A year-end gift: The craziness of English
As a year-end gift to our clients and supporters, we wanted to offer an amusing example of the total craziness of the English language. Ours is a jumble of adoptions from many peoples, cultures and other languages formed over more than 1000 years; words with double meanings or pronunciations; all mixed with logic, illogic, standards and exceptions.
- We have noses that run and feet that smell.
- An alarm goes off by going on, and a house burns up as it burns down.
- Quicksand works slowly, and boxing rings are square.
- Writers write but fingers don’t fing.
- One fills in a form by filling it out.
- The invalid’s insurance was invalid.
- I shed a tear when I saw a tear in the painting.
- A vegetarian eats vegetables. So what does a humanitarian eat?
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
But the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan become pen?
I can speak of my foot and show you my feet,
But if 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?
“That” is for one and two would be those
Yet hat in the plural should never be hose
and the plural of cat is cats, and not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we can say mother, we never say methren.
The masculine pronouns are he, his and him
So why aren’t the feminines she, shis and shim?
When I wind up a watch, I start it.
When I wind up this email, I end it.
If English were a person, it would be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. It’s amazing that foreigners learn it so well and even more wonderful that we translate it so accurately into languages that are slightly less crazy.
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