I think everyone has little things that people say or write that drive them crazy. Things that are strictly incorrect, like I could care less, I should of known better, or I’ve went there a lot. I try not to get annoyed by such things, but there’s one that always bugs me: thought instead of taught.
I can almost appreciate the irony of it: I was thought better than that! Well, apparently not in terms of spelling anyway. I can almost understand the error in written form though. The words are so similar in sound that one could easily accidentally type thought instead of taught. But what I’ve only noticed recently is that people actually say thought instead of taught too! And worse, the people I’ve heard do this are people of whom I would expect a high level of language knowledge. People who are supposed to be among the most knowledgeable people about the language. People who really should know how to pronounce the word taught as that verb is strongly linked to their daily life, let’s just say! That I simply couldn’t get my head round. Don’t they know that thought and taught are two distinct words with different spellings!? Haven’t they been exposed to both words pronounced correctly many times in their lives!?
However, a colleague recently suggested a plausible explanation: they’re overcorrecting. You see, some Irish accents (though by no means all) replace th sounds with /d/ at the beginning of words, and /t/ at the end. So this and that become dis and dat, and with and mouth become wit and mout. What he thinks is happening is that they hear people say taught, but think that it should really be pronounced thought, and assume that the speaker is pronouncing it differently because of their accent. Therefore when they make an effort to speak “correctly,” they say thought.
It would explain a lot of things, but still, it demonstrates a lack of knowledge about the language. It’s not really a serious issue, of course, but it still surprises me.
It also shows how misguided we can unintentionally find ourselves in trying to be “correct.” We can find ourselves following a trail that seems logical but only leads us astray. As I’ve said before, what people often think is “correct” strictly isn’t, or what they think is “incorrect” is perfectly acceptable, so I say don’t overthink it and just go with what sounds right.
Unless saying thought instead of taught sounds right. In that case, say taught instead.