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ESL Instructors–Is This Book for Ewe?

Today is Book Lovers Day, an unofficial holiday celebrating the love of books. It’s a great excuse to relax and read.

I picked an easy book to enjoy, P Is for Pterodactyl: The Worst Alphabet Book Ever, written by rapper Raj Haldar and Chris Carpenter and illustrated by Maria Tina Beddia. If you haven’t seen this gem published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky last year, you will want to.
P Is for Pterodactyl

It’s “the worst alphabet book ever” because none of the letters play the roles we expect them to play. is not for popcorn; it’s for pterodactyl, where it’s silent. (“Ptolemy the psychic pterodactyl struggles with psoriasis.”) C is not for cat; it’s for czar and CzechAnd is not for elephant; it’s for ewe. 

The book is a testament to our random, crazy English. How can people learning English as a new language not become confused, when the letter surprises in so many ways? (See below.)

A is for Aisle P Is for Pterodactyl

This book might be a fun gift for someone learning English. It would validate their frustration with the endless exceptions of the language, and it might help with memorizing them. “The honest heir” and “the noble knight’s knife” seem like excellent mnemonic phrases to me. (One entry is “M is for Mnemonic.”) A glossary with pronunciation tips covers 47 of the linguistic exceptions. For example, mnemonic is defined this way:

Mnemonic (pronounced neh-MON-ic)–A handy way of remembering something hard by connecting it to something easy. The next time you need to remember something, try making your own.

Although the book is described as a juvenile picture book, the clever writing and illustrations make second and third readings a pleasure, even for an adult. Of course, with a young child, 30th and 40th readings would be fun too.

You can see more illustrations from P Is for Pterodactyl on Amazon. The book retails for $17.99.

If you are mastering English as a second language, would you enjoy this book?

On Book Lovers Day and every day, what are your favorite books on language?


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By Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston has helped thousands of employees and managers improve their business writing skills and confidence through her company, Syntax Training. In her corporate training career of more than 20 years, she has worked with executives, engineers, scientists, sales staff, and many other professionals, helping them get their messages across with clarity and tact.

A gifted teacher, Lynn has led writing classes at more than 100 companies and organizations such as MasterCard, Microsoft, Boeing, Nintendo, REI, AARP, Ledcor, and Kaiser Permanente. Near her home in Seattle, Washington, she has taught managerial communications in the MBA programs of the University of Washington and UW Bothell. She has created a communications course, Business Writing That Builds Relationships, and provides the curriculum at no cost to college instructors.

A recognized expert in business writing etiquette, Lynn has been quoted in "The Wall Street Journal," "The Atlantic," "Vanity Fair," and other media.

Lynn sharpened her business writing skills at the University of Notre Dame, where she earned a master's degree in communication, and at Bradley University, with a bachelor's degree in English.

10 comments on “ESL Instructors–Is This Book for Ewe?”

  • Favorites of mine: “The Devil’s Dictionary” by Ambrose Bierce, and “Anguish Languish” by Howard Chace.
    Brooke Rolston

  • Lynn,

    Sorry for this comment, but isn’t the word supposed to be “enTry”, as in “One entry is ‘M for Mnemonic'” rather than “One enry is ‘M for Mnemonic'”?

  • Hi everyone! I appreciate your comments.

    Brooke, thank you for those two tomes. I look forward to dipping into them.

    George, your search string brought up several gems. Thank you!

    John, thank you for the correction. I’ve made the change. I had proofread the piece several times but then made a change in that sentence. Silly me!

    Nick, hah! Yes, I’ve fallen off my high horse–but only temporarily.

    Allison, “Bad English” sounds good. Thanks for the tip.


  • Ha ewe en dbro whasa jigup ona dflow?

    I have to ask myself as an over 50 person, it’s becoming obsolete to be able to spell.

  • Hi Suzie,

    Wow! I have no idea what your first paragraph says. Can you give me a clue?

    I do need to stick up for youth, however. I know many young people who are excellent spellers and writers.


  • Hello Lynn,

    It took me a little while to put it into today’s younger language. When read as a following greeting between teenagers ( complex hand gestures included while pulling the other into a tighter embrace if friendship or family bonds are strong), I have worked out it is another form of “gidday mate, what’s new?” here in Australia. mainly Islander or Maori in greeting.

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