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What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By schuhplattlerPremium member Comments: 2805, member since Sat Dec 23, 2006
On Mon Sep 27, 2010 06:42 PM

I put this under Humor PG13 for two reasons: 1. If we can't laugh at our troublesome language, we are in trouble.
2. PG 13 to enable greater freedom of response.

Really, a language can't be sane if the least sensitive have the most nerve. It can't be sane if the same word has many meanings from several parts of speech. It can't be sane if the same set of letters can have so many different pronunciations.

If we say we can't trust someone, do we mean risk or will power? If we sail the ocean blue, are we being poetic or describing the long term effects of very slow abrasion?

So state your examples so that we all can laugh at them. I'll start out with my candidate - the "ough" combination, with at least six different pronunciations and no way to tell which except by raw memorization. This humdinger started to form in the Eleventh Century, when hardly anybody cared how a word was spelled and four different cultures merged in England. By the Fifteenth Century, this atrocity had formed completely, and we have not been able to do anything about it ever since.

So post away.

19 Replies to What is the craziest element in the English language?

re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By Chaconnemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 6249, member since Thu Jul 12, 2007
On Mon Sep 27, 2010 09:13 PM
Edited by Chaconne (182529) on 2010-10-05 09:39:23
This is ascribed to George Bernard Shaw.

GHOTI

It spells the word we generally pronounce as "fish"

the GH sound of "f" as in Rough

the "I" sound as in "women"

and the "SH" sound of "TI" as in any "-tion" suffix.

But this ain't nuttin' compared to some of the idosyncracies of Arabic which I once knew and worked with professionally or Icelandic which I studying now just for fun on a free website course from the Iceland University. Icelandic uses the Roman alphabet plus two unique letters, but there is not always a one for one correspondence of sound to the letters that most Western European languages have more or less in common.

Jon
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By schuhplattlerPremium member Comments: 2805, member since Sat Dec 23, 2006
On Wed Sep 29, 2010 07:37 PM
Edited by madmilt (172013) on 2010-09-29 19:39:41 To clarify.
Chaconne, you are correct. English is not the only crazy language. Hebrew and (I am told) Russian genderize their verbs, and we can be quite sex-conscious enough without the premise that we do everything differently.

But I was hoping for more posts on the insane elements of English. You caught one ghoti and fried it.

I have no doubt that foreigners could make the best posts on this thread. The rest of us are so numb to these insanities, that we don't even notice them. Actual example:

Gracie Allen: Didn't he play the violin?

Announcer (Not Bill Goodwin, probably Harry Von Zell): Either he did or his brother did - in fact I think they both played the violin.

Gracie: How did they do that? Did one of them . . . .
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? (karma: 2)  en>fr fr>en
By rosalinde Comments: 1769, member since Fri Jun 19, 2009
On Thu Sep 30, 2010 03:29 AM
1. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

2. Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?

3. When the stars are out, they are visible,
When the lights are out, they are invisible.

4. If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught?

5. If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

6. C'mon, let's polish the Polish furniture.

7. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

8. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

9. How can 'A Slim Chance' and 'A Fat Chance' be the same?

10. How can 'You're so cool' and 'You're not so hot' be different?

11. Why are 'A Wise man' and 'A Wise guy' opposites?

12. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

13. The bandage was wound around the wound.

14. I did not object to the object.

15. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

16. Boxing rings are square.

17. A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

18. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

19. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

20. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

21. The farm was used to produce produce.

22. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France.

23. If brother becomes Brethren, why doesn't mother become Methren?

24. If tooth becomes teeth, why doesn't booth become beeth?

25. If one goose becomes two geese, why doesn't one moose becomae two meese?

26. If I speak of a foot and you show me your feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

27. How come Writers write but Fingers don't fing?
And Grocers don't groce and Hammers don't ham?

28. A hat in the plural doesn't become hose.
And a cat in the plural doesn't become cose.

29. A box in the plural becomes is boxes.
But an Ox in the plural never becomes oxes. (It becomes Oxen).

30. A lone mouse can transform into a whole set of mice,
But it's impossible for a single house to become a whole block of hice. (It becomes houses).

31. Although the masculine pronouns are he, his and him, we must be grateful for small mercies of the language that the feminine pronouns after 'She' don't become 'Shis' and 'Shim'.

32. If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

33. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

34. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

35. He could lead if he could only get the lead out.

36. They were too close to the door to close it.

37. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

38. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

39. 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.

