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English Language Peculiarities 2

Updated on September 22, 2017
PAINTDRIPS profile image

Denise homeschooled her 4 children and has stories. She provided art lessons for many children in the homeschool community for many years.

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Words for communication

The English Language is filled with oddities and peculiarities. We say one thing but mean another. It seems to me that words are the poorest way to get messages across to another person, but since it is all we have, it is what we use.

As an artistI have found that language is my worst communication skill. For instance, I will go to a client and we will talk about a commission that they want me to paint for them. We have talked about (hypothetically) potatoes. I see the potatoes in my minds eye and go right to my drawing board but when I arrive with the sketches of the potatoes, I find they were thinking of French fries, or mashed, and I was thinking of au gratin. It was language that got in the way. Most people think in pictures but don’t know how to express those pictures in words very well.

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Word pictures

When I say “dog” you probably don’t think “D-O-G”. You probably think of the pet you grew up with or the white fluffy terrier you have now, while I am thinking of the little Chihuahua that I got when my first daughter was two. So the truth is we need more words to express what we are thinking. Most people used an economy of words and don’t get across exactly what they are thinking a feeling. That seems to be why many psychologists have started using pictorial charts to get people to express how they feel that day. If you ask someone how they feel, you usually get “fine” which could mean a number of things or nothing at all.

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English Paradoxes

And English doesn’t make it any easier. For instance: there is no egg in eggplant; no ham in hamburger. Pineapple is neither pine nor apple. Peanuts are not peas or nuts: they are legumes. English muffins were not invented in England. French fries were not invented in France, neither were French Poodles. A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. I don't know about you but I feel betrayed!

Then there are the paradoxes in English. For instance quicksand takes you down slowly; boxing rings are square; you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway. People recite at a play and play at a recital. We have noses that run and feet that smell! Sweetmeats are actually candies, while sweetbreads are not sweet or bread, but actually meat.

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More Paradoxes

If writers write, how come fingers don’t fing? If the plural of tooth is teeth, shouldn’t the plural of phone booth be phone beeth? If the teacher taught, why didn’t the preacher praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what the heck does a humanitarian eat? If one is a goose and two are geese, why isn’t one a moose and two, meese? If one is a mouse and two are mice, one a louse and two are lice, why not one house and two hice? Is cheese the plural of choose?

Did you realize that a house can burn up as it burns down? You fill in a form by filling it out. A bell is only heard once it goes. When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out they are invisible. You get in and out of a car, but you get on and off of a bus. When you wind up your watch, it starts but when you wind up a conversation, it ends.

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Spelled the same but pronounced different, as if English wasn't hard enough.

Then there are words that are spelled the same but mean something so totally different and are sometimes even pronounced different.

That is why a farmer can produce produce.

We polish the Polish furniture.

We could lead if we would get the lead out.

The dump was so full it had to refuse refuse.

The soldier decided to desert in the desert.

Change is inevitable, except from a vending machine.

The present is a good time to present the present to the President.

At the Army base, a bass was painted on the head of a bass drum.

The dove dove into the bushes.

Where there's a will, I want to be in it.

I did not object to the object.

The bandage was wound around the wound.

The buck does funny things when the does are present.

I spent last evening evening out a pile of dirt.

How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

I shed a tear when I saw the tear in my clothes.

The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

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

The sent a sewer down to stitch the tear in the sewer line.

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

The insurance for the invalid was invalid.

You have to be close to close the book.

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Twins Joke

This lady has twins and gives them both up for adoption. A couple in Spain adopts one and names him Juan. A couple in Israel adopts the other and manes him Ahmal. Many years go by and Juan decides he wants to find his birth mother. After much research, he acquires her address and writes her a letter with a picture of himself. She is overjoyed when she received the letter and shows the picture to her husband. “Look, it’s my Juan. Oh, I wish I had a picture of Ahmal too.” Her insensitive husband replies, “What for? They’re twins. If you’ve seen Juan, you’ve seen Ahmal.”

All dressed up and no place to go.

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No Pun intended

Do you like puns/play of words?

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What's Up

There is a two-letter word in the English language that has more meanings and uses than any other two-letter word: UP. You can look UP toward the sky or at the top of a list, but it is also what you do in the morning when you wake UP. In a discussion you bring the topic UP. When leaving the house you usually lock UP. For a get-together you would call UP your friends, and if you forget one you may stir UP trouble. At the movies, you line UP, work UP an appetite and then think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to dress UP is something else altogether. A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. If we open UP a business in the morning, how is it that we have to close UP at night? People brighten UP when you greet them, polish UP the silver, warm UP leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We can be mixed UP as we look UP the word in the dictionary. If you are UP to it, you can find many ways to use UP, as long as you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with hundreds of ways to use UP the word UP. If it looks like rain, we usually say it is clouding UP, but here in California with the drought, things are drying UP. I could go on and on but I think I should wrap UP and shut UP.

