The Answer! The trouble with English...

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Joined: 19 Dec 2005
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16 Jan 2006, 12:16 am

While 'talking' with someone at my computer tonight I just came to the realization

that the problem is not us, it's the English language!

Shades of meaning...
Two words with the same pronunciation and spelling...
Double entendres...
(everything else)

It's all the fault of English...


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16 Jan 2006, 2:46 am


English is flexible, rich, and superb at adapting and absorbing new and foreign words.
The penalty for this is a somewhat ramshackle (lovely word) structure, with all the little tricks and pot holes you can think of, and a few more.

I once read a philosophical book which appealed for all debate in that field to be in German, as it was much more precise, whatever it's other properties.

English, in its varieties, is likely to take over the world: sheer usage can win out over pure quality. (Do you remember VHS/Beta? )

Last edited by Emettman on 16 Jan 2006, 7:55 am, edited 1 time in total.


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16 Jan 2006, 5:39 am

I've always found this poem to show off the language's weirdness pretty well. Try reading it out loud -- it's tough, but imagine how much harder it must be for people whose first language isn't English!

The Chaos
by G. Nolst Trenite

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it's written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation's OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Feoffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation -- think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won't it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It's a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough --
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!! !


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16 Jan 2006, 7:42 am

The English language is such a wonderful language. It's really quite clever how a word can have so many different meanings depending on how it is used and the context surrounding it. Really, it's not the language itself that is the problem, it's all the English-speakers who aren't really all that fluent at using it, and do not know all the rules, including those context-deaf people who attempt to use it.


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16 Jan 2006, 8:22 am

danlo wrote:
The English language is such a wonderful language. It's really quite clever how a word can have so many different meanings depending on how it is used...

Yeah, wonderfully lucrative if you're a lawyer.


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16 Jan 2006, 9:27 am

very clever poem - must have taken some time...

The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on the list.


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16 Jan 2006, 9:32 am

Double entendres are great for punning.



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16 Jan 2006, 9:45 am

The poem makes me glad that I teach English to native speakers and not as a second language.


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16 Jan 2006, 12:11 pm

English is a very difficult language to learn if you are not a native speaker. It is a combination of almost every European language and isn't very similar to any of them. Unlike Spanish/French/Italian, which can all be understood a little if you speak one of those languages.

Itaque incipet.
All that glitters is not gold but at least it contains free electrons.


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16 Jan 2006, 4:45 pm

You just have to keep Your English simple and to the point to get Your point across. You do this by making sure the words that You use do not have any if possible double meanings. That is how I try to do it in the end.

Come on My children lets All get Along Okay.


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16 Jan 2006, 8:10 pm

Why is it that when people talk to those who don't understand English well, THEY BEGIN TO TALK LOUDLY AS IF IT WILL HELP SOMEHOW AND... BEGIN... TO... TAKE... LONG... PAUSES... AND... (waves hands erratically) CRAZY... (waving) HAND... GESTURES??


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17 Jan 2006, 1:11 am

hermit wrote:
Double entendres...
It's all the fault of English...

Double entendres are French!