This Crazy Language

by Richard Lederer (and others)


English is the most widely used language in the history of ourplanet. One in every seven humans can speak it. More than half theworld's books and three quarters of international mail is in English.Of all the languages, it has the largest vocabulary - perhaps as manyas two MILLION words. Nonetheless, let's face it - English is a crazylanguage. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neitherapple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented inEngland nor French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies whilesweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, wefind that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, and aguinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocersdon'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 onemoose, two meese? Or one goof and 3 geef. One mouse, two mice. Why not one blouse, two blice? One index, two indices. So one flex, two flices?

Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend,that you comb through annals of history but not a single annal? Ifyou 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 preacher praught? If a vegetarianeats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter,perhaps you bote your tongue?

And how about spelling? Why are cough, rough, and though pronounced differently?
There is READ pronounced like reed.
And there is READ pronunced like red.
Go figure.

Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to anasylum for the verbally insane. In what other language do people recite ata 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 manand wise guy are opposites? How can overlook and oversee beopposites, while quite a lot and quite a few are alike? How can theweather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell another?

Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they areabsent? Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown?Met a sung hero or experienced requited love? Have you ever run intosomeone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly or peccable? And whereare all those people who ARE spring chickens or who would ACTUALLYhurt a fly?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which yourhouse can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form byfilling it out and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on.

If a pig loses its voice, is it disgruntled?

Why do women wear evening gowns to nightclubs? Shouldn't they be wearingnight gowns?

If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?

When someone asks you, "A penny for your thoughts," and you put your twocents in, what happens to the other penny?

Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

Why do croutons come in airtight packages? It's just stale bread to begin with.

When cheese gets it's picture taken, what does it say?

Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist, but a person whodrives a race car not called a racist?

If horrific means to make horrible, does terrific mean to make terrible?

Why isn't 11 pronounced onety one?

"I am." is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that "I Do." is the longest sentence?

If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow thatelectricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked and drycleaners depressed?

Do Roman paramedics refer to IV's as "4's"?

If people from Poland are called "Poles," why aren't people from Hollandcalled "Holes"?

Why the sun lightens our hair, but darkens our skin?

Why women can't put on mascara with their mouth closed?

Why is "abbreviated" such a long word?

Why is it that doctors call what they do "practice"?

Why is it that to stop Windows 98, you have to click on "Start"?

Why is lemon juice made with artificial flavor, and dishwashing liquid is made with real lemons?

Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?

When dog food is new and improved tasting, who tests it?

Why didn't Noah swat those two mosquitoes?

Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?

You know that indestructible black box that is used on airplanes? Why don't they make the whole plane out of that stuff?

Why don't sheep shrink when it rains?

Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?

If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress?

If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects thecreativity 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 thelights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch,I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it.