A good Q from a 5 year old.

My granddaughter hangs her bag on a hook labelled with her name at kindy. Kindy kids learn to read other names as well as their own. That’s why Sula argued with her big brother when he said SH spells [sh]. “No it doesn’t. My friend Charlotte’s name starts with CH.”

“You are both right,” I said on the phone. “I’ll explain in a blog.”

Why do CHARLES and CHARLOTTE start with different sounds? CHARLES is an old name and CHARLOTTE is a new name.

The English used to spell the old name Charles as CEARL because they used CE to spell [ch]. Then the French conquered England and changed CE in words to CH. They had a lot of power, even the power to change the spelling of English. The English used to spell [sh] with SC. They called themselves ENGLISC but the French changed that too, to ENGLISH. The French just chose SH out of nowhere because in those days the French did not have the [sh] sound in their own language.

Much later on the French began using the [sh] sound in their words but they used CH to spell their [sh] because many of these words began as [ch] words. For example, the French changed CHIEF to CHEF. The English visited France and learnt about CHEFS and CHALETS and CHIFFON and added those words to English, but kept the French spelling. They also heard about the girl’s name CHARLOTTE which is spelt the French way with CH spelling [sh]. When the king of England married a foreign girl with this name it became a very popular name in England.

English is a big stew of words from all over the world. All the words in which CH spells [sh] are new words to English, usually from France. The French do not use the [ch] sound anymore and so now you know how to read CH in French ---- Shhhhh!

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