It is spoken by over 840 million people. That’s 840,000,000 people. It’s the second most spoken language right after Mandarin (Chinese). It’s spoken by 67 countries and 27 non-sovereign countries, ie Hong Kong and Puerto Rico. Some sources say it originated in what is now northwest Germany and the Netherlands. There’s Old English which is the English my parents speak and is preserved in Beowulf from around the year 800. Then there’s middle English of the 1000’s, which my wife and I speak. Lastly, there’s Modern English spoken by this Millennial generation- from the 16 and 1700’s Millennials. The American Revolution included being vocabularically (that’s a word, right?) free from England.
The 20 volume Oxford dictionary includes definitions for 171,476 words. However, it also lists definitions for 47,156 obsolete words and about 9,500 derivatives as subentries. So there could be upwards of 250,000 words.
And what I love about the English language – words can be used in so many different ways to mean so many different things. The same word can be a thing, it can be an action or it could be a description.
Which brings me to the point of this post. Finally. Thanks to Stumbleupon, I found some hilarious idiosyncrasies in the English language. Ones I knew about, but never gave conscious thought to. They certainly make me relieved that English is my first language because as one Tumblr user said, “I’m glad English is my first language because if I had to learn it as a second language I’d jump off a bridge.”
1. I never said you were stupid.
You get a completely different meaning depending on which word you stress. Six words, six meanings.
2. English can be understood through tough thorough thought, though.
There’s that “ough” conundrum. Written the same five times, pronouned five different ways.
3. If womb is pronounced “woom” and tomb is pronounced “toom” shouldn’t bomb be pronounced “boom”?
It should and it will if you’re not careful.
4. Then there are contronyms.
These are words that are their own opposites. Unlike the word up, whose opposite is down, the word peruse is its own opposite. It can mean to read something in a relaxed way or it can mean to read something carefully. Egregious and nonplussed are two more examples.
5. A long time ago someone wrote “God B W Ye”. This is essentially 16th century text speak that gave us the word “goodbye”.
6. Cough, rough, though, and through don’t rhyme. They don’t even sound alike. Yet somehow, pony and bologna do. WTH?
7. A simple mark, the infamous comma (,) can change the whole meaning of sentence and even save lives.
Lets eat, kids.
While some of may have considered baking up our children after a particlarly long snow day, that comma means we’re having chicken, not children.
8. And somehow that that makes sense…
9. Then there’s this bit of comedy using idiosyncrasies…
The correct way to spell Potato
P – GH as in hiccough
O- OUGH as in dough
T- PHTH as in phthisis
A – EIGH as in eight and neighbor
T- ETT as in gazett
O- EAU as in plateau
GHOUGHPHTHEIGHETTEAU = Potato
10. For my tenth and final act I give you this gem. When you’re done reading this picture type the last sentence into Google translate and click “pronounce”. I promise you won’t be disappointed. The boys and I have heard it a hundred times and we laugh every time.
I love the English language. It can be fun to play with. I didn’t get into the whole i before e nonsense and their/there/they’re and homographs like bow and bow. So this list could go on and on and on…