You think English is Easy?

You Think English is Easy? OK. Therefore, you will appreciate the text that follows, I received by mail some time ago:

In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

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.

Can you read these sentences right the first time?

  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 down 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. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
19. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
20. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

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 or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat. Quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

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.

6 comment(s):

    IT never ceases to make me smirk, actually. My favourite poem to demonstrate the inconsistencies in the English language was by a Dutch teacher of English in the beginning of the previous century, and you can find it here:

    There is however a way to overcome it all. The spelling checker!
    I have a poem on that too:

    Eye halve a spelling chequer
    It came with my pea sea
    It plainly marques for my revue
    Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.
    Eye strike a key and type a word
    And weight four it two say
    Weather eye am wrong oar write
    It shows me strait a weigh.
    As soon as a mist ache is maid
    It nose bee fore two long
    And eye can put the error rite
    Its rarely ever wrong.
    Eye have run this poem threw
    I am shore your pleased two no
    Its letter perftect awl the weigh
    My chequer tolled me sew.

    How can you NOT love English?


    Great poems, Saskia. Thanks again for the laugh!


    Dear Billy, to help you in your difficult quest to improve your English, I have dug up some handy rules to improve your writing:


    • Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
    • Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
    • And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.
    • It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
    • Avoid clichés like the plague. (They're old hat)
    • Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.
    • Be more or less specific.
    • Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.
    • Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
    • No sentence fragments.
    • Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.
    • Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
    • Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
    • One should NEVER generalize.
    • Comparisons are as bad as clichés.
    • Don't use no double negatives.
    • Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
    • One-word sentences? Eliminate.
    • Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
    • The passive voice is to be ignored.
    • Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words however should be enclosed in commas.
    • Never use a big word when a diminutive one would suffice.
    • Kill all exclamation points!!!
    • Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.
    • Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth shaking ideas.
    • Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed.
    • Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
    • If you've heard it once, you've heard it a thousand times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly.
    • Puns are for children, not groan readers.
    • Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
    • Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
    • Who needs rhetorical questions?
    • Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

    Boldly onwards!



    I have been studying rules of emphasis in English this morning, in "L'Anglais correct pour les nuls" (Correct English for Dummies), a book written for Frenchmen by a Frenchman. Here is an excerpt...

    "Neutral endings are not emphasised and have no impact on the emphasis of the preceding portion of the word. If there is only one preceding syllable, it is emphasised [...] y, cy, ly, ry, ty, are neutral endings [...] Ending 'ty' is only neutral if not preceded by an 'i'. Ending 'ity' is an active ending of range one, that causes the main emphasis to be placed on the preceding syllable.
    [...] The rule for ending 'cy' does not apply to words derived from Greek roots, such as democracy, which obey their own set of rules [...]"

    There are about twenty pages of that kind, dealing with emphasis of words only, with a special section about irregular endings "that cause the position of the emphasis to be different for different words".
    This is an easy rule to remember, at least...


    Carefully reading the instructions (am always happy to learn better English and have a pile of books like "Righting English that's gone Dutch" and stuff like that), I wondered at the -ty.
    When it's preceded by an i, like ity, the stress is on the syllable before it, so on the i. Logically, the first word that fits is the word entity. And I am pretty sure the emphasis is on EN not on TIT.
    But heck, like yourself, I am a daft foreigner :Pk


    The funniest thing about English is that the people who can appreciate how crazy and inconsistent the language is are those who speak another language. Most English speakers believe English is the best language of all.


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