And part of the exact reason it’s so great is that the title of this blog post could have two meanings in and of itself.
I love the English Language. As a writer and as a poet it is unbelievably fun to play with. It is flexible, funny, and (at times) completely nonsensical. As a historian, I have always wanted to investigate it’s development and the impact of various political machinations upon it (as discussed in my Having Coffee With Geoffrey Chaucer).
I was drawn to writing this post when I was reading about some anomalies and oddities in the English Language, of which there are thousands. As such there is absolutely no way I could talk about everything I would like to talk about here, so therefore this post will just be my own little ode to things that have been drawn to my attention lately, and that I especially like.
I am so glad that I learnt English as my first language, because I imagine trying to learn it as a second is incredibly complicated and frustrating.
“Good morning, Mrs Baker” she said, “Did the tough dough rise enough despite the thorough hiccoughs you had throughout?”
The above sentence is grammatically correct, if completely insane. The point I was trying to make was regarding the range of ‘ough’ sounds, which must perplex any new learner of English. I remember as a child stumbling over various iterations of the ‘ough’ sound, because having something read phonetically would just be too straightforward for English. I couldn’t fit “bough” or “cough” into that sentence either.
Part of the reason why English is so fantastic is that it has been influenced by the languages of various invaders over the years. This, alongside the isolation of various communities throughout the centuries, has led to a melting pot of pronunciation, grammar, and spelling, when it all eventually met and bashed together like a river meeting the sea. There are great clashing things that just don’t make any sense (see egregrious below), and subtle nuances that leave everybody scratching their heads.
Dictionary Definition Egregious
- Oustandingly bad; shocking (“egregious abuses of the law”)
- Remarkably good (archaic definition, but still in use).
How did this happen?
Modern English is a glorious mixture of various influences and inputs including: Celtic, Old English, Germanic, Norse, French, and Latin. As an ever-evolving language it has been allowed to grow and sprout, for old words to die off and come back, for spelling to change or be influenced by other languages, grammar has changed and then changed back. It’s wonderful.
English isn’t a language, it’s three languages stacked on top of each other wearing a trench-coat.
I found the above quote on my scourings around the internet, and to be honest I think three languages is probably being quite modest; I’d say that there’s at least five crammed into the skeleton that makes up the English corpus, along with other bits stitched in along the way – it is a Frankenstein’s Monster of languages, and that’s what makes it so ace.
English is the language that beats up other languages in dark alleys, and then rifles in their pockets for loose grammar and spare vocabulary.
As a poet the English Language is incredible. It is a gift. It is constantly growing and changing. It is thought that over 20,000 new words enter into the English language each year, and at the other end some die and fall out of use.
In June 2018, the latest update to the OED added over 900 new words, senses, and subentries, including binge-watch, impostor syndrome, Bechdel Test, apoliticism, doy, heteroromantic, microaggression, pansexual, upskirting, and Zen. If you don’t know what some of those mean I’ll leave you to go and look them up. It takes the dictionary a while to catch up on some of these things as words such as binge-watch and microaggression have been part of my vocabulary for several years, but clearly it takes a while for them to be “officially” included in the dictionary. You can read the notes on the additions that were made June on this webpage.
Well, I hope you haven’t found this ode two English to tyreing. I’ll all-most certainly be doing another one in dew course. In that I’ll talk about Homophones, Homonyms, Homographs, Oxymorons, and few other weird things that I’ve found along the way.
What have you stumbled across in English that has made you scratch your head in confusion, or laugh out loud at it’s sheer absurdity?