A Play on Words

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Dancing in the street.
Dancing in the street. | Source

Pronounced HOW?

Some English words are spelled similarly but the vowels are pronounced completely differently. These are things to mess up any and all school children learning to read as well as anyone unfortunate enough to try to learn English as a second language.

Paraprosdokians

To be fair, one of the big problems with English is that some words can mean two or more things while other ideas have dozens of words to express the same idea. Still others have the same sound but different spellings to mean different things.

I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure.

I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

They begin the evening news with 'Good Evening,' then proceed to tell you why it isn't.

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

War does not determine who is right - only who is left.

I thought I wanted a career. Turns out I just wanted paychecks.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

Nostalgia isn't what it used to be.

The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges.

Sign on a repair shop door: We can repair anything. (Please knock hard on the door – the bell doesn’t work)

Headline in newspaper: Police begin campaign to run down jaywalkers.

Would the person who took the stepladder yesterday, please bring it back or further steps will be taken.

Same vowels, different pronunciation.

 
 
 
Corpse
corps
 
Horse
worse
 
Susy
busy
 
Heart
beard
heard
Lord
word
 
Retain
Britain
 
Gush
bush
 
Break
bleak
 
Previous
precious
 
Recipe
pipe
 
Woven
oven
 
How
low
 
Script
receipt
 
Daughter
laughter
 
Signal
signing
 
Vicar
cigar
 
War
far
 
Constable
unstable
 
Principle
disciple
 
Suit
suite
 
Ruin
circuit
conduit
Pal
mal
Pall Mall
Wallet
mallet
ballet
Blood
flood
good
Timber
climber
 

25 Puns in under 2 minutes... ready... GO!

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Wordy comments welcomed

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    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      She's lucky you aren't from California too. Everyone here is "dude". Haha.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I did point out to my wife recently shes lucky I don't come from London as everyone there is 'me darling'

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Lawrence01,

      I love it. Your wife must be a lot of fun, luv'! I remember reading Tallulah Bankhead used to call everyone "dawling" mostly because she couldn't remember names. I'll bet that got her into trouble more than once. We lived next door to a woman whose name was "Baby" and when we first moved there my husband came in very concerned and told me the name of the lady he just met. "So if you hear me call someone, 'Hey baby' please don't get upset with me, it really is her name!" He's so cute. I think I'll keep him around.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      A fun one my wife reminds me of often is I come from the north of England where every female is 'luv

      We were over in England meeting my family before we got married and had gone out shopping

      An elderly lady walked into the shop we were waiting for something in (Sat waiting) so I offered her a seat but used the phrase 'here you are luv '

      My future wife was mortified and a rather stern 'SHE'S NOT YOU LOVE' was heard. Just about everyone in the shop enjoyed the upbeat my expense!!! Seventeen Yeats later we still chuckle about it.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Writer Fox,

      I agree. It must be a headache to learn and I admire those who have done it.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Writer Fox profile image

      Writer Fox 

      3 years ago from the wadi near the little river

      I really enjoyed this! The English language is so complicated, I don't understand how anyone can learn it as a second language. Voted up.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      FlourishAnyway,

      Thank you for the vote. I love English language humor. My mother got me into it. She is a pun genius and often had us repeating tongue twisters till we could say them flawlessly. I think I'm the only one in my class in the 5th grade that no one could laugh at because I repeated the Theophilus Thistle tongue twister flawlessly.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Lawrence01,

      Me too. And my husband too. My husband and I like to text each other in meetings. Usually I say something like "Kissy, kissy" because it makes him laugh. At the end of messages instead of saying good-bye he will say "kissy, kissy" too. One day in the hurry of texting he sent kissy, kissy to his boss instead of to me, his wife. I had a lot of explaining to do when he saw her later. I laughed for days over it. Understandable mistake! He shouldn't have been texting in a meeting anyway.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 

      3 years ago from USA

      I liked so many of these and had seen them in bits and pieces. It was fun seeing so many of these in one place. Mindboggling! Voted up and more.

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      That's a classic!! Mind you there's been a few I've had to explain to the wife!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      lawrence01,

      My dear friend was texting home that she was leaving work: all she wanted to say was I'm leaving. What came out was I'm lesbian. And she sent it before she realized the autocorrect had changed her thought. So now it's out there.... what's a girl to do?

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      I can imagine some of the hilarious things that might come out. I struggle with the predictive text that this machine does. Some interesting texts have almost made it into cyberspace!!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Oh no! It would be funny if it wasn't so tragic. I never heard about that one. My son has a voice activated messaging system on his phone that he uses way too much. Unfortunately it often types the wrong message. He once sent me a message saying his wife was "wedding the Vice Principal for the interview results." Actually she was WAITING on the VP for the interview results and got the job. Big difference. I thought he needed marriage counseling for a while there. He says he has to talk to his message system with a "British" accent or it won't understand him. I think it doesn't understand him either way!

      Blessings.

