Mobile menu

Off topic: The ambiguities of English
Thread poster: NancyLynn

NancyLynn
Canada
Local time: 20:45
Member (2002)
French to English
+ ...

Moderator of this forum
Mar 5, 2004

I



Here is something I like to quote when my students complain that French is too hard to learn or comprehend :

This little treatise on our lovely language is only for the brave.
Reasons why the English language is so hard to learn:
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's no time like the present, 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. After a number of injections my jaw got number.
19. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
20. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
21. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

Let's face it - English is a crazy language.

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'll
find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and
that 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?

And 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.
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 other 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 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.
People, not computers, invented English 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.

Nancy


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Henk Peelen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:45
Member (2002)
German to Dutch
+ ...
English pronunciation part 1 Mar 5, 2004

What me really surprises about English is the pronunciation. Words written in a absolute different (some just one letter) way, are pronounced (nearly) the same

eye, I
to, too, two, toe
buy, by, bye
and, end
no, know

Some words are just one letter (I, a), while the pronunciation of some letters is a mouthful (double u)

As to your last list of curiousities, Dutch has the next ones in common.
noses that run
feet that smell
wise man and wise guy are opposites
your house can burn up as it burns down
an alarm goes off by going on.
and a lot more

Dutch has a similar vagueness in verbs and nouns. The plural of most nouns end on -en, but the infinitive and plural forms of nearly all verbs as well.

So,
Hou je van vliegen?
could mean
Do you like to fly?
but also
Do you like flies?

vliegen vliegen = flies are flying

Forming the plural of a noun by changing the main vowel is something English has in common with German.

[Edited at 2004-03-06 20:06]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Henk Peelen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:45
Member (2002)
German to Dutch
+ ...
English pronunciation part 2: Yankee, no tankee! Mar 6, 2004

Sometimes you don’t understand why English is used so much in business communication.

When somebody calls you and speaks English, you sometimes don’t know what happens to you.
The stupidity of the phone call immediately strikes you. Without any warning they start to complain about their mood. Some are “mourning”, but most people admit without any reserve to be “high”. Well, that seems credible to me, you can’t make any sense of their attitude and language. After letting them a little go ahead with their uninvited extolling of their translation agency, you do best to interrupt them and ask them what rate they happen to think about. If you subsequentely ask if it would be possible to agree on a more realistic rate, they shout not very scrupulous “sorry, I’m a freight knot”. Whatever next! Do translation agencies have anything to do with transport companies. Never suspected!
Well, you'd suppose them to clear off, don't you think so? Forget it! They like to blame you! Rub your eyes! Now you'll hear something which seems to me to be a slight accusation: "if you don't believe it, you might like to check out our site: Double you, double you, double you ..." Of course I interrupt them here to ask what they really want: am I allowed to straighten up after being doubled, or do they want to fold me eightfold?

But waidaminut. It’s getting worse and worse. The sting is in the tail! At the end of the call you can count on that stupid “tanks, buy!”. Well, I stopped explaining that I have no room and money for, or interest in tanks, because in that case they start to surprise you with the same vagueness as above: you’ll hear that thin excuse “I just meant to say “could buy”. Wrong Yankee, Henkie could NOT buy your tankee!
Although I hate to slam the receiver down, I sometimes wonder if that wouldn't be the best way to keep the phone call within certain limits.
Be sure I don’t lie! It seems they feel my strong aversion of vagueness and proceed with the next cheek “tanks anyway”. Anyway? No way “anyway” Away with!

The most amazing part of English business communication seems to me the fact that they never thank you personally, but via the media. Didn’t you note that? At the end of a show, radio broadcast or whatever, they like to thank all commercial active people indirectly with “thanks for your company” I have to admit that they also thank you(r translation company) while you’re on holiday, but still it seems quite impersonal to me.
No mourning however, they seem to be more benevolent than skilled.

[Edited at 2004-03-08 09:59]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Henk Peelen  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 02:45
Member (2002)
German to Dutch
+ ...
English pronunciation part 3: Yankee, come back with your tankee Mar 6, 2004

In 1944 - 1946 a lot of British / Canadian / American / Polish (besides others) troops were in The Netherlands. A girl fell in love with an allied soldier that unfortunately had to go to the German city Schuime (or should Schuime mean Germany?). I guess she talked more or less English with him, when he was in Holland. Now she wrote him a love letter.

