The Write Stuff – Blog

Feb 06 2012 8 Reasons the English Language is Crazy!
Why the English language is crazy

The English language with all its rules, countless exceptions to the rules and endless inconsistencies! It’s enough to drive you to French! It truly is an irksome language and these are 8 reasons the English language is crazy:

1. Weird Plurals

The plural of sheep is sheep, but the plural of beep is beeps! House is houses, but mouse is mice; unless of course you’re referring to more than one computer mouse, then they are mouses too – at least according to some.

And don’t get me started on octopi! If you’re a crazy cat lady and have more than one puss, do you also have pi?

2. I Before E

Except after C, or in words like weird, caffeine, weight, feign, foreign… C’mon!!!!

3. Possessive Apostrophes

So you need an apostrophe to indicate that it’s the girl’s dress or the girls’ changing room, but hers, his, ours, its or theirs are exempt. At least we call all agree that apostrophes should never be used to indicate a plural. NEVER!

4. Inconsistent Pronunciation

Repeat after me.. ball, hall, tall, call, fall, stall, wall… so why don’t we say ball-erina? And mall should only ever be pronounced “mal” (or even “mel”) when referring to “Pall Mall”. It’s true! (At least according to my Penguin reference book. And that’s good enough for me.)

And how about cough (coff), rough (ruff), though (tho), bough (bow)? Although when it comes to, bow and bow, how can I distinguish between the dinky bit of fabric tied around the neck and the action taken when meeting the Queen without the use of context?

5. The Letters G and H

Why is it a hard G for girl, gimp or gill, but a soft G for giraffe, gist and giant? At least C is a little more consistent when it changes from a hard sound before A, O and U, and soft sound before E, I and Y. Except for the “ch” sound for cello, which is something else again..!

And why do we drop the H on hour and say our, but not on house or hound? (Unless of course you’re a Cockney.)

6. Numbers

OK, you might be wondering what these have to do with English, but why is it twenty-one, twenty-two, thirty-one, thirty-two, forty-one, forty-two, etc., but not oneteen, twoteen, threeteen?

And what’s the deal with four and forty? What happened to the U?

7. Mean Words

Who put the S in “lisp” and made “stutter” more than one syllable?

8. Silent Letters

Do we really need to bother with the K in knife, the G in sign, the B in numb, or the W in write? Not to mention the N in autumn, the T in castle and the U in biscuit.

It’s no wonder so many people struggle to learn the English language – as a native language – let alone those poor buggers who are learning it as a second language.

Are there any other crazy English language anomalies you care to add?

Posted in Communication, Copywriting Tips by 4 comments

4 Responses to “8 Reasons the English Language is Crazy!”

  • Reply Glenn Murray February 06, 2012at 9:59 am

    Two of my favourites: 1) The vast number of pronunciations of the letter “o”. E.g. Women, woman, of, over, etc.; and 2) The long delay while written English catches up with spoken (particularly non-US written English). E.g. Light – apparently used to be pronounced with the glottal “gh” (Germanic heritage?).

    • Reply Anna Butler February 06, 2012at 10:18 am

      I did not know about the glottal “gh”… thanks Glenn, I love learning something new!?

      The various?pronunciations? “ough” always gets me. I used to live in a suburb called “Glendalough” and never could get a definite answer on whether it was “Glenda-lo”, “Glenda-lock” or “Glenda-luff”. It really seemed to depend on the train driver of the day 🙂

  • Reply Adrian Brien Auto February 06, 2012at 10:12 am

    Great list, English is a crazy language but I love it!

    • Reply Anna Butler February 06, 2012at 10:20 am

      It certainly keep the grey matter ticking over! And should make predominately phonetic-based languages like Italian a breeze for us to learn! (That said, I’m still only able to order a glass of red wine… but it’s all about priorities. Right?)

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