Subject: Crazy English!
Date: Fri, 13 Feb 1998 01:05:51 -0500
From: eric poulin (

English language

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 or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while 
sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

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? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural 
of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one loose tooth, 2 leese teeth? One 
index, 2 indices?

Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend, that you 
comb through annals of history but not a SINGLE annal? 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 preacher praught? If a vegetarian eats 
vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you 
bote your tongue?

Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum 
for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play 
at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo or a truck by ship? Have noses that
run and feet that smell? Park on driveways and drive on parkways? Lift a thumb
to thumb a lift? Table a plan in order to plan a table?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and wise 
guy are opposites? How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while quite a 
lot and quite a few are alike? How can a person be "pretty ugly?"

How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell another. Have you 
noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent? Have you 
ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown? Met a sung hero or 
experienced requited love? Have you ever run into someone who was combobulated,
gruntled, ruly or peccable? And where are all those people who ARE spring 
chickens or who would ACTUALLY hurt a fly?

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 clock goes off by going on. Why is "crazy man" an insult, while
to insert a comma and say "crazy, man!" is a compliment (as when applauding a 
jazz performance.)

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity 
of the human race (which, of course, isn't a race at all). That is why, when 
the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are 
invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up 
this essay, I end it.

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Last modified on June 30, 2000. Copyright © 2000 by Badinage Publications. All rights reserved.