English Language Peculiarities 2
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 artist, I 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 mind's 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 the language that got in the way. Most people think in pictures but don’t know how to express those pictures in words very well.
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.
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.
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 a bus. When you wind up your watch, it starts but when you wind up a conversation, it ends.
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.
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 adopt 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
No Pun intended
Do you like puns/play of words?
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
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.
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 a 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.