Why English Is So Hard

Discussion in 'Evolution of Language' started by Ken Anderson, Jun 23, 2015.

  1. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Greeter
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    Why English Is So Hard

    We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
    But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
    One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
    Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
    You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
    Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

    If the plural of man is always called men,
    Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
    If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
    And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
    If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
    Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

    Then one may be that, and three would be those,
    Yet hat in the plural would never be hose.
    And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
    We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
    But though we say mother, we never say methren.
    Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
    But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim.

    -- Unknown
     
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  2. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    A duck may paddle and waddle, but it may not poddle or woddle.
     
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  3. Shirley Martin

    Shirley Martin Veteran Member
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  4. Jennifer Graves

    Jennifer Graves Active Member
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    That's fun :D
    I had to save it
     
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  5. Corie Henson

    Corie Henson Very Well-Known Member
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    This is not to be serious but since English was the medium of instruction since the first grade, you can imagine the horrors that we had gone through with that language. I remember our science teacher in grade 6 from whom we learned the word decibel as de-sigh-bell. Another teacher taught us tweh-let that was actually toilet. There are so many more examples of wrong pronunciation that we only discovered when we were in college.

    By the way, I just heard that news the there are 31 Filipino words that entered the Oxford English Dicitionary this year. One of which is carnap to mean stealing the car or vehicle. Another is pulutan to mean finger food in the drinking session so if you are not drinking, that pulutan is just a simple snack.
     
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  6. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    I've worked in a few countries in Africa and it was always possible to tell how people had learned English, by which I mean whether it was "British" or "American" English. You'd get some people writing "centre" and others "center", etc. Just another thing to add to the complexity.

    One of the problems with English is that words have arrived from so many different sources. Greek, Latin, French and Germanic languages all do battle with each other.
     
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  7. Carlota Clemens

    Carlota Clemens Well-Known Member
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    I spent this Sunday reading old books, and found an "extended" version of the original rhyme Ken posted above, that concludes with the author saying being in age to belong to SENIORSonly Club, read on :)

    We'll begin with box, and the plural is boxes;
    But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.

    Then one fowl is goose, but two are called geese,
    Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.

    You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
    Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.

    If the plural of man is always called men,
    Why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?

    The cow in the plural may be cows or kine,
    But the plural of vow is vows, not vine.

    I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
    If I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?

    If one is a tooth, and a whole set are teeth,
    Why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?

    If the singular is this and the plural is these,
    Why shouldn't the plural of kiss be named kese?

    Then one may be that, and three may be those,
    Yet the plural of hat would never be hose;

    We speak of a brother, and also of brethren,
    But though we say mother, we never say methren.

    The masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
    But imagine the feminine she, shis, and shim!

    So our English, I think, you all will agree,
    Is the craziest language you ever did see.

    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 in brother.

    And here is not a match for there,
    Or dear and fear for bear and pear.

    And then there's dose 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, then thwart and cart.
    Come, come, I've hardly made a start.

    A dreadful language? Why, man alive,
    I'd learned to talk it when I was five,
    And yet to write it, the more I tried,
    I hadn't learned it at fifty-five!
     
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  8. Helene Lawson

    Helene Lawson Active Member
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    Haha, cool poem :D I've learned English in about 2 years, for me it's an easy language.
    In my opinion German is very hard though. :(
     
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  9. Bill Boggs

    Bill Boggs Veteran Member
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    I tried for years to learn Spanish, I tried for thirty minutes to learn German, I'm still trying to learn English.
     
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  10. Carlota Clemens

    Carlota Clemens Well-Known Member
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    I have always loved how German sounds and have a crush for the German culture, but since Germany standardized the language grammar and spelling rules by the turn of the century with the goal to unify different dialects in the German speaking countries, now the language seems harder than ever and look less appealing.

    As in example, I loved to write this character ß equivalent for actual double ss or those words using dieresis such as schön, rather than two vocals (schoen.) However the hardest part for me are words that string together in order to make a new one.

    It's said that the longer is this Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungs, meaning ""law delegating beef label monitoring" is simply unpronounceable to me and hard to remember how to write it from memory. Here is brought to you via copy&paste, LOL
     
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  11. Hannah Davis

    Hannah Davis Active Member
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    This poem is so true about how confusing the English language can be. I use to not give it much thought, after all I grew up speaking it and learning to read it. But there are words that sound exactly alike that have entriely different meaning as stated in the poem. Then there are words like cough and though, both have the ough ending to them but the pronounciation is totally different. Then there is silent E it can change the pronouciation of a word and its meaning. These are just some examples of some confusing aspects of the english language. This poem truly reflects how much confusion is in this language that's for sure. I don't envy a person who has to learn to understand english because its not easy to understand when you are someone raised speaking it.
     
