The English language is difficult enough yet, when spoken, we intuitively distinguish the difference between their, there and they’re or full, fool and fall without flinching, even though they sound very similar. However, it’s only when having to write something or explain it to someone else that you realise how tough it really is or, perhaps, how little you really understand.
There are many good examples which illustrate the complexity of our language. Here are a few;
- Quicksand works slowly, boxing rings are square.
- A guinea pig is not from Guinea and it isn’t a pig.
- We have noses that run and feet that smell.
- How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell another?
- When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
- How can ‘slim chance and a fat chance’ be the same?
- If ordinary is nothing special or different, how is extraordinary special and different?
- How do flammable and inflammable mean the same thing?
- How do oversee and overlook mean the complete opposite?
- How are a ‘wise man’ and a ‘wise guy’ completely opposite?
..and then there’s pronunciation;
- The bandage was wound around the wound.
- The farm was used to produce produce.
- The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
- There is no time like the present to present the present.
- Why would you object to the object?
- The permit was invalid for the invalid.
- There was a row about how to row.
- He was too close to the door to close it.
- The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
- In my shed I saw a tear in the painting and shed a tear.
- I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
- How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
- If you have a rough cough, climbing can be tough
It’s examples like these, and many more, which make our language so interesting because there seems to be no explanation as to how they came to be. Perhaps when they were inventing words they ran out of ideas so just decided to re-use some!
Although when you consider the gibberish some people come out with when they’re drunk you’d think there would be plenty of words to choose from!