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English... How Funny!

Updated on December 9, 2011

Oh Our Mother Tongue!

I have a few questions... Have you ever felt so overwhelmed by a situation that just seemed too huge to dissect? Or has something ever happened to you that was so far below mundane you were totally underwhelmed? If either scenario has happened in your world... then why have you never been simply somewhere in the middle and just whelmed?

English has a very deceptive complexity! And it's never exactly as it may seem...

I mean, what is a "fell swoop"? And why can't it be said as "fallen swoop"? I don't know!

And what about the "v" and "f" in some of our crazy words? Why are there knives when we have more than one, but if we have less than two it is a knief? (Hey! What's up with the "k" in the first place?) And the same with halves and half. Or calves and calf.

And how is anyone who doesn't have English as a first language suppose to understand the multiple meanings of the simple word fine? Is it something to pay after recieving a traffic ticket. Well... yes. Is it a certain quality of something, like say china? Yes again. Or could it be the texture of a baby's hair. Absolutely! It's also the way I'm feeling today!

Have you ever been so behind at work that your backlog seemed too large to get past? If so, did you work your rear end off to get ahead, and then find yourself forlogged? Why not?

And why must we constantly repeat ourselves? Like when we say "beck and call", or "peace and quiet", or "rack and ruin", or "for all intents and purposes"?

Sound funny?

Well how do you mean that? Do you want to "sound off" about it. Maybe so, if you have a "sound mind". Or do you want to "sound it out" first. And did you think about it while you wiggled your toes in the water at the "sound"? If so, was it while you also heard the "sound" of children playing near by?

And why do we have words that have two meanings that are the exact oppisite? Cleave can mean to cut something in half. Or it can mean to stick together. Why?

Why are blunt scissors dull, while a blunt remark is sharp?

Why is the word ending "gry" only found in two common English words? (Angry, and hungry). I mean we have a million words ending in "ing", "es", "ed", and "ly". Was "gry" just not good enough?

And what about phonics?

Pronounce these words, then explain phonics to me:

low - how

ache - mustache

five - give

paid - said

And this is only a few confusing "spelled the same, said differently" sounds we use all the time!

Still... we effortlessly manage to speak, and write to each other, and even comprehend!

Why is an item of clothing worn in cold weather to keep a person warm, called either a greatcoat, a topcoat, an overcoat, or just a coat, according to where the speaker grew up?

Don't ask me!

Then there are the illusive verbs and nouns...

If I say to you, "I am laughing hysterically" laughing is a verb. But if I say, "My laughing was hysterical", laughing is a noun. How does it do that?

And if you only use the word "chunck" as a verb, are you really a redneck?

Why is it okay to ask, "I'm doing it, aren't I"? But not okay to ask, "I'm doing it, are I not"? I mean... it's only a shorter way to say it, is it not? Or isn't it?

Oh well... I love my native tongue, with all it's root words, compound words, contractions, weird spellings, and what seems contridictions.

Know what I'm talking about?


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    • RunAbstract profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA

      BeyondMax, thanks so much for reading and commenting! Glad you enjoyed!

    • BeyondMax profile image


      6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      This is so awesome, I am still grinning like some loon =) Lovely, you've got it right! =)

    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      7 years ago from SW England

      I teach English to dyslexics; imagine their difficulty! By the way, just a little comment on the difference between the words its & it's - its means something belongs to it (e.g. its legs were short), whereas it's is the contraction of it is. I know the possessive is usually apostrophe s but this is one of the anomalies, due to having to distinguish between the two. Chunk (sorry!) has no second c (with the k); I won't bore you with the rule for that! Did you know that English has more words for similar meanings than any other language? Interesting hub, thank you. Happy New Year!

    • RunAbstract profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Deborah Brooks, Thank you so much! I'm glad you enjoyed. You have a great year as well!

    • Deborah Brooks profile image

      Deborah Brooks Langford 

      7 years ago from Brownsville,TX

      This is great.. I have wondered about these myself.. even made fun of some of them..

      Great HUB

      I voted up and awesome

      Happy New Year

    • RunAbstract profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Dim Flaxenwick, I have tried to learn French and Spanish, and have so much trouble with the "male and female" use of words! But I'm glad I didn't have to learn english second too!

      Thanks so much!

    • Dim Flaxenwick profile image

      Dim Flaxenwick 

      7 years ago from Great Britain

      This was brilliant. My husband and l often have a little banter about whether or not you can be whelmed.

      Of course you can´t. Overwhelmed or underwhelmed but you can´t be whelmed.

      Love all the examples you picked on here. l´m sure glad l didn´t have to learn English as a 2nd language. Thanks again for a great hub.

    • RunAbstract profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks to all for reading and for the great comments!

    • htodd profile image


      7 years ago from United States

      English is really great ..Nice post

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 

      7 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      It wasn't really the words, since most are spelled the same or similar. But the pronunciation is a ride from hell.

      But Irish/Gaelic is much harder. Their spelling has absolutely nothing to do with how you pronounce it. And plural doesn't look anything like singular. I have no idea how they remember all those words, since you can't look at them and come to a conclusion on which ones belong together!

    • diogenes profile image


      7 years ago from UK and Mexico

      Ha! English is a hard language to teach and never fully learned by people not starting as kids. By the way, "underwhelmed" is not really a word except by common usage which I suppose puts it in some dictionaries. It's sort of "humor-speak," there's others, too, but I can't think of them. I wonder why "underjoyed," "undercome." or "overly," (underly?) haven't yet surfaced...have they!? R

    • Cat R profile image

      Cat R 

      7 years ago from North Carolina, U.S.

      Try learning it as a German. grin

    • Scribenet profile image


      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      English is a complex and rich language full of emotion and nuance. It makes for wonderful reading but makes for headaches for those who translate "word-for word"!

      Thanks Runabstract, for giving us a refresher on how convoluted and confusing English can be...and interesting to write with! Voted up, useful and interesting!

    • LisaKoski profile image


      7 years ago from WA

      I know what you mean. It's so funny when you actually stop and think about it.

      A professor told me that we say "cow" for the animal and "beef" when its food because the first comes from Old English and the other from French (I could be somewhat mistaken since this was a while back). Another example is "pig" and "pork." French was spoken by the higher societies while Old English was spoken by peasants so of course the animals were called something different than what was served to the higher class. I always thought that was interesting to know where these incosistencies in our language came from.

    • sasanka7 profile image


      7 years ago from Calcutta, India

      Rightly pointed out the problems. It is very difficult to understand for whom mother tongue is not English.


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