Sunday, December 5, 2010

Ode to English

A reader sent this. I've seen it before but it's always a good read. UPDATE: Someone suggested it is most effective if read out loud.

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

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.
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? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make
amends but not one amend. 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 folks who grew up speaking English 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?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park on a driveway and drive on a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance 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.

And in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother's not Mop?


  1. WOW! That is a crazy language. I'm so glad I speak American.

    Anonymous Patriot

  2. Excellent dear anonymous reader, and thanks, Patrice for posting it!

    I feel so sorry for anyone who is trying to learn this monstrosity of a language. Someone once said that English is a mixture of other languages, but this is false. English is nothing less than a COLLISION of other languages!

    Bill Smith

  3. this was really cute..

  4. Oh my!
    I found your blog from, and I love it!

    I am a lone prepper in rural CT. I am trying to wake my family. I am making slow but steady progress.

    Fran in CT

  5. Welcome Fran! Glad you found your way here.

    - Patrice

  6. Can I say I just absolutely LOVE your photos of your landscapes? They are beautiful, and I find myself wishing I was there!

  7. @Bill Smith. It was a very slow-motion collision :)

  8. I've heard it said the English language is one of the hardest for foreigners to learn, and I can believe it. Along with all the examples in this "Ode to English," if we went no further than dough and though, we'd be okay. But along comes cough and trough. Then to make matters even worse, we have bough and through!

    What really has me wondering, however, is the way words such as "culinary" have changed over the past few years. It was always pronounced kyoo-lin-ary. Now, it seems everyone is saying "kull-inary." When I was a kid in school, I was taught when a vowel is followed by a consonant and then another vowel, the first vowel "says its own name." (There are always exceptions, but culinary wasn't one of them.) You know, like "cut" and "cute," or "cub" and "cute." Cubic is not kubb-ic, it's kyoo-bic. You don't work in a kubbicle, you work in a kyoobicle. That's not a "kutticle" at the base of your fingernail, it's a kyooticle!

    But for some reason, culinary has changed the rules. Is it because that's the way the British say it? I don't know. Maybe we think the British pronunciation of words sounds cool or stylish, but the Brits are equally wrong when they drop the "h" or slur the "r" in their words. For example, a word like "spirit" becomes "spit-it." That's just plain silly. They even add an "r" where it isn't, such as "idear" and "Americar." Hearing Brits and Aussies speak, I often think of the movie "My Fair Lady" when Professor Higgins laments, "Why can't the English teach their children how to speak? The Arabs know their Arabic, the Greeks all know their Greek." Indeed. I've noticed that New Englanders also speak much like the British.

    Lately I've been hearing newscasters and other TV personalities shortening any word with more than 4 syllables, or dropping a letter at the end of the word. "Particularly" has become "particulary" or even "particurly!" Definitely (a word that really breaks all the rules!) is often pronounced "deffinly" and so forth. I figure it's because they have so much to say and such little time to say it! But in many cases, I think it's just plain laziness. As it is, most TV people talk so fast that you can hardly follow them anymore. English might be confusing and hard to learn, but it IS a beautiful language, allowing us to express ourselves more fully than probably any other language in the world. It's a shame to hear it being butchered like this.

  9. This is so very amusing, and true. Just think how it will be in the future with further linquistic drift(and don't even get me started on "Chat speak"). Yet, it seems that everyone in other nations speak English as well as their native language and yet we have a really difficult time learning second languages. This selection certainly makes you wonder if our language (and us too) aren't a little nuts.

  10. I've had people SAY 'lol' to me!

  11. I remember when "LOL" meant "little old lady." When I first saw "LOL" written in an email, I thought people were mocking my age. It took awhile to realize what it means today, which proves that I am a LOL.

    Anonymous Patriot