Hawaai you, mebie goed. Aim denk so. Aai hef drie tetter geraaid, you no raait. Wot you forgeth. Wan kom you bek. Efridee automobiel langs streeft me denk Bill. Wo niks neffer. You verry goed. Un little sjik sjik. Aai no onder soolje. Aai no leikt dat, you is the loofiest Boi in woreld. Aai loof you. Plies go toe de shoup voor fotograaf. Kom kwik bek uit Schuime. Schuime no koet. Kurrels no goed, allen slets. Dis peper koet voorraait anders thank. Aai lykt to merrie you soen. Wen aai denk an you aai plandi kraayen moeten. Aai stik soms vrom kraaien.
Wo koet. Aai kan wraait Englsy wel. Aai thenk aai go finnis met wryd raaiten. Aai em hepie woor is finish. Wy vlymboomen no. No piepel ded mor. Mach kessen goed lak in Schuime. Remember an de fotograaf.

YOU KURREL


I think this should mean:
Hawaai you, mebie goed. Aim denk so. = How are you? Maybe good. I think so.
Aai hef drie tetter geraaid, you no raait. Wot you forgeth. = I have written three letters, you wrote no one. What did you forget?
Wan kom you bek. Efridee automobiel langs streeft me denk Bill. Wo niks neffer. = When do you come back? Everyday a car drives through the street I think “Bill”. Well, nix, never.
You verry goed. Un little sjik sjik. Aai no onder soolje. = You are very good. I’m a little sick. I’m solo now.
Aai no leikt dat, you is the loofiest Boi in woreld. Aai loof you. = I don’t like that, you are the most lovely boy in the world.
Plies go toe de shoup voor fotograaf. = Please go to the photographer.
Kom kwik bek uit Schuime. Schuime no koet. Kurrels no goed, allen slets. = Come back quickly from Schuime. Schuime is not good. Girls not good, all are sluts.
Dis peper koet voorraait anders thank. Aai lykt to merrie you soen. This paper could make you changing your mind. I like to mary you soon.
Wen aai denk an you aai plandi kraayen moeten. Aai stik soms vrom kraaien. = When I think of you I have to cry a lot. Somestimes I choke with crying.
Wo koet. Aai kan wraait Englsy wel. Aai thenk aai go finnis met wryd raaiten. = How good! I can write English well. I think I stop writing.
Aai em hepie woor is finish. Wy vlymboomen no. No piepel ded mor. = I am happy war is over. We don't see flyin' bombs anymore. No people dead anymore.
Mach kessen goed lak in Schuime. Remember an de fotograaf. = Much kisses & good luck in Schuime. Remember to visit the photographer.

YOUR GIRL


Well, tears and bring other girls into discredit are strong female weapons. I don't know if she managed to urge him to change his mind, however.

By the way (most of time off road) 6700 British, 4100 Canadian, 1135 American, 630 Polish, 36 Belgian. 32 French and 9 Norway troops died this period for the liberation of The Netherlands

Thanks anyway

[Edited at 2004-03-08 11:36]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Javier Herrera
Spanish
same here May 14, 2004

NancyLynn wrote:

Here is something I like to quote when my students complain that French is too hard to learn or comprehend :



Here is what I do when they complain Spanish is difficult.

Ask them how to pronounce this English word: ghotik
No answer.
Tell them it's one of the components of the national dish.
No answer.
Explain to them how to pronounce it.
GH as in enouGH
O as in wOmen
TI as in naTIon
K as in Know


Direct link Reply with quote
 


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:


You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

The ambiguities of English

Advanced search






PerfectIt consistency checker
Faster Checking, Greater Accuracy

PerfectIt helps deliver error-free documents. It improves consistency, ensures quality and helps to enforce style guides. It’s a powerful tool for pro users, and comes with the assurance of a 30-day money back guarantee.

More info »
Déjà Vu X3
Try it, Love it

Find out why Déjà Vu is today the most flexible, customizable and user-friendly tool on the market. See the brand new features in action: *Completely redesigned user interface *Live Preview *Inline spell checking *Inline

More info »



All of ProZ.com
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs