Monday, August 17, 2009

English Is A Funny Language

Recently on PBS there was a promo where a guy was saying why he liked PBS. He pronounced "public" like pubic with a "L". That got me to thinking (and yes it did hurt) about the two words. They both start with the same three letters (pub), but those letters are pronounced differently depending on what follows the first three letters. The thing that makes English a funny language (not funny ha-ha, but funny as in weird) is there are a bunch of words where how the letters sound depend on the rest of the letters in the word. That can make it hard to read because you go back and forth on some words (especially those $4 dollar words). You think it is going to be one way and after you see the whole word, you realize it's different.

I don't know if there are any other languages where the sound of the letters change depending on what word they are in.


  1. A fellow wheeled a bike in my shop the other day. Classic Mainer - missing teeth, mismatched socks, and a greasy John Deere baseball cap on his noggin.

    I really did not notice the brand of bike he was walking in. He leaned it on the counter so I could not see the brand.

    "Do ya work on "Ghee-aunts"? I looked at him like he had three heads.

    "Never heard of Ghee-aunts, but if it has pedals, we work on them."

    "Never heard of Ghee-aunts? Jeezum, the shop where I bought it said they was the most poplah and best bikes in the World."

    "Well, like I said, it has pedals right? We will work on it. What's it need?"

    "Well sir, the transmission is slipping. I shift it one way, it eithah doesn't go or it skips to anothah gear."

    I walked around the counter to grab the bike so I could do some diagnostic on it. And when I saw it I chuckled. It was a "Giant" bike. And yes it was one of the more popular brands, but hardly the best. No line is the best. Rather than correct the guy, I just made a tag for it, put it in the line of repairs and told him I would call when it was done.

    Yes, the English language is strange.

  2. When my son was in grade school, the only explanation I could invent about spelling and the English language was that it was all the fault of a controlling bastard named Samuel Johnson in the 1700's who wanted to bring order to chaos so badly that he created a dictionary. All his fault.

  3. Hey, don't get me started about English, you know how I get.

  4. Trying to teach my kids and grandchildren "phonetically" is a good thing, until they ask well "why does this sound this way," or "why do you spell this another way." I'll have to ask my son, the world traveller - he catches onto foreign languages rather well. Surely, we can't be THE most complicated language.

  5. English is a piece of shit and the wordsmiths keep making things worse.


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