40. It is only in the English language that people recite at a play and play at a recital.

41. No sooner had my eye fallen upon the tear in the painting, then this eye of mine began to shed many a tear.

42. I was given a number of injections to make the pain number.

43. It's not ridiculous, but entirely sensible to ship by truck and send cargo by ship.

44. We are a strange lot to have noses that run and feet that smell.

45. The buck does funny things when the does are present.

46. I was proven right that I had the right of way.

47. How come you never hear of a combobulated, gruntled, ruly, or peccable person?

48. Why is it that whether you sit down or sit up, the results are the same?

49. Shouldn't there be a shorter word for "monosyllable"?

50. If you take an Oriental person and spin him around several times, does he become disoriented?

51. If people from Poland are called "Poles," why aren't people from Holland called "Holes?

52. If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged, models deposed, tree surgeons debarked, and dry cleaners depressed?

53. The human race has been running for a great many centuries now - but we're not tired yet.

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

55. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By schuhplattlerPremium member Comments: 2805, member since Sat Dec 23, 2006
On Sat Oct 02, 2010 08:09 AM
Rosalinde, you certainly deserve honorable mention for quantity.
Because you include reference to our silly ways of forming plurals, you have got to watch this.
www.youtube.com . . .
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By Boogledoomember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 1038, member since Mon Feb 20, 2006
On Tue Oct 05, 2010 07:50 AM
I always think if cannot is can't and do not is don't why is will not won't and not willn't?
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By ocean_rox Comments: 52, member since Wed Dec 22, 2004
On Mon Nov 29, 2010 08:06 AM
Why is abbreviation such a long word?

Who thought to put an S in the word lisp?!
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By Louisemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 17049, member since Thu Jun 06, 2002
On Tue Dec 07, 2010 08:02 AM
2. Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?

Amends is short for amendments, and you can indeed make one amendment.

19. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

Hamburger isn't an English word. And an eggplant is actually an aubergine.

32. If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

By it's name.

39. 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.

Another Americanism (after eggplant). In England we don't fill out forms, we fill them in, because that's what we're doing. I've never heard someone say their house burned up. It burns down because structures disintegrate. And alarms are always on in terms of being switched on and ready for action. Perhaps a better comparison would have been alarm going off vs milk going off.

42. I was given a number of injections to make the pain number.

One cannot "make pain number". That implies that you had a numb pain (impossible) which was exacerbated and made more numb. You numb the pain or you make a specific area of your body more numb/number. "More numb" is always preferable to "number".

44. We are a strange lot to have noses that run and feet that smell.

Not really because it isn't the nose moving or the foot processing olfactory cues. The stuff coming out of the nose runs down the nasal canal and (in the case of snotty children) down the lower face. Anything can smell as in possess an aroma, only the nose processes those aromas.

48. Why is it that whether you sit down or sit up, the results are the same?

This is exactly the same as the "is the glass half empty or half full" thing. Depends on the preceding circumstances. If you previously filled the glass and have been drinking it, then you have been emptying it, so the glass is half empty. If you took a glass out of the cupboard and poured a small amount of liquid in, then you have been filling it, so it is full. When you sit down you are lowering yourself from standing. When you sit up you are raising yourself either from lying down or slouching. The result isn't the same if one were to sit down from standing and immediately assume a slouched position.

50. If you take an Oriental person and spin him around several times, does he become disoriented?

We don't call "Oriental" people Oriental anymore, it's a pretty obsolete term, and "disoriented" isn't a word in any case. The word to describe dizziness or confusion about which direction to take, is "disorienTATED". As in, you have lost your orientation. Argh, disoriented is not a word!

51. If people from Poland are called "Poles," why aren't people from Holland called "Holes?

..would be a funny comparison if Poland and Holland rhymed, but they don't. The o is longer in Poland. Plus most Dutch people say they come from The Netherlands rather than Holland. Interesting aside - the Pennsylvania Dutch aren't from the Netherlands. They were German "Deutsch" - but the immigration people didn't know the difference.


Can you tell that forward pissed me off when I first received it, lol. These were the responses I remembered first time around - can't remember the rest.
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By ocean_rox Comments: 52, member since Wed Dec 22, 2004
On Tue Dec 07, 2010 08:41 AM
Also, I thought I read somewhere that 'humburgers' were first made in Hamburg. Hence that name. Could be wrong though.
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By TheMidlakeMusemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 11064, member since Sun Nov 23, 2003
On Tue Dec 07, 2010 08:58 AM
Louise wrote:

Interesting aside - the Pennsylvania Dutch aren't from the Netherlands. They were German "Deutsch" - but the immigration people didn't know the difference.


