There’s 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,
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, two geese. So one
moose, two meese? One index, two indices?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend,
that you comb through the annals of history but not a single annal?
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 preacher praught? If a vegetarian
eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter,
perhaps you bote your tongue?
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? Park on driveways and
drive on parkways?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise
man and a wise guy are opposites? How can overlook and oversee be
opposites, while quite a lot and quite a few are alike? How can the
weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell another?
How you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they
are absent? Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful
gown? Met a sung hero or experienced requited love?
Have you ever run into someone who was dis-combobulated, grunted,
ruly or peccable? And where are all those people who ARE spring
chickens or who would ACTUALLY hurt a fly?
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 out and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the
creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn’t a race at all).
That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the
lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch,
I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it!