Just for laughs: On English

My good friend arch thinks some of you need to lighten up.

He send us this

“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, two geese. So one moose, two meese? One index, two indices? 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? 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 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. 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 finally, why doesn’t “buick” rhyme with “quick”?”

– Richard Lederer

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

52 thoughts on “Just for laughs: On English

  1. exrelayman says:

    Love it! Why do we park in driveways and drive on parkways? Why is ‘what’s up’ that which is going down? Here is one that has been floating around for years:


    We’ll begin with a box and the plural is boxes.
    But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.

    The 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 whole set 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 a foot and you show me your 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 should not the plural of booth be called beeth?

    Then one may be that and three would be those,
    Yet cat in the plural would not become 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.

    So English, I fancy you will all agree,
    Is the funniest language you ever did see.


  2. aguywithoutboxers says:

    LMFAO! But as you and your friend aptly highlighted, my buttocks remain attached to my body (which, of course, is nude)! 🙂 Much love and naked hugs, my Nairobi brother! 😉


  3. john zande says:

    Love English. In what other language can you say:

    “All the faith he had had had had no effect on the outcome of his life.”


  4. Alex Autin says:

    Brilliant! I’m reminded of comedian George Carlin, who was equally brilliant at pointing out some of the peculiarities of the English language. For example, when speaking of airline travel, “What does it mean to pre-board? Do you get on before you get on?” 😉


  5. Great piece. English is nutty. That’s why I have a degree in it. 😀 And, this is why it is so hard for those who speak other languages to learn it.


    • makagutu says:

      There is a joke that one of the reasons the English language is nutty is coz the committee writing the dictionary had Frenchmen.


      • A lot of words in English are from the French because of the Norman invasion of England in 1066. As well, some of the grammatical “rules” of English were decided in the 18th century during the Neo-classic period and are based on Latin grammatical rules. English makes no sense, logically speaking. It is a very difficult lingo to learn.


        • makagutu says:

          I don’t know how we hacked!


        • So why do so many northern and Eastern Europeans speak it so well and native English speakers are pretty US at other languages by and large? Motivation?


          • They learn it as kids in countries where multiple languages are fluently spoken around them and taught in their elementary schools. That’s the best way to learn any language: Learn it as an infant as you’re growing up. There’s almost no limit to how many languages one can learn at one time this way. It may take a bit longer, but kids who grow up in multilingual environments learn to speak the languages they’re hearing fluently and simultaneously. English is a hard language to learn for those who’s native language is not English and now, as adults, they are trying to learn it. I’m a tutor at a local University and I help Asian exchange students with their English. I’m helping a gal right now who’s native language is Mandarin Chinese. No two languages could be different than English and Mandarin. Try explaining why phone is spelled with a “ph” and not an “f” to someone who’s never spoken or written English before and you’ll quickly see how hard it is. The opposite is true as well. Mandarin, followed closely by Gaelic, I believe, is one of the most difficult languages to learn as a non-native speaker. I’d NEVER be able to go to China and study, in Mandarin, at a school there. I’d cry and run home. English, to those attempting to learn it as a second language, is very, very hard. It’s well worth the journey though.


            • That’s an interesting perspective. I’ve fancied Arabic, one of my university colleagues was trying to learn it and would scribble on his notes in Arabic.

              Language teaching in the UK is appalling, or rather, the policy is. I was dying to learn French. Had to wait for senior school. Latin was second year of senior school, German, if chosen was third year.

              So easy to teach children the basics in junior school.

              My partner was taught Welsh one minute, then the policy changed, and then it changed back. Really mucking kids about.

              Horses for courses, English and Spanish are the obvious ones these days, and then what though? How useful is Mandarin unless you want to conduct business with Chinese? Similarly Japanese?

              I’d throw to or three languages into the ring for education, but which ones?…


              • Language teaching in the States is sh*tty too. English is barely taught anymore, and most bloody Americans are so arrogant they feel their rights are violated by even suggesting they learn another language. I’ve a friend who recently became a Ranger in the Army. He goes on classified missions about which the only thing he’s told me is he had to learn Mandarin. China is a growing economic juggernaut and Mandarin has, I believe, more native speakers than any other single language on Earth. If you’re in business, I’d reckon it may be a good one to learn, though there’s no way in hell I’d ever be able too. So I guess it’s good I’m not in international business. I’ve learned a few songs in Spanish (Llorando) and one in Welsh (Suo Gan), and that took me a very long time. It’s so hard to do once your an adult and not surround by native speakers of whatever language it is you wish to learn. We have to place value on teaching these things to kids in elementary schools, but that ain’t gonna here, and from what you’ve said, it sounds like it ain’t happening in Europe either.


                • We can only speak about our own experiences can’t we? On the one hand, Gibraltarians grow up bilingual in Spanish and English (although we’ve met some with poor English and others who don’t read and write Spanish), yet in our Spanish pueblo, English is minimal. This was clearly to our advantage. We’d been going to the bank for years, and suddenly the manager speaking English to someone. When we mentioned it to her, she just said, ‘but you speak Spanish’.

                  The two lads next door went on catering courses, the one as a waiter, had to have English to pass, (which I think is unfair) don’t know if he ever did pass. Local teaching of English doesn’t seem good at all. Another lad in the family is in computers. He’s in the UK at the moment on some course/project and his spoken English is still poor too.

                  Not just elementary schools. It helps if the parents can speak more than one language, so then it’s the norm at home too. I caught the sleeper from Madrid to Paris and shared with a woman and two kids. They started off speaking Spanish, pero, at midnight, hablaremos francés, she said.

                  I figured the issue about Mandarin, was, well because there are a lot of Chinese, rather than it is widely spoken on a geographical basis. English and Spanish you can explain from the whole colonial heritage.


            • makagutu says:

              When we were in high school, there was this classmate of ours who could hardly read a passage in English in class. I don’t whether his problem was confidence or what, but English can be hard


  6. ladysighs says:

    I live with someone who learned English as his third language. While he is very proficient in it, the figures of speech and a couple of the above mentioned are still confusing. I admire anyone who can speak a another language and even three or four.
    And, yes, I laughed. 🙂


  7. Maria F. says:

    Thanks for sharing this, I find it so clever, and I love etymology.


  8. Great material! Reminds me of the lite knight who turned out the light at night surely to calm his bride Shirley else she might see the mite and bolt out the door after unlocking the bolt only to fall on her ass after tripping over her stubborn ass (donkey) who didn’t want to tow the cart because of the swollen toe he had stubbed while avoiding the Copper (police officer) who was chewing on mint while chasing the thief who had stole the copper from the Mint.


  9. Ujuh says:

    English is an interesting language 🙂

    Say hi to Arch


  10. Aquileana says:

    Great post I really enjoyed the reading here and smiled as I read long the lines of your posts… There are many gaps now that you mention it … If we compare english with other languages I think it is so much simpler… No genres in nouns, adjectives and/or articles Fewer verbal tenses. Less number of words maybe… No wonder why english is the universal (hence Global) language!.
    Thanks a lot for sharing. Have a great sunday ahead!. Aquileana 😀


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