Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Vagaries of Language

This is why it is so difficult to teach the English language!

From an email:
A newspaper reader sent in this lament on the vagaries of the English language:

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes

One fowl is a goose but two are called geese
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese

You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice

If the plural of man is always called men
Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?

If I speak of my foot and show you my feet
And i give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and there would be those
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose

We speak of a brother and also of brethren
But though we say mother, we never say methren

Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim !

Let's face it - English is a crazy language.

There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins weren't invented in England.

We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes we find that
quicksand can work slowly,
boxing rings are square
and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing,
grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?

Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them,
what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think all the folk who grew up speaking English should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
in which your house can burn up as it burns down,
in which you fill in a form by filling it out
and in which an alarm goes off by going on.
And if Father is Pop, how come Mother's not Mop?

There's no simple answer. You see, Engllish is a hybrid language. There were the Angles and the Saxons. Then there were the Vikings. Then the Norman-French, who were French but not quite French because they also had Norse in them. Then there were the Vikings again. They all brought their languages. Then there was Hollywood. Then the Australlians colonised England. It's an ever-evolving proces.

Perhaps another practical example of the vagaries is appropriate.

A Frenchman is complaining: "I am playing poker wiz two Englishmen and an Englishwoman.
One of the Englishmen wins a hand and his compatriot says : you lucky dog!
Zen ze ozzer Englishman wins a hand and ze first responds ze same: you lucky dog!.
Zen ze Englishwoman wins a hand and I say : you lucky bitch!
Zen zey all want to punch me on ze nose.
Inexplicable ! Les Anglais ! Zut ! Alors!

There must be many more of these interesting observations of the English language.
Hope you had a smile out of one or more.
Have a great day

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