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  12. Tom Locke

    Tom Locke Very Well-Known Member
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    It would be a lot simpler if we used accents in the way that Slavic languages do. I remember being greeted at a hotel in a country in the Balkans as "Mr Lotch-ka". It was an entirely understandable way of pronouncing my name. They would have assumed that the "c" was soft. When I received a visa to visit Russia, my name was spelt as "Lok" (albeit in Cyrillic). Very sensible and completely phonetic.
     
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  13. Ken Anderson

    Ken Anderson Greeter
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    The product of speaking is called speech. Why does one use an "ea" while the other uses double e's?
     
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  14. Gloria Mitchell

    Gloria Mitchell Very Well-Known Member
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    We do not speak proper English in the US.Myself included. We speak American Slang...and is a bit confusing from state to state
     
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  15. Chrissy Cross

    Chrissy Cross Veteran Member
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    Yep, should be peech and not peach then.
     
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  16. Holly Saunders

    Holly Saunders Veteran Member
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    LOL....well Come to England, the home of the English Language and you'll find exactly the same thing..from county to county the dialect is different....and mostly southerners have difficulty understanding the broad dialects of those who live in the Midlands, and the North of the country...
     
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  17. Hugh Dowling

    Hugh Dowling Member
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    ...It also may not piddle, or widdle....!!
     
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  18. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    teach....taught
    speak.....spaught?
     
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  19. Patsy Faye

    Patsy Faye Veteran Member
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    LOL :p
     
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  20. Hugh Dowling

    Hugh Dowling Member
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    One can only imagine the effect it`s having on the traditional dialect of the South West, what with all those countless people who have re-located there from the North...the Midlands,..AND the east coast over the past thirty years, or so. ALL bringing their dialects with them...!! In fact, i suspect that there`s an entirely NEW dialect already in the process of evolution...combining a unique combination of all of them...!! It`ll be a bit hard to understand at first, though...!!
     
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  21. Bobby Cole

    Bobby Cole Veteran Member
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    I posted it somewhere before but I'll bring it back here.
    About 20 years ago, a black English professor at UCLA said that because of the past slave trade in the U.S. and the African dialects that were brought with the slaves there is a new standard when conjugating the verb for of "I am".
    She further explained (I cannot remember her name) that it is now proper English to conjugate that verb form as:
    I be, you be, he she and it be's.

    With that teaching it is no wonder that some folks find plain old 'Merican or English so dern hard.
     
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  22. Don Alaska

    Don Alaska Well-Known Member
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    Along the same line:
    1) The bandage was *wound* around the *wound*.
    2) The farm was used to *produce produce*.
    3) The dump was so full that it had to *refuse* more *refuse*.
    4) We must *polish* the *Polish* furniture.
    5) He could *lead*if he would get the *lead* out.
    6) The soldier decided to *desert* his dessert in the *desert*.
    7) Since there is no time like the *present*, he thought it was time to *present* the *present*.
    8) A *bass* was painted on the head of the *bass* drum.
    9) When shot at, the *dove dove *into the bushes.
    10) I did not *object* to the *object*.
    11) The insurance was *invalid* for the *invalid*.
    12) There was a *row* among the oarsmen about how to *row*.
    13) They were too *close* to the door to *close* it.
    14) The buck *does* funny things when the *does* are present.
    15) A seamstress and a *sewer* fell down into a *sewer* line.
    16) To help with planting, the farmer taught his *sow* to *sow*.
    17) The *wind* was too strong to *wind* the sail.
    18) Upon seeing the *tear* in the painting I shed a *tear*.
    19) I had to *subject* the *subject* to a series of tests.
    20) 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 a 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. 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, 2meese? One index, 2 indices? 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? If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? 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? 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 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, 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.
     
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  23. Patsy Faye

    Patsy Faye Veteran Member
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    I just don't know how foreigners learn the language, I admire them as some are very fluent
    Mind you, the French, not much better - couldn't get to grips with that at all, back to front it is :confused:
     
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  24. Don Alaska

    Don Alaska Well-Known Member
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    In my experience, Spanish is the easiest, although I think Italian is probably similar. Learning to read Japanese is the most difficult since they use multiple alphabets in the same article.
     
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  25. Patsy Faye

    Patsy Faye Veteran Member
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    Japanese is fascinating
    Italian - my favourite language to listen to (only know a few words)
     
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