English is a Crazy Language
From: Charlie Indelicato
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 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? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the
plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index,
Doesn't it seem crazy 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?
If teachers taught, why didn't preacher praught? If a vegetarian eats
vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps
you bote your tongue?
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
wise guy are opposites? How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while
quite a lot and quite a few are alike? How can the weather be hot as hell
one day and cold as hell another.
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? 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 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.