English Language – A Linguistic Hodgepodge, So It Seems

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One gets lots of funny stuff in the e-mail, like this poem about the inconsistencies and peculiarities of the English language. (Those who are familiar with the development of English from the Old English period to today’s Late Modern English period will understand why it’s such a mish-mash; the author is presumably not!)

ONLY THE ENGLISH COULD HAVE INVENTED THIS LANGUAGE

We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone 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,
Then shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

Let’s face it – 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.
We take English for granted, but 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.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing,
grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And 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.

And, in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother’s not Mop?

I WOULD LIKE TO ADD THAT IF PEOPLE FROM POLAND ARE CALLED POLES THEN PEOPLE FROM HOLLAND SHOULD BE HOLES AND THE GERMANS, GERMS….

Unknown

1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. museditions
    Jun 29, 2008 @ 05:24:47

    “If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?”
    I like that one, hehe. It’s true, English is an extremely weird language, and yes you’d have to know a lot of linguistic history to understand why. I don’t know how non-native speakers ever learn it! 😉

    nylusmilk: i always feel fortunate that my mother tongue is english, even at the expense of my inability to speak chinese. i do think that the reason i am proficient in english is due to that inability; rarely do i find people who speak english and chinese fluently, it’s either one or the other. this poem is very helpful in identifying which words or grammatical features came from which period!

    Reply

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