Saturday, 11 May 2013

Richard Lederer on the quirks of English...

Searching around the internet for various bits and pieces I could use in a training session on addressing speech & language needs in schools, I found the following funny little passage by the author Richard Lederer - you might want to share it with your colleagues and students to highlight just how difficult English can be to master!

"English is the most widely used language in the history of our planet. One in every seven human beings around the globe can speak English. And more than half of the world's books and three-quarters of international mail are written in this crazy tongue. 

Of all languages, English has the largest vocabulary - perhaps as many as two million words - and of course it has one of the noblest bodies of literature. 

However, let's face it! English is a crazy language! 

For example, there is no egg in eggplant, and will you find neither pine nor apple in a pineapple. Hamburgers are not made from ham, and French Fries were not invented in France.

We find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither a pig nor is it from Guinea. 

And why is it that a writer writes, but fingers do not fing?

If the plural of tooth is teeth, shouldn't the plural of booth be beeth? One goose, two geese, so one moose, two meese?

So tell me, if the teacher taught - why isn't it that the preacher praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables - what does a humanitarian eat? 

And if you wrote a letter - perhaps you also bote your tongue? 

Sometimes it makes you wonder if all English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. We ship by truck and send cargo by ship? And have you noticed that we have noses that run and feet that smell? 

How can a fat chance and a slim chance be the same thing? 

And where are the people who "are spring chickens," or who would actually "hurt a fly"? 

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 your alarm clock goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not by computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, is not really a race at all). That is why, when 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 essay I end it."

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