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Old 09-14-2020, 07:57 PM   #1
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The absurdity of the English language.

There are times when I hesitate to claim the English language as my mother tongue. I did take a few years of French in high school and college, and I can understand bits and pieces of other languages here and there, But English is in fact the language with which I am most familiar but sometimes even I don’t recognize it.

In what other language can the same word mean two, three, four, or five different things? Or, in other languages, do they have as many homonyms as English where one word can be spelled correctly a dozen different ways to mean completely different and totally unrelated concepts?

There is this dictionary I used in college; it’s very big and impressive, but when you look up the definition for a simple little word like “up” and see that the definition takes up half the page, you not only understand why the dictionary is so big and heavy, but you also begin to suspect the wisdom of people who choose to speak and use such an unwieldy language to effectively communicate with other people.

Camp is a noun, a verb, and an adjective, at last count. If you think stream refers to a peaceful body of water that would be pleasant to camp nearby, you obviously haven’t spoken recently with a younger airstreamer who is in fact inquiring about ways to watch cute kitten videos on their mobile phone.

And even when we agree upon the meaning of long established words, we then go about and use them in strange ways: why do we park on driveways but drive on parkways? How is it that your nose runs and your feet smell?

And don’t even get me started on spelling!

I’ve been using this language for decades, but don’t ask me to try to explain it to you. You may have some interesting examples to share. I feel especially sorry for non-native speakers of the language: how they must suffer! I read that every day some ancient, unique and beautiful language dies out somewhere in this vast world, A tragedy made more tragic by the realization that it was undoubtably a more logical and grammatically consistent language than English, And that the people who once breathed life into their lyrical language most likely abandoned it for English, of all the choices, instead.
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Old 09-14-2020, 09:10 PM   #2
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I hear ya!

If pro and con are are antonyms, does that mean the congress is the opposite of progress?
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Old 09-15-2020, 06:28 AM   #3
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What’s more dangerous, a substance that is flammable or inflammable?
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Old 09-15-2020, 06:48 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by GetawA-S View Post
What’s more dangerous, a substance that is flammable or inflammable?
That would entirely depend upon which side of the pond you are sitting.
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:14 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GetawA-S View Post
What’s more dangerous, a substance that is flammable or inflammable?
Inflammable is more dangerous. Flammable means it will burn. Inflammable means it will burn violently. In other words, inflammable is highly flammable. <scratches head>
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:24 AM   #6
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English tends to be an "analytic" language (as opposed to "synthetic" ones). The examples folks have been noting here are indications of it. Other "analytic" languages include Mandarin, Vietnamese, and others. The Wikipedia has a short overview article on the distinction.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analytic_language
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Old 09-15-2020, 07:38 AM   #7
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You should read a book called "The Mother Tongue". It's very interesting and it addresses the history of the English language and all the varieties.

I agree that the language is challenging. It has been many years since I read the book, but as I recall, the English language has over 200,000 words in common use. The French language, by comparison, has only about 100,000 words on common use. As a result, there are some things that you can say in English that you can't in French. For example, there's not a way to distinguish between your home and your house in French. It's a subtlety, but it's important in the English language.

The thing that irks me the most about the English language lately is the use of verbs as nouns. It can be seen on these forums frequently. People often talk about their "install" of a new part on their Airstream. In corporate America, I frequently hear people say that that have an ask, or that they have a solve. This drives me nuts.
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Old 09-15-2020, 08:02 AM   #8
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Some of Andy Rooney's favorite subjects.
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Old 09-15-2020, 08:19 AM   #9
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Don't forget Miss Emily Litella (sp?).

Never mind.

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Old 09-15-2020, 08:32 AM   #10
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Maybe that's why spell checker's have such a hard time. Here's "An Owed to the Spelling Checker", one of my favorite poems.
----------------------------------------------------------------
Take a brake and sea what your spell checker can do fore
yew. This just in and I thawed you'd like it.

An Owed to the Spelling Checker
-- Jerry Zar, Dean of the Graduate School
-- Jerrold H. Zar. Graduate School. Northern Illinois University
Northwestern Illinois University
===============================

I have a spelling checker
It came with my PC
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.
Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh
My checker tolled me sew.
A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when aye rime.
Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule
The checker pour o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.
Be fore a veiling checkers
Hour spelling mite decline,
And if were lacks or have a laps,
We wood be maid to wine.
Butt now bee cause my spelling
Is checked with such grate flare,
Their are know faults with in my cite,
Of non eye am a wear.
Now spelling does knot phase me,
It does knot bring a tier.
My pay purrs awl due glad den
With wrapped words fare as hear.
To rite with care is quite a feet
Of witch won should be proud.
And wee mussed dew the best wee can,
Sew flaws are knot aloud.
Sow ewe can sea why aye dew prays
Such soft ware four pea seas.
And why I brake in two averse
By righting want too pleas.
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Old 09-15-2020, 09:19 AM   #11
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Too damn many people all over the world trying to use it that's the biggest problem.
If 'yer gonna speak American 'ya gotta live in 'Meraca.

Piece...☮️

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Old 09-15-2020, 09:48 AM   #12
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My mother was a War Bride from the Netherlands. Also known as Holland. A 'Wooden Head' was a slang term which could get you punched by a Dutchman. She spoke NO English. She came with my Dad to Northwestern Montana, full of Swedes who spoke English and Swedish... but no 'Dutch' in the late 1940's.

