Crazy Language

Editor's note: My daughter Cathy, who enjoys the paradoxes of the English language, sent me this little essay. It is very entertaining, but also makes a very important point. Every language has its peculiarities, including Hebrew and Greek. Someone taking English literally could have a very hard time with some of the items below. To take an essay or teaching and translate what the language meant in the culture and among the people who wrote it is sometimes difficult, and much biblical dispute takes place because people do not do this. Think of the problems this little essay brings up along that line.

Let's face it--English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, no ham in hamburger, no apple or pine in pineapple. English muffins were not invented in England, or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads (which are not 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 a pig nor from Guinea.

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 loose tooth, two leese teeth? One index, two indices?

Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends, but not one amend. That you comb throught 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 a teacher has taught, why hasn't the preacher praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you also bote your tongue?

Sometimes I think all the English speakers 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? Ship by truck and send cargo by truck or ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? Park on driveways and drive on parkways? Lift a thumb a thumb a lift?

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 opposites, while quite a lot and quite a few are alike? How can a person be "pretty ugly?"

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 out a form by filling it in, and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on. Why is "crazy man" an insult, while to insert a comma and say "crazy, man" is a compliment?

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 I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it. --Original Author Unkown

Back to Contents Does God Exist?, MayJun98.