As a gift to our clients past, present and future, we are pleased to present an Ode to English. If you’ve learned another language, you know how difficult that can be. But English seems exceptionally crazy, as an anonymous author expresses below:
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An eggplant has no egg and a hamburger has no ham.
A pineapple is neither a pine nor an apple.
English muffins were not invented in England.
Quicksand can work slowly.
Boxing rings are actually square.
A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor a pig.
And why in English do writers write but fingers don’t fing?
Why do grocers not groce and hammers not ham?
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Why do English speakers 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. Americans park in a driveway and drive on a parkway.
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, but a wise man and wise guy are opposites?
And in English…
- your house can burn up as it burns down;
- you fill in a form by filling it out;
- and an alarm goes off by going on.
And if a Father is called Pop why is Mother not called Mop?
As for plurals–
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?
One may be That and two 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.
And since the masculine pronouns are he, his and him
Why aren’t the feminines she, shis and shim?
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English words and structures have been influenced by the Vikings, Greeks and Romans; the French, Germans, Italians, Spanish, East Europeans and Russians; Arabs and Jews; American Indians and Asian Indians; Chinese, Japanese and Koreans; and immigrants from the Caribbean, Africa, Latin America and elsewhere. No wonder it’s such as mess!
To paraphrase the late pianist and great Dane, Victor Borge, the British invented the language. We Americans are just borrowing it … and help to add new words all the time.
We hope you have gained a bit more respect for professional linguists, especially those who have to master English to translate and interpret into their native languages. It’s a wonder that we all still communicate so well.