She was terrified of encountering... Indians. Not from Indiana, but those from the Flathead Indian Reservation that 'summered' in 'Somers' along the Flathead Lake.

Languages evolve. Slang can replace current words and have different meanings depending on their use in a sentence. A good writer can make sentences that two individuals understand totally opposite meanings.

There... their? Pronounce those.

I had two 'Dutch Uncles' in the Netherlands.

Dutch Uncle... A person giving firm but benevolent advice.

You know on a date, Going Dutch? A totally different meaning.

Had I combined those two sentences above... you would be screwed.

Old People recall English as they learned and were taught. Times change. Language evolves. Get with it.

My mother taught me English... with a Dutch accent. The words may have been spelled the same... but with the accent, I needed to add additional vowels in First Grade. The teacher thought I had 'issues', until she spoke with my Mum, Mom...

There are 26 Synonyms for Shove It. They can be found on the Internet. Maybe select 'push out of one's way' works. Maybe not.

Language is a Tool. Not a profession, like Lawyer's 'English'. Old People... those over 30, learn some new terms and use them on the Forum.

I have been 'Airstreamed' today by an Oliver.
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Old 09-15-2020, 11:06 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GetawA-S View Post
What’s more dangerous, a substance that is flammable or inflammable?
As I recall, the term flammable came into general use as bozos often were confused by the word inflammable thinking the prefix "in" meant a negative.

The history of spelling in English is interesting in that way back, many of the early printers in England came from the Netherlands as modern printing was invented there and they were protestants as well. Not knowing the language and wanting the type to line up neatly, they often inserted letters in words to this effect.

English is also very much a living language where new words easily enter the lexicon - often from foreign languages. For example, I live in a bungalow which is a style of housing in the former British controlled India. Before a word is accepted in the French lexicon, it must first be accepted by the Academie Francaise. To an English speaker, this idea seems bonkers.
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Old 09-15-2020, 02:48 PM   #14
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In my grandma's house, if you got your words or people mixed up, or otherwise said something that made no sense on closer examination, you were said to be "speaking Dutch," for some reason, which, in itself, made no sense.

The French Language police are tasked with keeping French "pure," lest it get messed up with unkempt foreign words. They are having fits coming up with French versions of business and computer jargon, heaven forbid an English word slip through! On this, they have not yet surrendered, but are under siege.

A guy was getting annoyed standing in the checkout line at the grocery store, listening to some ladies jabber on in front of him in a language he did not understand. Finally he rudely interrupted saying, "This is America, not Mexico! If you're going to live here, learn to speak English!" The startled lady said "Excuse me?" The man snorted "You heard me!" The lady replied, Well sir, for your information I was speaking Navaho. If you want to speak English, go to England!"

The following is a legitimate, grammatically correct and bonafide English sentence: "Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo." It's not the same word repeated over and over.
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Old 09-15-2020, 04:02 PM   #15
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Oh yeah, Don’t forget to be punctual

A woman without her man is nothing

A woman, without her man, is nothing.

A woman: without her, man is nothing!
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Old 09-16-2020, 05:59 PM   #16
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Then there are also the regional dialects.

Airstream salesman was explaining how the trailer was flawless.

The customer said “really then whaddy’all walk on?“
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Old 09-16-2020, 06:10 PM   #17
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When we moved to Alabama from California I had to translate ‘Southern Drawl’ and regional vocabulary differences for out three California-born kids for six weeks.

The hardest one to parse for them was a news report from a resident of a small town that had been flattened by a tornado. The guy said, “...we thought we wuz goin’ to be kilt or worse!” Still trying to figure out that one.
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Old 09-17-2020, 08:07 AM   #18
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A friend of mine who is an Americanized Japanese-Brazilian, (yup) occasionally struggled with English. Siri would never recognize his accent whenever he tried to use his iPhone. Yet he worked for several years in a call center!

For some reason, he was a huge fan of Alvin and the Chipmunks, only he always referred to them as "Alvin and the Chipmonkies" which, I must admit, is even funnier. I did, once or twice, try to point out that "Chipmonkies" was not a real English word, but then, the Chipmunks aren't real Chipmunks either.

My favorite recollection is how he would combine idioms in the most unique and amusing ways. The most cherished examples I remember:

"That's a stepping stone in the right direction." and "No one wants the white-elephant in the room." and "It's not rocket surgery."

I now try to use these at every opportunity.
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Old 09-17-2020, 08:35 AM   #19
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Yes, English can be weird.

It can be understood through tough, thorough thought though.
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Old 09-17-2020, 09:19 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rmkrum View Post
When we moved to Alabama from California I had to translate ‘Southern Drawl’ and regional vocabulary differences for out three California-born kids for six weeks.

The hardest one to parse for them was a news report from a resident of a small town that had been flattened by a tornado. The guy said, “...we thought we wuz goin’ to be kilt or worse!” Still trying to figure out that one.
If you thought that accent was tough, try this one. Yup - they do speak like that in Bonavista, Newfoundland. Even more interesting, in Trinity less than an hour away, the accent is completely different.

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