With our current health pandemic causing widespread frustration and angst, we thought we’d take a break from our usual articles this week and do something more light-hearted!
Let’s face it: English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant or ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
We play at a recital and recite in a play. Our noses run but our feet smell? How does a ‘slim chance’ mean the same thing as a ‘fat chance’?
As a native speaker, I often take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand works slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is not from Guinea nor is it a pig.
“Cough”, “rough”, “through” and “through” don’t rhyme but for some reason, “pony” and “bologna” rhyme?
“Tear”(crying) and “tier” are pronounced the same but “tear”(rip) and “tear”(crying) are pronounced differently.
It’s neither here nor there. Then where is it?
This is not the only instance in the English language where words can have double meanings. For example:
- The bandage was wound around the wound.
- The farm was used to produce produce.
- The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
- We must polish the Polish furniture.
- The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
- Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
- When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
- I did not object to the object.
- The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
- There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
- The door is too close to the table to close it.
- To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
- The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
- Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
- I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
Confused yet? That said, there is usually a reason to the madness. For example, the reason we have words with difference pronunciations and meanings is because the English language has alternating stress patterns that indicate if the word is a noun (first syllable is stressed) or a verb (second syllable is stressed).
However, that doesn’t help much when you look at oxymorons – which refers to two opposite words, combined to create an ‘effect’. For example:
- Pretty ugly
- Seriously funny
- Clearly confused
- Alone together
- Passive aggressive
- Deafening silence
The list goes on and on…
To make matters worse, did you know the English language has ‘triple contractions’? Double contractions are words like “don’t” or “wouldn’t” where you combine two words. Triple contractions follow the same basic principle, but look extremely confusing. For example:
I would have not = (i’d) + (would’ve) + (haven’t) = “i’d’ven’t”
Of course, these funny rules aren’t specific to the English language. When learning Mandarin, one of the most important beginner’s lessons is learning the proper pronunciation of the different tones. If you pronounce a syllable in the wrong way then you are saying something really different to what you were intending.
Taking these funny intricacies of language and bringing them into the classroom, not only lightens the mood, but helps students remember these lessons.
That’s why at the Agape School of Education, it’s not just about learning the linguistic fundamentals of a language. We teach so much more, including the culture, intricacies and idiosyncrasies.
It’s our love for language and these nuances that we impart in our students. If you’re not a native speaker of English, we’ve got business and IETLS courses to help you understand and succeed in the crazy, weird and confusing language that is the English language!
Additionally, our streamlined IELTS course is tailored for people who:
- plan to take IELTS exams in the near future,
- desire to practice some of the skills and procedures to succeed in the exam, or
- require IELTS certification to study, live or work in a state where English is mandatory.