If you are an English speaker, you may right away click off this blog. However, if you are a person whose first language is another language other than English….but you know that so much of the world uses English as the common language…you may be trying to learn English. (I think you get the point.) Nevertheless, you will probably have a surprise coming your way as you try to read on.
People everywhere want to learn English. Take this little school bus in India…now that is really wanting your child to learn English!! Even though I hate to say it, the accent for some who learn the language is so strong that it is hard to communicate. I find this true when my “help” line is out-sourced to some foreign place.
The first time I went to Mongolia, my job was to teach English to middle school teachers. This was a graduate course because they already knew some English that they taught to their students along with Russian and Mongolian. Speaking of accents, I also found that the students that had teachers from England picked up the British accent…or American… from the person teaching them. Pronunciation is important.
I also went to a Mongolian museum. There was a Mongolian guide who was giving a tour to a Japanese man. I found out they neither one spoke the other’s language, so they were speaking in English. That was great for me…for I just listened in to all the explanation about the museum.
It is not easy for foreign students to learn all the odd things that are said in English. We Americans have so much slang. There is a great effort to accommodate English readers and speakers, these pictures are some examples of totally misunderstanding the words:
Now, here is the point. English is often a very confusing language. A friend of mine proved it once again when she sent me this illustration below. (Thanks, Jo) I am amazed that someone found the time to think of all these words.
Even English speakers may get a real chuckle out of these…as difficult as it is to understand why in the world we have so many homographs and heteronyms.
(Homographs are words of like spelling but with more than one meaning. A homograph that is also pronounced differently is a heteronym.) Some examples:
- The bandage was wound around the wound.
- The farm was used to produce produce.
- The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
- The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
- When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
- They were too close to the door to close it.
Other English words that don’t seem logical:
- 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.
Some paradoxes in English:
- Quicksand can work slowly
- Boxing rings are square
- A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
No reason at all:
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 where 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. 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?
Perhaps the most over-used word in the English language..UP:
It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP?
Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?
We call UP our friends.
And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen.
In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions.
If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used.
It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.