English Is a Crazy Language
Ever since William Caxton published his Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye (the first book printed in English from c. 1475) English spelling versus pronunciation has been a mess.
George Bernard Shaw ridiculed it in the following example:
The word ghoti is pronounced /fish/ according to the following rules:
1. gh sounds like /f/ as in cough, enough,
2. o sounds like /i/ (ee) as in women
3. ti sounds like /sh/ as in station
Indeed. a fine kettle of fish !
(cp. also British/American: goal/jail; and Geoff/Jeff; Sean/Shawn)
But not only in spelling and pronunciation, also in logic and consistency does English lack the refinement one would expect from the world's leading language.
Thus (with thanks to that special someone who sent most of the following examples around on the Internet):
- 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.
- quicksand may work slowly,
- boxing rings are square,
- and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor a pig;
- you recite at a play, but you play at a recital
- you ship by truck and send cargo by ship
- you park on driveways and drive on parkways
- overlook with oversee, or
- a wise man with a wise guy
- a slim chance and a fat chance are the same.
- a horseless carriage, but no horseful carriage,
- a strapless gown, but no strapful gown,
- an unsung hero, but no sung hero,
- nor is there any requited love
Where are the people that
- would hurt a fly?
- Houses burn up - or down,
- you fill in a form by filling it out, and
- the alarm clock goes off by going on.
- When the stars are out, they are visible; but
- when the lights are out, they are invisible.
Here's but a few of the questions that bright young children may ask, but to which there are no answers:
Before they invented drawing boards, what did they go back to?
Can you be a closet claustrophobic?
Can you grow birds by planting birdseed?
Could someone ever get addicted to counseling? If so, how could you treat them?
Did the early settlers ever go on a camping trip?
Does anybody ever vanish with a trace?
Does the Postmaster General need a stamp of approval?
Do Lipton employees take coffee breaks?
Do Roman paramedics refer to IV's as 4's?
How can there be self-help groups?
How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell another?
How come Superman could stop bullets with his chest, but always ducked when
someone threw a gun at him?
How come you press harder on a remote control when you know the battery is dead?
How does a shelf salesman keep his store from looking empty?
How do they get a deer to cross at that yellow road sign?
How do you know when yogurt goes bad?
How do you know when you're out of invisible ink?
How is it possible to have a civil war?
How much deeper would the ocean be if sponges didn't grow in it?
If inert is to be stationary, what is ert?
If a book about failures doesn't sell, is it a success?
If a bus station is where a bus stops, and a train station is where a train stops, why
do I have a work station on my desk?
If a chronic liar tells you he is a chronic liar, do you believe him?
If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?
If a mute child swears, does his mother make him wash his hands with soap?
If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?
If it's zero degrees outside today and it's supposed to be twice as cold tomorrow,
how cold is it going to be?
If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why does he keep doing it?
If love is blind, why is lingerie so popular?
If olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from?
If people from Poland are called Poles, why aren't people from Holland
If someone with multiple personalities threatens to kill herself, is it considered a
If the cops arrest a mime, do they have to tell him he has the right to remain silent?
If the Energizer Bunny attacks someone, is it charged with battery?
If the folks at the psychic hotlines were really psychic, wouldn't they call you first?
If the #2 pencil is the most popular, why's it still #2?
If quitters never win, and winners never quit, who came up with, "Quit while you're
If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?
If white wine goes with fish, do white grapes go with sushi?
If women ran the Pentagon, would missiles and submarines be shaped differently?
If you ate pasta and anti-pasta, would you still be hungry?
If you bear a child, why do cows have a cow?
If you have an open mind why don't your brains fall out?
If you keep trying to prove Murphy's Law, will something keep going wrong?
If you spend your day doing nothing, how do you know when you're done?
If you steal a clean slate, does it go on your record?
If you take a shower (or a picture), where do you put it?
If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?
Is it possible to be totally partial?
Is it true that cannibals don't eat clowns because they taste funny?
Is there a Dr. Salt?
Is there reserved parking for non-handicapped people at the Special Olympics?
Should vegetarians eat animal crackers?
Shouldn't there be a shorter word for monosyllabic?
Since cats always land on their feet and jelly bread always lands jelly-side down,
what happens if you tie jelly bread to the back of a cat?
What color is a chameleon in a mirror?
What does it mean if you break a mirror with a rabbits foot?
What do little birdies see when they get knocked unconscious?
What do you do when you see an endangered animal that eats only endangered plants
What hair color do they put on the driver's licenses of bald men?
What happened to the first 6 ups?
What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
What is a free gift? Aren't all gifts free?
What is another word for thesaurus?
What is the speed of dark?
What part of the monkey do you use a monkey wrench on?
What was the best thing before sliced bread?
What's another word for synonym?
Where are Preparations A through G?
Where do forest rangers go to get away from it all?
Why are builders afraid to have a 13th floor, but book publishers not afraid to have
a Chapter 11?
Why are the cabs from the Yellow Cab Company painted orange?
Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?
Why are there never any artist's materials in a drawing room?
Why did kamikaze pilots wear helmets?
Why didn't Luke Skywalker tell Darth Vader to turn to the light side of the Force?
Why do airlines call flights nonstop? Won't they all stop eventually?
Why do bars advertise live bands? What does a dead band sound like?
Why do people who only eat natural foods drink decaffeinated coffee?
Why do they call it disposable douche? Is there a kind of douche you keep after
Why do they sell a pound cake that only weighs 12 ounces?
Why do we have hot water heaters?
Why do you need a driver's license to buy liquor when you can't drink and drive?
Why does your nose run, and your feet smell?
Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
Why doesn't superglue stick to its container?
Why don't you ever hear about gruntled employees?
Why is a person who plays the piano called a pianist, but a person who drives a
race car not called a racist?
Why is it called a TV set when you only get one?
Why is it so hard to remember how to spell mnemonic?
Why is it, whether you sit up or sit down, the result is the same?
Why is lemon juice mostly artificial ingredients, but dishwashing liquid contains
Why is the word abbreviate so long?
Why is there an eject button on the VCR remote? Don't you have to get up to get to
Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?
Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?