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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

As a foreigner to the English language ...

I have made my fair share of mistakes. Mispronounced freely, grammatically re-arranged sentence structure and invented new words without conscience.
After many years of trying I have come to the conclusion that regardless how hard you try a second language will never be perfect.
In my anger upon relaizing this I was over-joyed to discover this:


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.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work 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, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index 2 indices?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you bote your tongue?

Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. 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? Park on driveways and drive on parkways?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while quite a lot and quite a few are alike?

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

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.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity 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 the lights 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.

I feel much better now, thanks!

Thursday Trivia!

"She was nicknamed the “Angel of the Battlefield” for her efforts to aid soldiers wounded during the American Civil War. After working in Europe with the International Red Cross, she organized its American branch, and became its first president. She thought the Red Cross should give aid during peacetime disaster too, and thus she supervised the flood relief following the Johnstown flood in 1889."

Off you go hinting!


Posted by Minka :: 1:34 pm :: 38 Royal Subjects

Link to this Royal Decree!


At 14:14, Anonymous the amoeba said...

I thought you filled up a form. But that's what I get for having to deal with multiple forms of English.

Of course, if England had just put up better walls, so it had a better show at keeping all those Celtic and Roman and (dare I say it) Scandinavian barbarians (some of whom imported French, which had been borrowed from the Romans) the hell out of the neighborhood ... :p

At 14:46, Blogger Minka said...

Fill up a form? I think that´s a varient I haven´t heard yet :)
Isn´t it typical to go blaming things on the Angles, Saxons and Jutes. It´s not like they can defend themselves. Besides, I doubt they had an extensive vocabulary more than grunting and pounding their chests a lot.

At 16:14, Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 16:29, Blogger Doug said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 16:37, Blogger Doug said...

One day I met a foreigner who taught me my own tongue.
For if I were corrigible, there's no precourse to pun.
I gave a whirl to straighten up my odder forms of speech,
And keep the idioms at hand well within her reach.

And when the lesson ended, I asked her for a horse.
She said "I have three pieces. Each in good health, of course.
Der Hengst, die Stute, das Fohlen all do well in their paces."
I said "you must be German with your head so full of cases."

Sorry for not editing before hitting "publish." You can blame American English, if you wish.

At 18:11, Anonymous Logo™ said...

I think English is pretty ridiculous, and I have GREAT respect for those who learn it later in life.
In Italy I taught conversational English to a teenaged girl. We would spend 45 minutes on correct English and 45 minutes on how Americans actually talk.
"Dude, don't be such a nancy!"
More than once as I explained a nonsensical detail of the language she said, "Why do you people make this so hard?!"

At 21:12, Anonymous the amoeba said...

I doubt they had an extensive vocabulary more than grunting and pounding their chests a lot.

Hoo! Fighting words! Gird thou thine linguistic loins, lest the posse descend at unawares. The Venerable Bede, the Bard of Beowulf, and Théoden Lord of Rohan seek thee. ;)

Speaking of linguistics, spare a thought for the poor saps who have to translate American English advertising slogans into real language. Things like "99% Fat Free!" and "The Strong Quicker-Picker-Upper".

Sometimes it's really hard to keep the "t" out of "idiomatic".

At 21:13, Anonymous the amoeba said...

that would be "the second 't' ..."

At 22:42, Blogger SquareGirl said...

yeah. we're kinda wierd.

I don't think I realized how odd English was until I started teaching children, and then I realied it made absolutely no sense.

At 00:02, Blogger Doug said...

He was born in Kansas City and became famous in New York writing about words. His last name sounds like the sound of a songbird.

At 00:20, Blogger Minka said...

Doug, that was actually brilliant. I love it! *throws him a bone*

Logo, why indeed! It is harder and even in Iceland we can tell a foreigner by his proper speech. Anybody that says: "Hvad segir thu gott?" is foreign. icelandics shortened this to a lovely "hvasegirdu" in all its spitting glory :)

Oc, I am proud that my studies of English did include Beowulf and The Venerable Bede and I read tolkien too. How pretentious am I?!

Squaregirl, well what I know is that we can blame "The Great Vowel Shift" in teh 16th century for most of our trouble. Just between Chaucer and Shakespeare. STupid aristocracy raised tehir vowels to distinguish themselves from the rural people that were moving into town areas...

Doug, isn´t there some paperwork calling your name?

At 00:46, Blogger Minka said...

Hey, I switched to new blogger and it is awesome. I can use colours an stuff and put words into the column middle. How exciting *grins from one ear ot the next*

At 00:51, Blogger Doug said...

Good sale. Is it, like, Lucy in The Sky with Diamonds cool?

At 00:54, Blogger Doug said...

As to the trivia (nice red, by the way)

They say the truth finally will free ya,
And through hard times honesty see ya.
So this limerick
Must do the trick
To tell you I have no idea.

At 00:59, Blogger Minka said...

Doug, it is very cool and more sophisticated. That´s why I think you shouldn´t go there ;)
You throw in the towel? Doug?! You ok?

At 01:34, Anonymous quilldancer said...

I teach English to second language learners. When they wail, "Why!" I always answer them in Spanish: Porque engles es loco!"

As to your Thursday Trivia, did you know she received the Iron Cross of Merit from the German Emperor?

At 01:39, Blogger tsduff said...

Nice trivia about the English language Minka. I'm proud of all its idiosyncrasies.

Did you know that certain songbird is one of the few mimic-birds who sing at night? And I thought Ms.Iceberg (FLO) was a SHE.

