That Crazy English Language
The English Language
By Richard Lederer Thanks to Matt Devost for
Here is one for all of our English language experts out there. This essay
was sent in to a Chicago radio station this week. They read it over the air and then
received numerous phone calls from people asking for copies of it. The radio station in turn put it
on their bulletin board system. Here is a copy of that essay.
THAT CRAZY ENGLISH LANGUAGE!
Do you think communication would be so much more simple if everyone in the
world spoke English??
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 or French Fries in France. Sweetmeats
are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.
We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can
And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth?
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend, that you comb through the
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? If teachers taught, why didn't preachers
praught? If vegetarians eat vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum
for the verbally insane.
In what language do people 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? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise
man and a wise guy are opposites? How can overlook and oversee be opposite, while
quite a few and quite a lot are alike? How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold
as hell the other day?
Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent? Have you ever
seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown? And where are all those 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 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, isn't 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 essay, I end it.
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