Why English is Weird
A series of poems, sentences, and other works that describe the oddity of the English language. Have fun reading these out loud!
I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble but not you
On hiccough, thorough, slough and through.
Well done! And now you wish perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead, it’s said like bed, not bead-
for goodness’ sake don’t call it ‘deed’!
Watch out for meat and great and threat
(they rhyme with suite and straight and debt).
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth, or brother,
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s doze and rose and lose-
Just look them up- and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart-
Come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive!
I’d learned to speak it when I was five!
And yet to write it, the more I sigh,
I’ll not learn how ‘til the day I die.
Verbs: The Past Tense
The teacher claimed it was so plain,
I only had to use my brain
She said the past of throw was threw.
The past of grow -of course- was grew,
So flew must be the past of fly,
And now, my boy, your turn to try.
But when I trew,
I had no clue, if mow was mew -
Like know and knew
Or was it knowed
Like snow and snowed
The teacher frowned at me and said
The past of feed was - plainly - fed.
Fed up, I knew then what I ned:
I took a break, and out I snoke.
She shook and quook (or quaked or quoke?)
With raging anger out she broke:
“Your ignorance you want to hide?
Tell me the past form of collide!”
But how on earth should I decide
If it’s collid (Like hide and hid)
Or else - from all that I surmose,
The past of rise was simple rose,
And that of ride was surely rode
So of collide must be collode?
Oh damn these English verbs, I thought
The whole thing absolutely stought !
Of English I have had enough.
These verbs of yours are far too tough.
Bolt upright in my chair I sat,
And said to her “That’s that. I quat!”.
- The bandage was wound around the wound.
- The farm was used to produce produce.
- The rubbish dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
- We must polish the Polish furniture.
- He could lead if he would get the lead out.
- The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
- Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
- A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum
- When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
- I did not object to the object.
- The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
- There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
- They were too close to the door to close it.
- The buck does funny things when the does are present.
- A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
- To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
- The wind was too strong to wind the sail
- After a number of injections my jaw got number.
- Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
- I had to subject the subject to a series of tests
- How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
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 (Surprise!). Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.
Quicksand works 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? 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? Is it an odd, or an end?
If teachers taught, why don’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 and down at the same time and, in which you fill in a form by filling it out, and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.
Why do you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway. English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not 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 while we’re at it, why doesn’t “Buick” rhyme with “quick”?