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Eccentricities of English

Updated on January 15, 2013

Welcome to the Eccentricities of the English Language

This spot is devoted to the oddities, peculiarities and quirks of the English language which has become the world's foremost language.

It is now spoken by more than 300 hundred million mere mortals, human beings, and homo sapiens, according to those in the know.

The English language is also a source of merriment for fanciful phrasemongers, laughable lexicographers, and mirth-minded mother-tonguers. Many seek to master it with the help of a tantalizing tutor or a guru of grammar.

When all else fails however, why not learn to laugh at the English language and break all the cockammie conventions, especially when there are more exceptions to the rules than rubber ducks in one's blinking bathtub!

Okay Smarty Pants, what's a 'dragon lady'?

DRAGON LADY is an entertaining euphemism for a female who can spit tacks, stomp on your two left feet with her steel-toed stilettos, and wring your rubber neck with her tantalizing tail. So be prepared to bow, scrape, and grovel when you deign to request an audience with "she who must be obeyed."

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Image Credit: Ron Leishman - clipartof.com/1058377

"English is the most loopy and wiggy of all tongues."

-- Richard Lederer --

A PIG IN A BLANKET MAY BE A MUNCHY MEAL IN JOLLY OLD ENGLAND BUT...

I'll bet you didn't know that there's no other word in the English language that rhymes with "oink"?

No my darling, ...I'm afraid "boink" doesn't count!

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Image Credit: sandymichelle at flickr.com

ENGLISH IS CUH-RAY-ZEE!

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"English is the most widely spoken language in the history of the planet.

One out of every seven human beings can speak or read it.

Half the world's books, 3/4 of the international mail are in English.

It has the largest vocabulary, perhaps two million words,

And a noble body of literature.

But face it: English is cuh-ray-zee!"

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Credit: Pete Seeger

A POLITICIAN WHO KNOWS HOW TO PUT PESKY PREPOSITIONS IN THEIR PLACE!

"From now on, ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put".

-- Sir Winston Churchill --

The Pottiness of the Past Tense

Richard Lederer, in his book, Crazy English, wrote a pithy if not pleasurable poem about the insanity associated with the past tense of verbs in the English Language.

The verbs in English are a fright.

How can we learn to read and write?

Today we speak, but first we spoke;

Some faucets leak, but never loke.

Today we write, but first we wrote;

We bite our tongues, but never bote.

Each day I teach, for years I taught,

And preachers preach, but never praught.

This tale I tell; this tale I told;

I smell the flowers, but never smold.

If knights still slay, as once they slew

Then do we play, as once we plew?

If I still do as once I did,

The do cows moo, as they once mid?

I love to win, and games I've won;

I seldom sin;, and never son.

I had to lose, and games I lost;

I didn't choose, and never chost.

I love to sing, and sons I sang;

I fling a ball, but nevre flang.

I strike that ball, that ball I struck;

This poem I like, but never luck.

I take a break, a break I took;

I bake a cake, but never book.

I eat that cake, that cake I ate,

I beat an egg, but never bate.

I often swim, as I once swam;

I skim some milk, but never skam.

I fly a kite that I once flew;

I tie a knot, but never tew.

I see the truth, the truth I saw.

I feel from falsehood, never flaw.

I stand for truth, as I once stood;

I land a fish, but never lood.

About these verbs I sit and think.

These verbs don't fit. They seem to wink

At me, who sat for years and thought

Of verbs that never fat or wought.

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Image Credit: bcanada92@flickr.com

Source: Richard Lederer, Crazy English, Pocket Books, New York, 1989, pp. 117-118.

LANGUAGE VERMIN?

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Image Credit: Sarah Leavitt, illustrator, "The Authoritative Field Guide to Language Vermin" from Geist Magazine - geist.com

"If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur."

-- Doug Larson, American newspaper columnist and editor

THAT COCKAMAMMIE CRAZY ENGLISH

A light-hearted look at language

"Language, n. The music with which we charm the serpents guarding another's treasure."

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Image Credit: Crestock.com Image 26285

Quotation from "The Devil's Dictionary" by Ambrose Bierce

"If the King's English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for me!"

-- Ma Ferguson, first female governor of Texas --

ENGLISH IS ECCENTRIC, ENTERTAINING...FRUSTRATING YET FUN!