Actually it used to mean both a person from the Netherlands or a person from Germany.

www.etymonline.com . . .

Plus, the Amish immigrated during the 17th century, when there was no Ellis Island-type central immigration authority, so I doubt it was a slip-up on that end. More likely locals heard them describe their language or themselves as "Deutsch" so it stuck in their minds as "Dutch".

Dani
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By amarathPremium member Comments: 5926, member since Sat Apr 19, 2003
On Tue Dec 07, 2010 09:57 AM
Hamburger isn't an English word. And an eggplant is actually an aubergine.


By that standard, aubergine isn't an English word either, eh?
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By Louisemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 17049, member since Thu Jun 06, 2002
On Tue Dec 07, 2010 10:02 AM
^ Exactly?
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By reel_faerie85member has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 4076, member since Mon Mar 08, 2010
On Tue Dec 07, 2010 10:08 AM
I before E except after C.... only it doesn't work on:

species, science, sufficient, ancient, society (where ie follows c) or seize, weird, theism, eight, weight, protein, sovereignty, foreign, vein, feisty, kaleidoscope, being, neighbour, and their (where ei is not preceded by c). (wikipedia en.wikipedia.org . . .)
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By celestia836 Comments: 1999, member since Tue Dec 02, 2003
On Tue Dec 07, 2010 10:16 AM
Speaking of wikipedia, it provides a helpful explanation of this little gem of the English language:

"Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo."

Craziest sentence ever? Quite possibly.

en.wikipedia.org . . .
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By reel_faerie85member has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 4076, member since Mon Mar 08, 2010
On Tue Dec 07, 2010 10:26 AM
lol!
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By schuhplattlerPremium member Comments: 2805, member since Sat Dec 23, 2006
On Tue Dec 07, 2010 11:30 AM
Celestia, that one is terrific, even though I question the legitimacy of leaving out the relative pronoun.

And lest anyone minimize the importance of not ending a sentence with a preposition, consider this situation:

A man was checking out books from a library, including a book about Australia. His four-year-old son was with him - hyped up about that book.

Fast forward: The man returned the books before they were due, including (absent-mindedly) the book on Australia, which had not been opened.

The son's protest: Dad! What did you return the book that I wanted to be read to out of about Down Under for?
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By TeaCupBallerinamember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 601, member since Mon Nov 13, 2006
On Wed Dec 15, 2010 04:27 PM
Edited by TeaCupBallerina (170133) on 2010-12-15 16:29:01
Edited by TeaCupBallerina (170133) on 2010-12-15 16:31:06


50. If you take an Oriental person and spin him around several times, does he become disoriented?

We don't call "Oriental" people Oriental anymore, it's a pretty obsolete term, and "disoriented" isn't a word in any case. The word to describe dizziness or confusion about which direction to take, is "disorienTATED". As in, you have lost your orientation. Argh, disoriented is not a word!


Disoriented is a word!
dictionary.reference.com . . .


22. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France.


Et voilà why French Fries are called French Fries

And so we arrive at your question. For also in the 1840s, pomme frites ("fried potatoes") first appeared in Paris. Sadly, we don't know the name of the ingenious chef who first sliced the potato into long slender pieces and fried them. But they were immediately popular, and were sold on the streets of Paris by push-cart vendors.

Frites spread to America where they were called French fried potatoes. You asked how they got their name--pretty obvious, I'd say: they came from France, and they were fried potatoes, so they were called "French fried potatoes." The name was shortened to "french fries" in the 1930s.


www.straightdope.com . . .

Oh and one more thing!
One of my favorite English oddities is when I or someone else is asking for directions and you say, "I need to go left, right?" and the other person says "Right!"
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By cheerspirit Comments: 3843, member since Thu Apr 29, 2004
On Wed Dec 15, 2010 09:04 PM
You park in a driveway but drive on a parkway.
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By AussieLauramember has saluted, click to view salute photos Comments: 1129, member since Sun Mar 07, 2010
On Wed Dec 15, 2010 10:54 PM
^I've never heard of a parkway!

In Australia, people turning left have right of way. The right side of the road to drive on is the left.
re: What is the craziest element in the English language? en>fr fr>en
By Louisemember has saluted, click to view salute photosPremium member Comments: 17049, member since Thu Jun 06, 2002
On Thu Dec 16, 2010 05:41 AM
Disoriented isn't in my edition of the OED. Might be a word in America but not in England, like the odious "waitlisted". It's a contraction of a proper word (or two words) and sadly has become a real word.

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