English is a Phunny(funny) language said the Big B in one of his iconic movies. It is funny indeed. How else will you explain the madness of the language. u in cut/but is pronounced as ə/ಅ/अ whereas u in put is pronounced ʊ/ಉ/उ. But u is pronounced u/ಯೂ/यू in other places like confuse and refuse. H is silent in honest and hour but not silent in height and hall.
French isn’t so irregular proudly declared my French teacher in the introductory class. But since English has now become the de-facto International language, knowing the language well has become an essential skill for success, no matter how irregular/funny it is. Club that with the fact that good English is associated with elitism in most parts of the World.
I have had the fortune of learning the language from a very early age, courtesy my “convent” school education. Especially when you have people around you who speak the language well, it comes naturally and I learnt the language from usage rather than learning grammar rules. So I never realised how difficult it must be for an adult to learn it as a foreign language.
Every grammatical concept has more exceptions than rules. Not only is the same alphabet pronounced differently, same set of sounds may be spelt differently(fair,fare). Same spelling may mean different things(fair as in skin complexion, fair as in just, gathering/mela as in village fair). Sometimes same word may mean opposite things( “Oversight” means “supervision”, “an oversight” means “not noticing something”). Although it is Anglo-saxon in origin, it has words derived from latin, greek, french and some even from Sanskrit. Add to it, the British conquered half the World and borrowed words from almost every language in the World. I am not even talking about making plurals, past tense, nouns being verbed and I can go on and on.
Only much later I realised that If I had to learn this language using language rules, I would have gone nuts.
But it is exactly this quality of the language that gives us the opportunity to play around with it. Who doesn’t love those puns,fun and silliness of the it. Here is some more interesting things about the language I had found on the net sometime.
- There is no egg in eggplant or ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
- Ship by truck, and send cargo by ship?
- Have noses that run and feet that smell?
- Park on driveways and drive on parkways?
- When a house burns up, it burns down.
- You fill in a form by filling it out, and an alarm clock goes off by going on.
- 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?
- Is cheese the plural of choose?
- In what language do people recite at a play, and play at a recital?
- Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.
Enjoy the silliness of the language and hope you have more such strangeness/awesomeness to share. This post comes as I am waiting for the book ‘English Bites’ by Manish Gupta to arrive at my doorstep.