Almost Nonsense Word of the Week: Cloy

The concept of nonsense words in reading instruction is to see if a student is properly decoding words via syllables. The flawed concept is that many of the so-called nonsense words are actually words. Today’s almost nonsense word is “cloy”. The grapheme <oy> spells the phoneme /ɔɪ/. An educator may “make up” the word <cloy> thinking that it is a nonsense word to “test” a child in their decoding ability, when in reality <cloy> is a word in the Merriam-Webster’s dictionary “to surfeit with an excess usually of something originally pleasing”. The word <cloying> is an adjective. Yes, the suffix <-ing> can be adjectival. The crying baby was sad. The <crying> describes the baby, where as <was> is the verb. An example: The woman’s cloying perfume hung in the air like a cloud. Upon research of this word, I found there is a perfume called “Cloy”.

The etymology of <cloy> is Middle English cloyen, which meant to hinder movement. So someone who  over eats and can barely move from the gluttony may be described as cloying. Looking farther back into it’s history, this word goes back to Old French relating to “fasten with a nail”, such as to shoe a horse. Going even further back it is connected to Latin’s clavus “a nail”. Latin’s clavus is the root for slot, clove, and glaive. A clove grows in the shape of a nail. A glaive is a spear-like weapon on a long pole. It often had a small hook on the reverse side (similar to a nail). Slot is related to this root as a slot was used to fasten (bolt or bar) a door shut.

So, the next time nonsense words come up, it would be an interesting study to see if they are actually in the dictionary as “real” words. I will leave you with the ability to consider the futility of nonsense words. In general the idea of reading is to understand the meaning behind what is written. Nonsense words don’t do that, because they are “nonsense” and not intended to make any sense. Enjoy your almost nonsense word of the day!



Etymonline cloying entry

Merriam-Websters Word of the Day: Cloying

What is the Importance to Teaching Nonsense Words to Dyslexic Students Learning to Read?

nonsense words for use in decoding

nonsense words

Nonsense words are words that are not in the English dictionary. The use of nonsense words are used to practice reading consonants and vowel patterns. Children with dyslexia can guess words from pictures in stories and do well at “word prediction”, which falsely makes it look as though they are actually decoding. This is one reasons that sometimes dyslexia is not identified until 3rd grade, as that is when chapter books begin and there are no more picture clues to help the dyslexic child. Here are some nonsense words:

cat vs. vit

most vs. blost

my vs. gry

nine vs. scrine

The first word is a regular dictionary word. The second word is a nonsense word. The idea is that the second word can be decoded using the principals of the first word. Therefore “vit” would be said with short vowel and “blost” would be said with long vowel. The “y” in “gry” would say a long i sound. “Scrine” would have long i and silent e. There are crucial decoding skills.

If a student is unable to master the nonsense words, there is a significant deficit in their ability to decode. Sometimes students will master one segment of nonsense words, but not others. So it is important to pay attention to the nonsense words carefully.