Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reasons why the English language is so hard to learn:

I spend many hours each day trying to convince teenagers that it is important that they understand how to use language effectively. One of their most common arguments is..."But, Miss Wright, English doesn't even make SENSE!" I try to explain to them the origins of words in Greek and Latin roots as well as the influence of various other languages on our everyday speech, but many still maintain that it's all just a sick joke aimed at making people miserable as they try to figure out the exceptions to the "i before e" rule.

And, you know what, they have a point. Don't tell them that I admitted it, but English is a weird language sometimes. Still, it is wonderful how many different experiences and feelings can be expressed by the smörgåsbord of words we have at our disposal each day!

A friend emailed the following to me today, and I got a kick out of the contradiction that is the English language and the creativity that ensues because of it. Enjoy!

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4) We must polish the Polish furniture.

5) He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6) The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7) Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8) A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9) When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10) I did not object to the object.

11) The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12) There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13)They were too close to the door to close it.

14) The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15) A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18) After a number of injections, my jaw got number.

19) Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.

20) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger: neither an 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.

Quicksand works slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from guine 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 moose, 2 meese? Doesn't is seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend. If you have a bunch of odds and ends and you get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? Is it an odd or an end? If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? 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. English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

DIDDO, I say!


Ashley said...

I knew you would love that!

Jeff said...

I love words and I love the English language. This was a fabulous post.

Stephanie said...

WOW, I think my mind is still spinning. This totally bring me back to a typical dinner discussion at the Wright's where Stephanie was totally lost but would learn a new word (which I would forget by the end of the night). I guess in a way I was your first student :)

Stephanie said...

haha... and it post I made wasn't grammatically correct... just perfect

Carol said...

Adding one more. Why do "ravel" and "unravel" mean the same thing?
Ah but we enjoyed those nights around the dinner table when common sense was left at the door and nonsense prevailed. Good times!

Jenifer said...

I know the feeling I just finished a prereq course for ESL teachers (part of my degree optional unless you needed 12 credits, which I did). It was the class you take so you can try to make sense of English. It was very interesting. And of course trying to teach K students to read is fun too!

Paul and Susan said...

I enjoyed your list. It was very entertaining. Thanks.

Ann said...

This totally rocks! I am cracking up and can't wait to read it to my kids.