The English language fascinates me. As the popular meme states, no matter how weird English may seem, it can be understood through tough thorough thought, though. Researchers at the University of Reading have applied computer modeling to determine the words “I,” “we,” “who,” “two,” and “three” are ancient words, dating back tens of thousands of years. Mark Pagel, an evolutionary biologist at Reading, says, “When we speak to each other we’re playing this massive game of Chinese whispers.” Eh? What did you say?
Speaking of pronunciation, Jakub Marian, a Czech linguist, reports the meaning of words can change depending on which syllable is stressed. “If the stress is on the second syllable, it usually becomes a verb. For example, an ADDress is the place where someone lives. To addRESS someone is to talk to them.”
To add to the confusion, many words are contronyms — words with opposite meanings. Consider the word clip. Are you cutting or binding an object together? If something is transparent, is it invisible or obvious? Is a sanguine vampire confidently cheerful, or bloodthirsty? If you are bound, are you heading toward your destination, or are you restrained from moving?
The contradictions are equal parts amusement and agony. Effective communication is impeded or expedited based on everyone’s mastery of simple vocabulary. I have found myself at an impasse today, and regardless of how much I try, I can’t move past a fundamental question. Why oh why do the words pony and bologna rhyme?
What are your favorite English quirks?
Keep on writing.
Jo Hawk The Writer