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Off topic: How confusing English can be...
Thread poster: Natasha Dupuy

Natasha Dupuy  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:02
French to English
Aug 28, 2006

An e-mail forwarded to me today by a Croat who regularly attends the weekly English-speaking lunch I host:

"I thought English lunch was difficult. Read to the end...a new twist to an oldie.

Can you read these right the first time?

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?

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, or 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.

And 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, 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 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.

There is a two-letter word that perhaps
Has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is "UP."

It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the
list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP ? At a
meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP and why are the
officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a
report ?

We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP
the silver, we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock
UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little
word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for
tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one
thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is
stopped UP . We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! To be knowledgeable about the
proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized
dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about
thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a
list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time,
but if you don't give UP , you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When
it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out
we say it is clearing UP .

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.

When it doesn't rain for awhile, things dry UP .

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP , for now my time is UP,
so........... Time to shut UP.....!"

As native speakers we forget how confusing a language it can be!

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Williamson  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:02
Flemish to English
+ ...
Dearest Creature in Creation Aug 29, 2006

Google "Dearest Creature in Creation" a piece about English pronunciation, written by a non-native (Dutch).

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David Brown  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:02
Spanish to English
UP, UP AND AWAY Aug 29, 2006

I almost doubled UP laughing at your message. Sometimes I want to curl UP with embarrassment when I try to wisen UP my clients on the intricacies of English.
One small point, where I come from it clouds OVER not UP.
Thanks for the enlightening topic.

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Cloud up and rain on you Aug 29, 2006

Dear David,

In my US Eng. "cloud over" is also used, however when I was a little girl and perhaps not behaving myself, a dear relative often threatened; "I will cloud up and rain on you". Rather then upsetting me, I thought it was quite original and funny.

Best regards

[Edited at 2006-08-29 13:57]

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:02
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
More hints on English pronunciation Aug 29, 2006

Hints on Pronunciation for Foreigners


I take it you already know
Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
On hiccough, thorough, laugh 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
Nor 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 cord and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword,
And do and go and thwart and cart -
Come come, I've hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Man alive,
I'd mastered it when I was five!

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Claudia Krysztofiak  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:02
English to German
+ ...
Noses that run and feet that smell ... Aug 29, 2006


This is the same in German:

Die Nase läuft und die Füße riechen

So there seems to be hope for some understanding, after all ...

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:02
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
But talking of smells... Aug 29, 2006

You have to be careful in German too. There is a lot of difference between Urinstinkt and Urin stinkt.

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Natasha Dupuy  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:02
French to English
Vaat iz das? Aug 29, 2006

As you can probably tell by the title of my reply, I know nothing of German. Do I dare ask what these two terms mean?

[Edited at 2006-08-29 14:32]

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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 20:02
Member (2000)
Russian to English
+ ...
Terms explained Aug 30, 2006

Urinstinkt means "primeval instinct".
Urin stinkt means, as you might expect, "urine stinks".

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George Hopkins
Local time: 21:02
Swedish to English
English is Tough Stuff Aug 30, 2006

Try this for size:

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.
Foeffer 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!!!

-- Author Unknown

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Natasha Dupuy  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:02
French to English
Thanks, Jack! Aug 30, 2006

Thank you for providing those translations. I can certainly see now how getting them confused could be embarrassing!
I had tried to figure out the meanings myself through Google translate, but as expected the translation was not accurate. Well, it was for one but not the other.

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