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English: A Peculiar Language

Did You Know?

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)The sentence: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" uses every letter of the alphabet.
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)The words 'racecar,' 'kayak' and 'level' are the same whether they are read left to right or right to left (palindromes).
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)There are only four words in the English language that end in "dous": tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous.
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels (a e i o u) in alphabetical order: "abstemious" and "facetious."
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)TYPEWRITER is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)"Stewardesses" is the longest word typed with only the left hand and "lollipop" with your right.
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple.
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)"Dreamt" is the only English word that ends in the letters "mt".
English Language Resources

ball1.gif (1653 bytes)British and American words in the English language
ball1.gif (1653 bytes)Dictionary & Thesaurus online:
 Search:   for    
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ball1.gif (1653 bytes)Peculiarities of the English language
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ball1.gif (1653 bytes)Free language translation

Inconsistency of the English Language

English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which, an alarm goes off by going on.

English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

Why doesn't 'Buick' rhyme with 'quick'
Some words with multiple meanings are confusing

  • 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.
  • We must  polish  the  Polish  furniture.
  • He could  lead  if he would get the  lead  out.
  • The soldier decided to  desert  his dessert in the  desert.
  • Since there is no time like the  present  , he thought it was time to  present  the  present.
  • bass  was painted on the head of the  bass  drum.
  • When shot at, the  dove dove  into the bushes.
  • I did not  object  to the  object.
  • The insurance was  invalid  for the  invalid.
  • There was a  row  among the oarsmen about how to  row.
  • They were too close  to the door to  close it.
  • The buck  does  funny things when the  does  are present.
  • A seamstress and a sewer  fell down into a  sewer  line.
  • To help with planting, the farmer taught his  sow  to  sow.
  • The  wind  was too strong to  wind  the sail.
  • Upon seeing the  tear  in the painting I shed a   tear.
  • I had to  subject  the  subject  to a series of tests.
  • How can I  intimate  this to my most  intimate  friend?
The many conflicting uses of the word "UP"

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is 'UP.'

It's easy to understand  UP , meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake  UP At a meeting, why does a topic come  UP ? Why do we speak  UP  and why are the officers  UP  for election and why is it  UP  to the secretary to write  UP  a report?

We call  UP  our friends. And we use it to brighten  UP  a room, polish  UP  the silver, we warm  UP  the leftovers and clean  UP  the kitchen. We lock  UP  the house and some guys fix  UP  the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir  UP  trouble, line  UP  for tickets, work  UP  an appetite, and think  UP  excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed  UP  is special.

And this  UP  is confusing: A drain must be opened  UP  because it is stopped  UP  We open   UP  a store in the morning but we close it  UP  at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed  UP  about  UP To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of  UP , look the word  UP  in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes  UP  almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP  to about thirty definitions. If you are  UP  to it, you might try building  UP  a list of the many ways  UP  is used. It will take  UP  a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP , you may wind  UP  with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding  UP . When the sun comes out we say it is clearing  UP.

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things  UP.

When it doesn't rain for a while, things dry  UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it  UP , for now my time is  UP , so it is time to shut  UP!

What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night?   U-P
The truth behind British politeness

The table below sheds light on just how difficult it can be for a foreigner to understand what the British really mean when they're speaking especially for those take every word at face value.

Phrases that prove the trickiest to decipher include 'you must come for dinner', which foreigners tend to take as a direct invitation, but is actually said out of politeness by many Britons and often does not result in an invite.

The table also reveals that when a person from Britain begins a sentence "with the greatest respect ...', they actually mean 'I think you are an idiot'.

I hear what you say
I disagree and do not want to discuss it further
He accepts my point of view
With the greatest respect
You are an idiot
He is listening to me
That's not bad
That's good
That's poor
That is a very brave proposal
You are insane
He thinks I have courage
Quite good
A bit disappointing
Quite good
I would suggest
Do it or be prepared to justify yourself
Think about the idea, but do what you like
Oh, incidentally/ by the way
The primary purpose of our discussion is
That is not very important
I was a bit disappointed that
I am annoyed that
It doesn't really matter
Very interesting
That is clearly nonsense
They are impressed
I'll bear it in mind
I've forgotten it already
They will probably do it
I'm sure it's my fault
It's your fault
Why do they think it was their fault?
You must come for dinner
It's not an invitation, I'm just being polite
I will get an invitation soon
I almost agree
I don't agree at all
He's not far from agreement
I only have a few minor comments
Please rewrite completely
He has found a few typos
Could we consider some other options
I don't like your idea
They have not yet decided

Copyright © 2000 Siakhenn
Last modified on
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