English – the toughest language!


Every day, all of us deal with the English language. In fact, you are doing that while reading this column. It is said to be one of the most difficult to learn and thankfully, we grew up with it.
English is the most widely spoken language on our planet. Most of the world’s books are written in English. It is the international language and I have read that most computer texts, including websites, are stored in English. We have over 2 million words to choose from.
People learning English as a second language often have a tough time. They quickly realize all the weird aspects of our language.
Those of us who write for a living, of course, have even more problems at times. For example, the words affect and effect have always given me problems mostly because I don’t use them very often. But I think I have it down now. So here we go – his decision does not affect the other classes, so the effect will probably be small.
As I see it, the whole problem is the homonym thing. The definition is two or more words having the same spelling or sound, but different meanings, like write and right.
To continue in that vein, we have the words cough and through, then rough and though. These words don’t rhyme, but I think they should. But for some ridiculous reason, pony and bologna do. Then there are the plural words. I am quite disappointed that a group of squids isn’t called a squad. Doesn’t that just seem right?
With more on that subject, we have: “I will begin with a box, and the plural is boxes, but the plural of ox became oxen not oxes. One fowl is a goose but two are geese, yet the plural of moose should never be meese. You may find a little 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 one is the tooth and a whole set are teeth, why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth? We speak of a brother and also of brethren, but though we say mother, we never say methren.”
We should all be grateful that we grew up speaking English and probably be more tolerant of the struggles of those who didn’t. Double meanings for words have to be really confusing to those learning it. Thankfully most of us just use the correct word and often don’t even think about the double meaning.
The bandage was wound around the wound. The dump was so full it had to refuse more refuse. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
Then there’s – The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present. The insurance was invalid for the invalid. A seamstress and a sewer fell into the sewer. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow. After a number of Novocain injections, my jaw got number. I spent last evening evening out a pile of dirt.
Punctuation is a basic in every language and can change the whole meaning of what you are saying. An English professor wrote the words “A woman without her man is nothing” on the board and asked students to punctuate correctly. All the males in the class wrote: “A woman, without her man, is nothing.” All the females in the class wrote: “A woman: without her, man is nothing.” See how different that is? Of course the second one is probably really right.
I’m sure you realize there is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger nor apple or pine in pineapple. We ship by truck and send cargo by ship. Here’s a crazy one – we have noses that run and feet that smell. Oh ugh! We park in the driveway and drive on a parkway. Your house can burn up as it burns down and you fill in a form by filling it out.
Why is it that writers write and painters paint but fingers don’t fink? Frankly I had to think about that one for a minute.
Here’s the scary one – if vegetarians eat vegetables then what does a humanitarian eat. Near a hospital, you can see the sign, patient parking only. Where does one park if you’re impatient?
Then there’s the weird thing about the shape of our letters. The word swims is still swims when spelled backward and turned upside down, and the words, dammit I’m mad, are the same spelled backward. Don’t judge me for the last one.
I wish good writing and reading to you all!
(Melanie Behrens – melb@marysvillejt.com)

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