      Denise

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Unfortunately neither could the HQ! The reinforcements weren't sent and the Battle was lost!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Must be code... not an enemy on Earth could decode that, I bet!!!

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Paintdrips

      So true. Remember the British in ww1 once sent a message back to HQ 'Send reinforcements we're going to advance' but with mix ups what HQ got was 'Send three and fourpence we're going to a dance.' Not a lot you can say about that!

    • profile image

      Lee Cloak 

      3 years ago

      Great hub, fun, interesting and important, really great to read, I'm Irish and we grow up speaking English, we have to go to school to learn Irish, we leave school and we loose our Irish because we Don't use it, I recently found my self being thought Irish on a course by an American lady, languages their all beautiful complicated things, voted up, thanks, Lee

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Mel Carriere,

      Thank you so much. That means a lot coming from such a wordsmith as you.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Lawrence01,

      Oh if only it were more. I think words are a poor communication tool. People often misinterpret what we are saying even if they can speak the same language.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      3 years ago from San Diego California

      Fun little word play. Very well done!

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 

      3 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      90% of communication is non verbal. These brought a chuckle though.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Jill Moore,

      Ha. I didn't know that! Thanks for helping me with my English (American English).

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Dana Tate,

      I absolutely agree.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      CatherineGiordano,

      Very good. Thanks for having my back.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      lollyj lm,

      Thank you. I'm so glad you liked it. Visit anytime.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • profile image

      Jill Moore 

      3 years ago

      I loved this ... English has so many vagaries. And, of course, there's English English and American English to contend with too. (We don't have Eggplants for example, with or without eggs! We have Aubergines!)

    • Dana Tate profile image

      Dana Tate 

      3 years ago from LOS ANGELES

      English is a complicated language. It can be very confusing. Great hub.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 

      3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      I know at stuff because I researched it for my hub, not because I remembered it from English class.

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 

      3 years ago from Washington KS

      I loved this hub -- so humorous, entertaining, informative and well written. Well done!!

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      CatherineGiordano,

      Whoops, I was sure an English teacher would catch me if I made a boo boo. Thanks. I will change that. Glad to have Grammarians watching my back.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Rachel L Alba.

      I love your pun. Great play on words. Funny. My mom and I used to love to tell those kinds of jokes. What fruit is red when it's green? Blackberries. Get it? When it's green it isn't "green" it just isn't ripe. And what color is it when it isn't ripe? Red. Ha!

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      sgbrown,

      Thank you. I found it fascinating while I was researching it. My sister and I are collaborating on a book about English. I hope to make it public soon.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      travmaj,

      It's true isn't it? How did we ever learn such a language. I think we must have just memorized so much without realizing how very complicated it all was.

      Blessings

      Denise

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 

      3 years ago from Orlando Florida

      Your section on paradoxes was really funny. I just recently discovered the word paraprosdokian and wrote a hub about it. In your section on homonyms, the examples you gave were paraprosdokians. Homonyms, which I also wrote about in a hub by The Naughty Grammarian, are words that are both spelled the same and sound the same but have different meanings. "Bear" for example can be a verb meaning to carry or a noun meaning a large furry mammal, and it is a homophone (sound-alike) with "bare."

    • Rachel L Alba profile image

      Rachel L Alba 

      3 years ago from Every Day Cooking and Baking

      Hi Denise, what an interesting hub. A play on words can get your point across sometimes without 'crossing' someone. Get it??? Crossing, getting mad and crossing in front of them. Is that sad??? lol

      Enjoyed your hub and voted up.

      Have a blessed Easter.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 

      3 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      This is not only a fun read, but very interesting as well! I really enjoyed reading this! You did a great job here!

    • travmaj profile image

      travmaj 

      3 years ago from australia

      I'm really impressed with this, so much documentation, so much to consider. I'm wondering how people ever learn English, especially as a second language. How complex when you consider it all. The spelling and pronunciation section really made me think, it also amused me a bit. How much we take for granted. Thank you for such a great hub on language complexities I should know but hadn't thought much about.

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Larry,

      Thanks for visiting. I get a kick out of those words too.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      CorneliaMladenova, It is hard for English natives too so I can only imagine your frustration.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 

      3 years ago from Oklahoma

      So many complexities to the English language. I get a kick out of words that are pronounced differently just because of their usage, like "learned".

      Great hub.

    • CorneliaMladenova profile image

      Korneliya Yonkova 

      3 years ago from Cork, Ireland

      Great hub, Denise. As I am not a native English speaker, it is a nightmare to me sometimes to express what I really mean and to find the right word. And things often get really complicated :)

    • PAINTDRIPS profile imageAUTHOR

      Denise McGill 

      3 years ago from Fresno CA

      Thank you, MsDora, I appreciate you "getting it". Sometimes with English, I don't get it. Haha.

      Blessings,

      Denise

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      3 years ago from The Caribbean

      Voted Up and Interesting! My head spins in some places, then it settles and I get it. Great presentation!

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