More on language

We are both doing well.

It has occurred to me that my comments about the challenges of learning Turkish, might require that I make it VERY clear that I think that English is at the top of my list of peculiar languages. FAR more so than Turkish.

Parts of the following came in an email someone forwarded. Parts of it I found on the web and some of it I wrote.

Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. "The store is right on your left." Or "Turn left right here." "Yes, we have no bananas." "Who’s on first?", "Don’t sweat it" and so on.

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. Native speakers 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, two geese. So one moose, two meese, or meeses? One index, two indices? Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? Why one pair of pants? Did they used to be in two parts? 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 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?

How can flammable and inflammable 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.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

How did we get theater and theatre? And, colour, flavour, harbour, honour, humour, labour, neighbour, rumour?

And who is driving on the wrong side of the road?

P.S. – Why doesn’t "Buick" rhyme with "quick"?

You lovers of the English language might enjoy this.

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is "UP."

It’s easy to understand UP , meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP . We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP ; look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP . When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP.

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.
When it doesn’t rain for awhile, things dry UP .

We could go on, but I’ll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so… Time to shut UP! Or you might throw UP.

Oh… one more thing:
What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night?
U-P !

*Actually there is a kind of egg plant that looks VERY egg-like. See, and have a look at for that one. And apple is sometimes an old name for any fruit. Perhaps ‘golden apples’ were oranges? And a pineapple looks a bit like a pine cone.
1. The bandage was wound around the wound.
2. The farm was used to produce produce.
3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4. We must polish the Polish furniture.
5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
8. A bigmouth bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10. I did not object to the object.
11. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
12. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
13. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
14. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
15. They were too close to the door to close it.
16. The buck does funny things when the does are present.
17. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
18. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
19. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
20. After a number of injections my jaw got number.
21. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

More Homographs

Please don’t read me the signs; I’ve already read them myself.
Someone had tied a large red bow on the ship’s bow.
He took his cue to wait in the queue.
He tied up his ship at the quay on the key.
The farmer taught his sow to sow, and his wife taught the sow to sew.
The glittering lights over the entrance were meant to entrance the guests upon arrival.
Jeannie moped in brooding silence after her new moped was stolen from her garage.
It would incense your mother to discover that you burned incense on her good china.


1 thought on “More on language

  1. One of the greatest books of all times is Shelley Berman’s “Clean & Dirty Words.” Here are a few examples (bearing in mind that it was published in 1966):

    Desk is a clean. Drawers are a dirty.
    Hotel is a clean. Motel is a dirty
    Nail is a clean. Screw is a dirty.
    Lettuce is a clean Cucumber is a dirty.
    Button is a clean. Zipper is a dirty.
    Milk is a clean. Cream is a dirty.

    And my personal favorite –
    Clean napkin is a clean. Sanitary napkin is a dirty.

    Read more:

    And time changes things. In the 60’s, Thong was a clean. Now it’s a dirty.

    Glad to hear you are both doing well.


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