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Richard Lederer, journalist, teacher at St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire, and public-radio commentator, and author of witty works like Anguished English ; Get Thee to a Punnery reveals in an entertaining fashion how the richest and most widely used of all the world's languages, is "crazy."

Frankly, "in what other language do people drive in a parkway and park in a driveway? ... Why do they call them apartments when they're all together?" And why do they call "a close call" a "near miss" instead of a "near hit"? And for that matter, why is the third hand on a clock called the second hand, why if adults commit adultery, infants don't commit infantry?

Even though there appears to be some logic in the language, like writers write, bakers bake, and preachers preach, there is a gaping hole however when it comes to butchers (don't butch), grocers (don't groce), carpenters (don't carpent), milliners (don't millin), haberdashers (don't haberdash), and ushers (don't ush). And speaking of logic, why do planes taxi on runways but taxis don't plane on streets?

While we're waxing on about strange stuff, why does one piece of playground equipment end up with so many names? Is it a cock horse, dandle, hicky horse, horse tilt, ridy horse, seesaw, teeter, teeterboard, teetering board, teetering horse, teeter-totter, tilt, tilting board, tinter, tinter board, or a tippity bounce? Does it depend on where you live and when you grew up, as to what you call it?

English seems have more than a few words to describe everyone...including the incompletely successful ones who come in are well-qualified judging from the colorful categories in which they fit: those who are all-thumbs-and-no-fingers, all-knees-and-elbows, two left-feet, anti-goddling, bumfuzzled, discombobulated, flustered, or better yet a bag of hammers, booby, boofled bumpkin, clodhopper, country jake, donkey, goose, gudgeon, hayseed, hick, hillbilly, hoosier, jack-pine savage, looby, loon, lugnut, mooncalf, mossback, mountain boomer, poor fish, pumpkin husker, rail-splitter, rube, Simple Simon, sod-buster, stump farmer, swamp angel, turkey, yahoo, or a yokel. And, that's only a partial list!!

An Ode To English Plurals

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We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,

But the plural of ox becomes 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 speak 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 shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,

Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,

And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.

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!

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 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?

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 other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?

We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.

We have noses that run and feet that smell.

We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.

And 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.

And in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother's not Mop?

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Poetry Credit: Anonymous

POTTY PLURALS IF YOU PLEASE

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Now if mouse in the plural should be, and is, mice,

Then house in the plural, of course, should be hice,

And grouse should be grice and spouse should be spice

And by the same token should blouse become blice.

And consider the goose with its plural of geese;

Then a double caboose should be called a cabeese,

And noose should be neese and moose should be meese

And if mama's papoose should be twins, it's papeese.

Then if one thing is that, while some more is called those,

Then more than one hat, I assume, would be hose,

And gnat would be gnose and pat would be pose,

And likewise the plural of rat would be rose.

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Credit: http://grammar.about.com/od/basicsentencegrammar/a/Engpluralspoem.htm

ANOTHER VACUOUS VERSION:

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes;

But the plural of ox should be 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,

But 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 showed you my feet,

When I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,

Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

If the singular is this, and the plural is these,

Why shouldn't the plural of kiss be kese?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,

Yet the plural of hat would never be hose.

We speak of a brother and also of brethren,

But though we say mother, we never say methren.

So plurals in English, I think you'll agree,

Are indeed very tricky--singularly.

"If the English language made any sense, 'lackadaisical' would have something to do with a shortage of flowers."

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-- Doug Larson --

GAPS MAKE FOR GIGGLES WHEN IT COMES TO ENGLISH

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It's important to keep things light, positive and upbeat, especially when all sorts of things are going to heck in a handbasket.

The trouble is, it's difficult to be blithe, breezy and brilliant with one's words when the number of negative words outnumber the positively-minded ones. For example, just take a peek at them -- disheveled, disdainful, disputatious, imbecilic, impecunious, impetuous, inept, inert, incorrigible, iniquitous, unctuous, or ungirt -- for which the positive form is missing.

English might be a good deal more artful if not amusing if one could say of a tidy person, "I'm so impressed, she's so sheveled today, it's unbelievable." Furthermore, why can't one praise a capable person for being full of ept, an accurate individual for being so corrigible, a kind and thoughtful soul for being iquitious, a person without pretense obviously exudes oodles of ctu or perhaps a well-disciplined fellow might be congratulated for possessing a great deal of girt.