At 01:39, Blogger Minka said...

I donæt know much Spanish yet: but I take it to mean: Because English is crazy!

And youa re correct she did on fact recieve such a Prussian honor!

At 01:49, Blogger Trundling Grunt said...

IIRC - born in Oxford where she is also buried. She went to Cuba, but it was ok back then. And she died 2 years before the Great War, unless you're American in which case she died 5 years previously.

And what do you expect of English? It's the ultimate mongrel language, made up of bits and pieces left behind by various and sundry invaders and empires. That's its joy.

At 02:32, Blogger SquareGirl said...

She founded the first (or at least one of the first) Universalist churches.

At 09:12, Blogger IDiveAtNight said...

Hoi Minka. I was so sure this was going to be Florence Nightingale, then I looked it up and was completely wrong. (Flo did similar work, but during another war, in another place.)

As for English. I is a goodly speaker. I knows all over that language. Party off, dude!

At 11:07, Blogger Minka said...

trundling grunt, I had ambitions that a universal language shoudl at least make a bit of sense :)
What is IIRC short for?

Square, she and someone else with her. Correct!

Morgan, yeah they are very similar, although on different continents :)

At 11:11, Blogger Minka said...

terry, so I missed you there. yesterday we cross posted and today I missed you again :) Mrs. Nightingale, however, is not the answer. Although such a beautiful name.

At 11:26, Blogger Doug said...

It was her right sleeve that she wore her heart on
As she sought the most wounded to start on.
With cannons for lighting,
She dragged me from the fighting
And the field that I left my best part on.

This could be embarrassing but I woke up with the answer as so many long passed soldiers did.

At 11:42, Blogger goldennib said...

The English language is crazy, but interesting. I guess that's what happens when you smoosh so many foreign words into the mix.

You have a very good handle on it, though.


She was born on Christmas Day 1821.

At 11:50, Blogger Minka said...

Doug, well done. And an even more illuminating after-thought. You are in full gear today :) It wouldn´t have been Thursday yesterday, without your limerick :) And I could-but i won´t- ask about the best part one leaves behind on teh battlefield...

goldennib, yes she was. 25th 1821. You wouldn´t happen to know the exact time? :)

At 12:51, Blogger IDiveAtNight said...

I think that's "innocence" which is left on the battlefield. The one thing you can't get back.

At 13:14, Blogger Minka said...

Morgan...that might be one of the things true, but i´d ratehr have my head and otehr extremeties attached to my body, than innocence ;)
Oh and also: I can´t access your blog, isnæt it time you switched to new blogger?

At 15:37, Blogger Mo'a said...

Hausenfeffer, hausenfeffer.....
I never get my fill on the idio...syn...crasy of the English language it is whelming and whelms me to no end, that I must be overwhelmed when I only feel whelmed.
As for your Thursday Brain Teaser, I don't have time to google :)sorry...I will however come back and show how very clever and smart a..ed I can be.

At 15:40, Blogger Mo'a said...

OOOOps!!!! that would be Hasenpfeffer, hasenpfeffer.....hope I did not say anything obscene....but I do like mine with Juniper Berries.

At 21:20, Anonymous neva said...

well, she was born in our favorite state (Massachussetts), her father helped found the first Unitarian Church in that area, *and* she is the most famous nurse in American history, tho' she was never a "real" nurse. also, i think i may be related to her -- since some of my ancestors had the same surname and came from the same area.

GREAT brain-teaser, Penugin! and i'm laughing at your wonderful ahd oh-so-accurate assessment of the English Language -- which more often than not is -- in the words of Lewis Carroll, "curiouser and curiouser". *claps*

oh, and i see another one hit the panic button and converted to Blogger's evil beta ways. (said the bitchy woman complaining, because now she has to type all her information every single time she leaves a comment) sigh.

At 21:47, Blogger tsduff said...

Okay, I'm stumped. STUMPED: To cause to be at a loss; baffle: stumped the teacher with a question

At 23:44, Blogger Minka said...

Moa, hasenpfeffer is so very cute! Thank you!

neva, see I knew you would know more than I know. And yes...I am a creature of habit, the minor change from blogger to beta blogger was tough enough, for now. Sorry you have to type in so much, I didnæt know that would be one of teh consequences...but hey, I have to change whole browsers to view Moa and Miz B´s blogs...

terry, stumped you may be, but your English sure is fine this lovely Thursday!

At 00:05, Blogger Jamie Dawn said...

Count me in as one of the verbally insane.

Your English skills are superb, my dear. You are a very intelligent, young woman and should be darn proud of yourself!!

I grew up in the Bay Area, and I often rode the BART train. That stands for Bay Area Rapid Transit, and it is my hint for the brain teaser.


At 01:48, Blogger Trundling Grunt said...

IIRC - if I remember correctly.


At 06:36, Anonymous neva said...

well, i don't think anyone need be clairvoyant to figure this one out. she was a dedicated woman, that's for sure. why, i bet the only time she went into a bar was to find something to use for antiseptic purposes.

oy. too tired to be clever, i'm reduced to the lamest hints ever. xox

(i sure hope you can read the words in italics now that you're using Blogger Beta, otherwise my comment will make even *less* sense!)

At 21:23, Blogger snavy said...

I've wondered all that stuff about the English language before too.

It's all very confuzzling.

At 02:49, Blogger G said...

She deserved a box of chocolates with the same surname.

Back to English - it is a totally befuddling lanugage especially as I have to dissect it through my children's eyes. In what other language would you drive on a parkway and park in a driveway?


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