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
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.
This simulated Netscape news message was created by
Mike Jourard using
from cranial software, and Netscape Navigator Version 1.2N, because Netscape does some automatic formatting of news messages, and they never look as good when they are viewed from a saved file. So there.
Last modified on June 30, 2000. Copyright © 2000 by Badinage Publications. All rights reserved.