I’ve been thinking about the English language recently. For the past couple of weeks we’ve had the theme ‘Vanity’ in my conversation classes, and this – of course – included clothes vocabulary. Which comes with the usual British English/American English ‘problems’… ‘Pants’ in the UK are worn under trousers; in America, pants are trousers.
An American woman keeps her make-up, car key, tissues, comb, pen, phone, money etc etc in her ‘purse’. A British woman’s purse contains her money and credit cards only…
Other words are problematic on both sides of the Atlantic – and in other English-speaking countries too. A while back one of my students sent me the following:
Do you really speak English??? And come to that, does anyone?!?!?!
Let’s face it:
English is a stupid language.
There is no egg in the eggplant, no ham in the hamburger and neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England; French fries were not invented in France.
We sometimes take English for granted. But if we examine its paradoxes we find that quicksand takes you down slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
A few pertinent questions:
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?
Why do people recite at a play yet play at a recital, and park on driveways and drive on parkways??
And… if a vegetarian eats vegetables, what the heck does a humanitarian eat?
More food for thought:
Do infants think the same way about infancy as adults think about adultery?
Love is blind, but lingerie is still very popular.
Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?
A person who plays the piano is a pianist, but a person who drives a racing car is not (necessarily) a racist.
And if people from Poland are called ‘Poles’, why aren’t people from Holland called ‘Holes’?
Why are a wise man and a wise guy opposites?
Why do overlook and oversee mean quite different things?
If horrific means horrible, does terrific mean terrible?
Why do we say ‘11’ – and not ‘onety-one’?
If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn’t it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked and dry cleaners depressed?
If you take an Oriental person and spin him around several times, does he really become disoriented?
Mind you… some things are just human nature in any language.
If someone tells you there are a billion trillion stars in the universe you will believe them, but if they tell you a wall has wet paint you will have to touch it to be sure…
Yes, a picture paints a thousand words. Maybe we should all start drawing.
To finish off, this week’s photo from my new flat with a view. Twelve days to go!