haven’t either, but Clark Woodger, owner of the Utah-based Nomen Global Language Center, seems to be well-versed in the topic. After one of his employees wrote a blog post explaining homophones, Woodger terminated him–because the post made the school sound totally gay…apparently.
Tim Torkildson, a now-former social media specialist for the private English language learning center, irritated his boss when his straightforward write-up of homophones–two words that sound the same–set off some alarms for his employer. Woodger summoned Torkildson to his office and told him that he was terminated.
Torkildson told his now-former employee that he could not trust him, and the post about homophones was the last straw. “Now our school is going to be associated with homosexuality,” the head of the learning center said.
Woodger detailed the experience on his blog (emphasis added):
This week I was fired for writing a blog about homophones for an educational website.
“I’m letting you go because I can’t trust you” said Clarke Woodger, my boss and the owner of Nomen Global Language Center. “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.
“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.”
Woodger claims that his reaction to the blog post had nothing to do with homosexuality, but Torkildsen’s tendency to “go off on tangents” in his postings that would be confusing–like an explanation of homophones–and could sometimes be considered offensive–like the “homophone” post.
Nomen’s head honcho says that the school has taught 6,500 students from 58 countries seeking admission to U.S. colleges and universities over the past 15 years. Most of them, he claims, are at basic levels of English and are unable to comprehend such advanced topics as homophones. “People at this level of English,” Woodger explained, “… may see the ‘homo’ side and think it has something to do with gay sex.”
Wait till he finds out we have a bunch of thespians and homo erectus running around our country. He’ll flip!
For more information on homophones, here’s a clip from VeggieTales–a children’s show popular with conservatives. No excuses.