Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Ridiculousness of the English Language

Ri-dic-u-lous - Adj. : Arousing or deserving ridicule : Extremely silly or unreasonable : Absurd

I wanted to write an introduction to English grammar…but I never liked English grammar and after waiting a very long time and never feeling the impulse to follow through with actually writing the blog post I have decided to modify the topic slightly to a subject I have much more interest, The Ridiculousness of English. (Ridiculousness is a word, I checked)

Countable and Uncountable Nouns
    I have many apples and much sugar. But I don't have much apples or many sugar. Why do we use much with some words and many with others? Because in English we believe some words to be countable, for instance I have five apples. And we believe other words to be uncountable, I would not say I have five sugar. When the word is countable we say many and few. When the word is uncountable we say much and little. Easy enough right? However, there are exceptions to this. For example money is uncountable. Even when you specifically mention how much money you have. "Is five dollars too much money for a tip?" Also there are words that are both countable and uncountable depending on the usage. "How many chickens do you have in your barn?" and "How much chicken did you eat last night?" The difference being that the first are countable objects, animals, while the latter is an uncountable substance, meat.

Collective Nouns and Singular Plural

    Normally when a noun is a singular object we use "is" and for plural we use "are." Such as, "The boy is happy" and "The boys are happy." However, some words are always considered plural even when they are a singular object, "My glasses are around here somewhere" or "Those jeans are very fashionable" and my personal favorite, "The police are at the door. He is tall and looks very mean."
    To go along with this there are also words that refer to a plural group that is considered to be a "collective noun" such as the word news. "The news is depressing."


    This is something that has never made sense in any language I have studied so I will cut English a little slack. Some examples of the ridiculousness in this part of English grammar is that you sleep in a bed but lay on a bed. You also ride in a car but you ride on a bus, train, airplane. My Romanian teacher was fairly upset with this aspect of English grammar and complained how she had never seen anyone ride on a bus, by that she meant on top of a bus.

Spelling and Pronunciation
    I could waste my time providing examples for how ridiculous English spelling is but instead I will let this clip from "I Love Lucy" do my work for me.

Ricky Read a Bedtime Story.

     This poem says it best...

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes;
But the plural of
ox should be oxen not oxes.
One fowl is a
goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of
moose should never be meese.

You may find a lone
mouse or a nest full of mice,
But the plural of
house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of
man is always called men,
Why shouldn't the plural of
pan be called pen?

We speak of a
brother and also of brethren,
But though we say
mother, we never say methren.
So plurals in English, I think you'll agree,
Are indeed very tricky--singularly.

Hopefully this blog post enlightened you to how nonsensical English really is and also how much fun I will have trying to explain it to non-native speakers.

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