by Mikaila DeSousa
(Kingston, Ont, Cda.)
Phonics is an important ingredient of ones’ childhood. Accurately defining words can pose some difficulty as, there are millions of words in the English language and you just cannot know them all. The correct amount of time must be taken to effectively ensure that a child is not misled. However this task becomes only harder when the pronunciation of some words just don’t “fit” with their definitions.
I know a young man who was a master at inadvertently garnering much concern about his phonetic development and therefore fell victim to this complication. As per request, he will remain unnamed and be identified as my younger brother, to mostly save him some social embarrassment, and who, except his older and more sensible sister, could blame him.
The boy wondered innocently into the realm of phonics after his second day of his first year in High School. After completing some homework, he took out his school agenda he was provided with, and began perusing at a leisurely pace. I noticed he had stopped and has stared quite inquisitively at a certain page. The page was in regards to the School Uniform Policy, which, in my opinion, is a straightforward policy with no room for negotiation.
Unaware of what questions where to follow I continued to finish the homework I planned to start an hour ago but I was only interrupted again by an iniquitous mind. Despite the hesitation my brother asked me in a burst of breath, as though he were about to pop, “What in the hell does Unisex mean?” Slightly annoyed that he asked such a ridiculous question I brushed it off, and only replied “it means boy-girl’.
I mistakenly assumed words like this part of an individual’s everyday vocabulary and did not require a detailed definition at age fourteen; apparently not.
Dissatisfied with the answer he asked again
but was sure to include more detail, “It says here, that the optional green sweater vests are unisex, what does THAT mean?” Once again I sat frustrated that I was being asked such a silly question replied unintentionally with a silly answer, “It means both sexes, male and female”. The horror on the little boys face was unparallel to anything I had ever seen; it was like Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone meets Haley Joel Osment in the Sixth Sense.
As he sat distraught he sadly replied, “I sit next to someone in a green sweater vest in Geography”. Unable to make the connection, I kept an eyebrow raised. My brother took a deep breath and whimpered, “So that means I sit next to a…he-she”. Roars of laughter left my mouth while he sat impatiently. To him, this was no laughing matter and my thoughts seized momentarily.
My brother had mistaken the word ‘Unisex’ for that of a transgender person. Calmly, being the understanding sister that I am, explained that either a girl or a boy may wear a green sweater vest as it is meant for both genders, separately. His face glowed bright enough to light a small village in northern Africa for a whole calendar year.
There he sat content as though the epiphany he had just experienced allowed the heavens to part and a weight had been lifted off his shoulders.
Finally we were back on track and I continued my after school routine as my brother insisted he keep perusing the agenda. He did so thoroughly with more caution and was careful to clarify any misunderstandings. Minutes later I lifted my head to notice the boy had stopped again and was starring at a different page with larger font and bolded text. The page was in respects to School Dance Protocol, but this time he stared excitedly.