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94. The English language

The creative human race, which isn’t a race, invented the English language.

Learning this language can be pretty confusing, I realized this when I was helping an international student with her English, she was trying to find the word for when you have the sniffles.

“You would say, ‘my nose is running'”, I said.

“Running? Like *makes running motions* running?”, she asked.

“Uh, yes.”

But then again, think about it. A lot of things are weird like that: our feet smell, and our noses run.

  1. Pineapples don’t grow on pine trees and they aren’t apples.
  2. Hamburgers don’t have ham.
  3. “I read.” Wait, did you read or .. do you read? Ahh what do you mean?!
  4. We ship by truck, and send cargo by ship.
  5. A slim chance and a fat chance are the same thing.
  6. Wise guy and wise man are opposites.
  7. Your alarm turns on by going off.
  8. When the stars are out they are visible, but when your lights are out, you can’t see them.
  9. You fill out a form by filling it in.
  10. A house can burn down as it burns up.
  11. A boxing ring isn’t circle-shaped.
  12. Quicksand isn’t quick.
  13. Vegetarians eat vegetables, but humanitarians don’t eat humans. Why?!
  14. “Bass” is a clef, an instrument, a voice, and a fish.
  15. Words like “Run” and “Make” can have over 500 definitions.
When a word has multiple meanings or pronunciations, things get even trickier..
  • Bandage wound around the wound.
  • Wind your kite because of the wind.
  • Row of men learning to row.
  • The dove dove.
  • You can produce produce.
  • We polish Polish furniture.
I feel pretty smart for being able to understand this language, and I hope you do too!
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  1. Ha ha, very good play on words today.

    October 17, 2011
  2. Perhaps that’s why many of us aren’t bilingual. Most other countries, you know a couple/few languages. We have a difficult enough time learning our own and all the grammar. Half the time, I’m still not sure when to use who vs. whom or lay vs. lie.

    We really begin to think about things when (like you) teaching someone. For instance, my 5 & 7 year olds are learning to read/write. My 2nd grader is now having homophones on his spelling test. Really? Also the WH sound as in What and Where and those awesome site words like “was” because they don’t follow any rules and you just have to memorize…and how about wear and where and know and no. And that whole “kn” sound? That h, k, and e are silent. AEIOU and sometimes Y. Normally Y makes the ya sound, except when it pretends to be an i sound like the word “why” or the e sound like “candy.”

    You don’t realize just how crazy our language can be, until you try and teach someone. Here’s the rule on this…except when there’s an exception. And there’s always an exception to the rule. Always. (I think?)

    Lake Forest, CA

    October 17, 2011
    • Definitely know what you mean on the whom/who and lay/lie. It ALWAYS confuses me. HAHAHA I feel really bad for people that are learning this language.. you are right on all of those rules, remember the “i before e except after c” the rule itself gives an exception, and then there are even more exceptions to that rule, I’m sure. Homophones on a spelling test? No way.

      “Ok children, spell there”

      “They’re, their, there”

      lol thanks for the laughs 🙂


      October 17, 2011
  3. ha ha ha, this one was really good.. well collated.. quick sand isn’t quick!! awesome.. c

    October 17, 2011
  4. Wonderful post! My son once had this whole monologue about the English language. I wish I’d taped it because it was so funny. All I can remember is:

    Why is “zoo” spelled with 2 “o’s”? Why not 1 or 3?
    And what’s up with those silent letters?

    October 17, 2011
    • Seriously! Why IS THAT?!

      And yes, are silent letters just supposed to take up space? grr

      November 1, 2011
  5. chunter #

    English can be difficult because there are many principles in it that don’t work well in other languages, but since many people choose it, when I encounter people that speak English as a second language, it becomes a second nature to use phrases hat won’t confuse them, and I can usually communicate well enough on that alone. Therein lies the rub.

    Because most of the people I communicate with on a regular basis have a pretty good command of English, it doesn’t matter if I want to learn something about their native language and try to speak to them in it, they will answer me in English and at least I’ll know I got my broken sentence right.

    Other languages have idioms and homonyms and grammatical traps too, and often these will make it difficult for the person learning English to find the right words to say.

    October 17, 2011
  6. Hahaha. Very well-written, Edward! I’m an English teacher and I once found this site about the Grammar Girl who actually explains about when to use who and when to use whom. Believe it or not, she also explained the differences between ‘further’ and ‘farther,’ and even I thought, “Geez, who would’ve thought of that, really??” Aarrrgghhh, English is so much complicated (but I bet most foreigners would probably think the same way towards my native language)!

    November 8, 2011

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