There are many twists and even more turns in our native language.
Are you confused by all the acronyms that many businesses and the military use? Well, you are not alone and there are new ones added every day. But it is no wonder. Let’s face it, English is an unusual language.
There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple or pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England nor French fries in France. Sweet-meats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, by the way, are meat.
In considering some recent comments from an acquaintance of mine, I find we take English for granted. If we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig. Don’t even ask about a butterfly!
And … why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham? Generators may generate, and alternators may alternate, but pistons don’t … well, they just don’t.
If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? One goose, two geese. So why not two meece? One house but two mice? One goof, two goofs, but one hoof and two hooves? One index, and two indices? One dear and two dears, but one deer and two deer! Doesn’t it seem strange that you can make amends but not one amend, that you comb through annals of history but not a single annal?
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it? And since we can’t see it, how do we know time flies? If teachers taught, why don’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you might bote your tongue?
Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do you 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? Park on driveways and drive on parkways? Have paperclips that aren’t paper at all? Have bookkeepers to do accounting, and librarians to keep books?
Have hot water heaters instead of cold water heaters? Have nightfalls but daybreaks? How can a slim chance and a fat chance mean the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? And what’s with flammable and inflammable? How can overlook and oversee be so different, while quite a lot and quite a few are so much alike? How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell another? And why do people use “irregardless” when it isn’t even a word at all?
Have you ever noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent? Have you ever seen a horsefull carriage or a strapfull gown? Met a sung hero or experienced requited love?
Have you ever run into someone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly or peccable? And where are all those people who are spring chickens, or who actually would hurt a fly?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which our house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill out a form by filling it in, and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on.
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). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this article, I end it.