Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Crazy English!

In preparation for our upcoming trip to China, Rachel and I were given a course on teaching English as a second language. I had no idea my native tongue could be so confusing until I read the following article.....

Thank heaven we grew up speaking English!
-by Billy Wetterer

"Let's face it -- English is a crazy language."

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes; but the plural of ox became 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 spoke 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 should the plural of booth be called beeth? We speak of a brother, and also of brethren, but though we say mother, we never say methren. Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him, but imagine the feminine, she, shis and shim.

Some reasons to be grateful if you grew up speaking English:

  • The bandage was wound around the wound.
  • The farm was used to produce produce.
  • The dump was so full that it had to refuse the refuse.
  • We must polish the Polish furniture.
  • He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  • The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  • Since there is not time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  • At the Army base, a bass was painted on the head of a bass drum.
  • When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
  • I did not object to the object.
  • The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  • There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  • The were to close to the door to close it.
  • The buck does funny things when the does are present.
  • A seamstress and and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
  • To help with the planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
  • The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  • After a number of Novocain injections, my jaw got number.
  • Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
  • I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

Screwy pronunciations can mess up your mind! For example... if you have a rough cough, climbing can be tough when going through the bough on a tree!

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.

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 or 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?

Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? 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 preachers praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English 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 by ship? Have noses the run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wiseguy 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 and alarm goes off by going on.

If Dad is Pop, how come Mom isn't Mop?!

Can you see why I'll need your prayers in explaining all this?!


Anonymous said...

That is so hilarious!

Anonymous said...


Jacob said...

Many languages have irregular conjugations, pluralizations, etc. Try learning Russian for example! (True, Russian pronunciation is considerably more predictable-- once you can actually make the sounds!!!)

I suppose English is probably unique in that it has irregularities in so many different respects. Our pronunciation system has to be about the most inconsistent in the world! Although even in Chinese, knowing a word and its spelling aren't always mutually required, since so many words are spelled with their own unique letter.

Another confusing fact of English is that word order-- not form-- dictates the meaning of a sentence. And even then, idiom and vocal inflection determine a lot more than we realize. (I recently briefly explored this phenomenon in a blog post.)

Although I don't know a lot about other languages, it does seem like English is terribly less scientific than many other languages. It's incredibly multifarious origins are probably to blame.

Thanks for doing this thought-provoking post.


Ruth Ann said...

quite funny!! :) I've read some of these before, and they are quite interesting.

You'll definitely be in my thoughts as you try to teach this crazy language of ours!! :) *grins*

May God richly bless you & Rachel and your friends as you head to the land of China.

Love ya!! And I'll miss you very much. :)

~ Ruth Ann

Unknown said...

I am very thankful that English is my first language. It is such a ridiculous language. I took advantage of this when I named one of my cats. I named it Phloughph (Fluff).

Jade S. said...

wow! lol I guess our language is pretty crazy and confusing! I'll be praying for you and your sister=)


Anonymous said...

Haha! I used to read a lot to myself (and now a lot more) so I tend to pronouce words phonetically...which gets me into very embarassing trouble sometimes. :oops: Ones like he severed (sev-eerred instead of sev-erred) his finger. Or the Yankees and the rebbels (they rebelled didn't they?). And then there is always the suite (suit not sweet has been my downfall) of rooms! :lol:

Yep, I think that Spanish speaking children really have an advantage over us English speaking ones.


Anonymous said...

How funny Bethany:)I'm praying for you!

Anonymous said...

I thought you'd like to know I found a distracting type-o towards the.....Oh never mind! hahaha! Thanks for that funny perspective!
(I must confess I looked up towards for spelling:D )

Anonymous said...

Josiah pulled that out this passed weekend, and we all roared with laughter! Though...I'll definitely be praying that God grants you wisdom to communicate the difference to those in China. It's easy for us who've always grown up around it, but I could see how it would be really hard for them to grasp! May HE go before you in every way! I LOVE YOU!!

Amber said...

I've read most of that before, but it still gets me going with laughter. Thanks, Bethany. I'll be praying that you can communicate and teach well, and that you are a shining testimony. Let us know if you find anything similarly amusing in Chinese!

Unknown said...

That was sooooo funny! It's true though because English is a difficult language. I'll definitely be praying for you. Have fun!!!

Anonymous said...

You might be interested in "Scholastic Dictionary of Idioms" by Marvin Terban. It explains such expressions as "dead as a doornail" along with their origins. My aunt found it helpful when she was teaching conversational English with Korean students.

Amy Cook

Anonymous said...

And I thought Chinese was a difficult language! I'll be praying! Lord bless you! -Kourtney

Grace said...

That was pretty funny!I sure had a good laugh:)

Maria said...

LOL! I don't quite remember, but it might be Estonian that has 16 verb tenses... And half of them are nonexistant! Not to mention that they're constantly debating how many there are...

Anonymous said...

LOL! That was hysterical! The first part I read before too...did you get that from "Practical English And The Command Of Words"?

This definitely puts a different perspective on our English language!

Anonymous said...

YES!!! WOW... that's a lot! I'll be praying for you guys while ur there!!

btw: Why do people say "guys" when it's girls?? lol.

This post gave me a laugh.

Anonymous said...

I once had to do a project on that... Man, it was complicated! :P