Pop stars, politicians and preachers with a passion for peccadilos often use the media to "unbosom" themselves by confessing or revealing all the the saucy, spicy or smutty details. There is however no opposite verb "to bosom" (unless one prefers to keep things close to one's chest). The moral to this pathetic parable of peccadillos is that it all depends upon what things and whose chest one wishes share one's weal, woe or whee.

"The road to hell is paved with adverbs."

-- Stephen King --

OKAY SMARTY PANTS, WHAT'S THE LONGEST WORD IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE?

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According to Publius Hadweenzic, Ph.D., Professor of Piffle & Piggery at the University of Udderly Ridiculous Studies, (and a graduate of the highly-regarded University of Brown-Nosing & Kowtowing), and the Oxford English Dictionary online, Oxford University Press, quote listed in "Second Edition 1989" definition, there is but one 45-letter word that fits the bill.

The "Draft revision Sept. 2006" OED indicates that the longest word in the English language purported to be pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis " is a word invented (prob. by Everett M. Smith (born 1894), president of the National Puzzlers' League in 1935) in imitation of polysyllabic medical terms, alleged to mean 'a lung disease caused by the inhalation of very fine sand and ash dust' but occurring only as an instance of a very long word."

Of course as fictious words go, there are also plenty to choose from including:

-- Antidisestablishmentarianism

-- Floccinaucinihilipilification

-- Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch

-- Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious

-- Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu

PLEASANTRIES & PROFANITIES

"It is no coincidence that in no known language does the phrase 'As pretty as an Airport' appear."

-- Douglas Adams --

GETTING OFF WITH A GIGGLE

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The foxy flight-attendant approached the cross-legged chronologically-gifted gentleman seated in 22B who wanted to know when they would "deplane" so he could release his sphincter muscles, after which he politely inquired where he could "debus", "decab", or "decar" before entering his hotel for the night.

Everyone has a conditional clause in their life, some little unspoken addition to the rules like, "Except when I really need to," or "Unless no one is looking," or, indeed, "Unless the first one was nougat."

-- from Terry Pratchett's Discworld book, "Thief of Time" --

What Can We Learn From A School of Fish?

"It is of interest to note that while some dolphins are reported to have learned English -- up to fifty words used in correct context -- no human being has been reported to have learned dolphinese." -- Carl Sagan

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Image Credit: istockphoto.com/5804809

WEIRD WORDS - For wacky word-peckers only!

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How would you describe yourself?

See results

Why isn't there a shorter word for monosyllablic (descriptive of words with one syllable)?

"The English language was carefully, carefully cobbled together by three blind dudes and a German dictionary."

-- Dave Kellett --

PECULIARITIES OF PRONUNCIATION:

Why isn't 11 (eleven) pronounced onety one?

BOOKWORM BOOKSHELF

The Mother Tongue
The Mother Tongue

A wonderful itty bitty witty book about the English language written in an entertaining style...perfect for pleasurable reading in a place of ease or powder room.

 
Crazy English
Crazy English

Written by the Patron Saint of Fun & Puns, this book a delight for those with a love of odd, bizarre, and paradoxical things about the English language.

 
Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults upon Our Language
Anguished English: An Anthology of Accidental Assaults upon Our Language

This book is full of some of the best bloopers and grammar gaffes that will make you giggle or perhaps split your sides laughing!

 
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed
The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed

A vixen of verbiage she is not, but for those who want a mistress of mirth to assist in mastering the English language, this boffo book is a must.

 
Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose
Sin and Syntax: How to Craft Wickedly Effective Prose

Why not lounge around with your favorite Latin-lover and hilarious handbook on the English language? Salty scribes and witty wordbirds will find this book both entertaining and educational.

 

BET YOU DIDN'T KNOW...

"Almost" is the longest word in the English language with all the letters in alphabetical order.

GUESTBOOK GIGGLES - Feel free to add one funny thing about the English language.

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    • profile image

      TravelingRae 5 years ago

      English doesn't seem to me to be nearly as crazy as my mother tongue (French), but it sure has its idiosyncracies!

    • seeker2011 lm profile image

      seeker2011 lm 5 years ago

      The english language is certainly a joy to read when written 'so well'.

    • ciwash profile image

      ciwash 6 years ago

      Great stuff! Interesting and fun to read. Keep it up.