Skip to comments.The English Language
Posted on 10/20/2006 12:08:18 PM PDT by Wuli
The English Language
This little treatise on the lovely language we share is only for the brave. Peruse at your leisure, English language lovers.
Here are some examples of why the English language is hard to learn:
1. The bandage was wound around the wound.
2. The farm was used to produce produce.
3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4. We must polish the Polish furniture.
5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10. I did not object to the object.
11. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13. They were too close to the door to close it.
14. The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15. A seamstress and a sewer fell into a sewer line.
16. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
17. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18. After a number of injections my jaw got number.
19. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
20. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
21. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
22. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France.
23. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.
24. Quicksand works slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
25. Writers write, but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham.
26. The plural of tooth is teeth, but the plural of booth isn't beeth.
27. One goose, 2 geese, but not one moose, 2 meese.
28. If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, then what remains, an odd, or an end?
29. You can say a teacher taught, but you don't say a preacher praught.
30. If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
31. Some people recite at a play and others may play at a recital.
32. You can ship by truck and send cargo by ship.
33. We have noses that run and feet that smell.
34. A slim chance and a fat chance are the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites.
35. Why doesn't "Buick" rhyme with "quick"?
36. Your house can burn up as it burns down.
37. You fill in a form by filling it out.
38. An alarm goes off by going on.
39. When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all.
Note added by Wuli, 10/20/2006
Now, all of that was pretty funny. By why is the English language like that?
(a) the variations in pronunciation of words that are spelled the same as well as
(b) the similarities in pronunciation of words that are spelled differently
are all derived from the constantly adaptive and word-borrowing attributes of the English language we have come to know (and either love or hate).
It starts with Celtic tribes that settle in the British Isles, from central Europe, around 500 B.C. They become dominant and push out, intermarry with and in most ways absorb or eliminate pre-existing settlers. As they do they eliminate anything we know of the language there before the Celts. These new settlers called themselves "Pretani" and when Roman invaders arrive later on they refer to them as "Britoni".
The Romans arrive in the 1st century A.D. and after many campaigns of conquest they rule most of the land, with the exception of the far north (above Hadrians Wall) which the original Celts (Britoni) never conceded to the Romans. When the Romans leave, their biggest impact on the language is place names and Latin and Greek derived terminology from Christianity brought by Christians - among the Roman soldiers and later among Roman educators. Christianity continues to be a source of Latin and Greek imports into English, into the Middle Ages, as the churches often lead as sources of education.
The Romans withdraw completely in 407 AD and give up defending their outposts in the British Isles. The local Celtic tribes are unprepared for their own defense from various foreign raiders.
As a result, two new groups gradually established themselves in Britoni lands.
From Scotia - the northeastern part of Hibernia (Ireland) - came the Scots, a Celtic people like the Britoni, but of a different branch of the family. By the late 6th century the Scots establish themselves in the northern part of Britoni lands.
At almost the same time three Germanic groups begin invasions from the south and the east. The Jutes from Jutland - what we now call Denmark. The Angles (we now say English) from Angelin in southern Jutland. And the Saxons from northwestern Germanic lands. They arrive in waves with separate leaders and establish their kingdoms across the southern and central Britoni lands. Most of these kingdoms survive as distinct areas, and are now known as English counties; Kent (Jutes), Sussex (south Saxons), Wessex (west Saxons), Middlesex (middle Saxons), East Anglia (east Angles).
By the end of the 6th century these three groups (we now refer to as one, as the "English") cut a corridor across the island from the North Sea to the Irish sea, separating the Britoni of the north from their brothers in the south and pushing many west to a last refuge in Wales (from the Celtic Welsh). Their northern expanse includes an "English" stronghold north of Hadrian's Wall, at Bamborough.
It is in the western Isle of Wales that you can still detect more of the earliest Celtic influence in today's English language. And, in Scotland you can hear the English sounds adopted from the Gaelic (Celtic-Irish) origins of the Scots.
But, English is not "fixed" as a language. It has more adapting to do.
In the late 8th and early 9th centuries the Vikings (Norsemen ["north" men]) start arriving in Britain. Sometimes they arrive as raiders, sometimes as settlers, and sometimes as conquerors. Many stay and the grip they establish around northern Britain and adjacent islands is strong. By the end of the 10th century, after a 2nd wave of Viking invaders, the impact of Old Norse on the "English" dialects spoken across Britain is significant, with far-reaching implications. The interaction between the Viking settlers and their "English" neighbors, their trading and farming activities and their intermarriage and assimilation helped to create much of the melting pot we now refer to as English.
Yet, we are not quite done.
In the year 1066, England is conquered by the Normans. They are from Normandy, on the northwest of what we now call France. They are cousins of the Vikings (Norsemen) who were granted lands (Norse men lands - Normandy) by French kings. They had lived and intermarried for some time with the "French". The "French" if you follow their migration history, arrived from Germanic lands (just as did the Angles, Saxons and Jutes) ("French" comes from "the Franks" and the Franks begin with the same peoples from which the German city of Frankfurt takes its name).
As England moves into the Middle Ages its language has grown for over 1500 years, by modifications and adaptations of the people living in Britain and influenced by their interaction with various forms of invading people.
It is the mixed Celtic, Germanic (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Franks), Norse (Vikings and Normans) and Greek and Latin heritage of the words in modern English that makes for the spelling and pronunciation issues with English words today.
Is it necessary to dedicate an entire thread to something of such little consequence as English? Usually we just criticize the spelling of trols and let it go at that.
It's the sort of thing that makes an interesting e-mail. You know, like the ones full of "facts" that are not true. This one is true and amusing.
He trolls for trolls.
So, what kind of a noise annoys an oyster?
I like the notion that English was three times conquered...
The Saxons from the south brought "Wish", the Norse from the North brought "Want" and the Franco-Normans brought "Desire".
All the same, and all just a bit different!
The Poles polish the Polish poles.
And the Teutons brought will. Will is wish in armor.
More of the same about English:
Why is abbreviated such a long word?
Why does monosyllabic have five syllables?
Why is brassiere singular and panties plural?
Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?
Why is it when you transport something by car, it's called a shipment, but when you transport something by ship, it's called cargo?
ough makes seven different sounds in English. I don't remember all of them though. (that's one)
dough and though are the same sound. That's five. I'm distracted right now (talking to my beloved) and can't even think of the other two! What am i even doing here? :D
I am sorry to hear that you think there is so little consequence to English? Try posting to all of us in Esperanto and check the response.
I wonder why (1)English is a requirement for most college majors in China and India and (2) is taken by most sciene and business majors in Japan, Korea as well as many European and Latin countries. Somehow, they all do not think English is of such little consequence.
And "Fish" can be spelled "GHOTI" --- the "gh" from "enough," the "o" from "women," and the "ti" from "caution."
Here's another fave of mine, coincidentally also involving fish ... If you write the word five times, it's a sentence:
Fish fish fish fish fish.
Shall I post the explanation or wait?
Incidentally, the author makes a mistake right in the beginning with "peruse at your leisure." To peruse actually means to study carefully, but everyone gets that one wrong!
Thanks for your contributions
Why can't you "study carefully" at your leisure?
In fact, often when I am "studying carefully", I will do so "leisurely" over many sessions, instead of all at once, before I conclude that particular study.
Usage Note: Peruse has long meant to read thoroughly and is often used loosely when one could use the word read instead. Sometimes people use it to mean to glance over, skim, as in I only had a moment to peruse the manual quickly, but this usage is widely considered an error. Sixty-six percent of the Usage Panel finds it unacceptable
Thought, Bought, Brought
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