Lets face it
English is a stupid language.
There is no egg in the eggplant
No ham in the hamburger
And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England
French fries were not invented in France.
We sometimes take English for granted
But if we examine its paradoxes we find that
Quicksand takes you down slowly
Boxing rings are square
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
If writers write, how come fingers don’t fing.
If the plural of tooth is teeth
Shouldn’t the plural of phone booth be phone beeth
If the teacher taught,
Why didn’t the preacher praught.
If a vegetarian eats vegetables
What on earth does a humanitarian eat!?
Why do people recite at a play
Yet play at a recital?
Park on driveways and
Drive on parkways
How can the weather be as hot as hell on one day
And as cold as hell on another
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy
Of a language where a house can burn up as
It burns down
And in which you fill in a form
By filling it out
And a bell is only heard once it goes!
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 it is that when I wind up my watch
But when I wind up this poem
Today is World Book Day in the UK. The original World Book Day, held on April 23rd, is a UNESCO initiative to promote reading. Our local version is a charity event specifically to get kids reading. Each child in full time education is given a £1 book voucher. In recent years, a selection of 8 books has been made available for this event. This year’s selection can be found here. If nothing there takes your child’s fancy, the voucher can also be used as £1 off any full priced book at participating bookshops.
Some schools encourage children to dress up as their favourite character from a book. Which character from a kid’s book would you dress up as, if given the chance? My favourite was always Matilda (Roald Dahl)!
Today is National Grammar Day. Is there a real point?
Now, I get as annoyed as anyone when I see horrible spelling, grammar or even text speak written as though it’s proper English. I’ve also been on the receiving end of some mean comments (on this very blog!) regarding my own grammar. I try my hardest…as do you, I’m sure. But every once in a while, we can all make typing errors or have a gap in our knowledge. English is difficult enough, with its nuances, irregular pronunciations and rules, without the internet grammar police out in force.
There IS a difference between correcting someone because they’ve made an error which may alter the intention of their sentence; and intentionally shaming people. What the latter achieves is… nothing. You may feel superior for a second after calling someone out, but the person who wrote the offending word, phrase or sentence will simply think you’re a bully and won’t necessarily learn anything.
So today, on National Grammar Day, take the chance to be constructive and genuinely help someone where they’ve made a mistake. Laugh, if you must. Just remember, no-one is word perfect!
There are no surprises in Marist‘s annual list of Americans’ least favourite words. Whatever has been named the most annoying word used in conversation, for the fourth consecutive year. Like, you know, and just saying were also named as irritating, as was Twitterverse.
Words and phrases tend to become annoying for us when overused or misused. For example, “going forwards” is a phrase I particularly detest, as a former colleague managed to get it into every conversation going. “Literally” is an example I think almost everyone must have heard.
Do you have a word you can’t stand to hear? Share it with us!
Ed Manley and James Cheshire from UCL’s Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), were busy this summer. The two researchers collected data from 3.3 million tweets during the London 2012 Games, using Twitter’s API. They then created an impressive looking map of all of the locations of those tweets. Not only that, but the map is colour coded for each language. The grey parts of the map were tweets in English, which makes up the majority of it. There are pockets of colour elsewhere though, in descending order representing Spanish (white), French (red), Turkish (blue), Arabic (green), Portuguese (purple), German (orange), Italian (yellow), Malay (cyan), and Russian (violet). There were 66 languages used, identified and recorded. The languages tweeted least were Georgian, Belarusian, Telugu and Armenian.
Ed Manley explains that Tagalog, which is spoken in the Philippines, was excluded from the data as “many of these classifications included just uses of English terms such as ‘hahahahaha’, ‘ahhhhhhh’ and ‘lololololol’.” It was initially the 7th most tweeted language.
They are quick to point out that the work absolutely isn’t a true representation of the diverse demographic of London. A lot of tweets are located on main roads and along train lines. Also, they have only included tweeters who have a good GPS location and are connected to the internet.
Click here to see the map.
Want to learn a new language in London? Try our German courses, Italian lessons, or even learn English!
It’s World Italian Language Week and my friend Giovanna, who is from Parma, was telling me how difficult it is for her to understand the difference and pronounce the words “thirty” and “forty” in English.
I’ve never given this a second thought, other than that certain languages have sounds which we don’t use in English. It’s true that English has sounds that other languages don’t use. It probably doesn’t help Giovanna that in London, some of us Londoners pronounce “th” as “f” (e.g. “toof” rather than “tooth”).
It will certainly make me more aware of my pronunciation, that’s for sure!
Like Giovanna, you can learn English in London with Language Trainers!
“I’ll swish you to a swazzle! I’ll swash you to a swizzle! I’ll gnash you to a gnozzle! I’ll gnosh you to a gnazzle!” (The Twits)
Did you know that today is Roald Dahl Day?
Roald Dahl is my hands-down favourite author, and was renowned for inventing words and creating his own distinct vocabulary. This year marks the 30th anniversary of one of his best loved books, the BFG, and for this book, he invented a collection of 238 words, which are known as gobblefunk. The words were fictional but made reading fun. The meanings of the words weren’t always clear, but it is clear that Dahl got immense enjoyment from creating words which were fun to say and captured the reader’s imagination. He would often take two word fragments and mix them together.
You can find a list of Dahl-isms here. Which one is your favourite?
A new book, A Story of English in 100 Words, by linguistics expert David Crystal, lists how English words have been used throughout the ages and demonstrates how the language has evolved. Crystal believes that these words are crucial to the development of the language, and traces the etymology and social standing of each of the words he has chosen.
The word “tea” for example was first documented in the 17th Century. Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary in 1660 that he sampled his very first cup of tea. Tea drinking started out as an upper class activity but as the price fell, it became more and more popular across society. This then led to a lot of tea related words – teapot, teaspoon, teahouse.
The word “hello” began as street slang in the early 1800s. Before this, “hal,” “hail,” “hey,” “ho,” and “hi” were used, at different periods. “Hello” became more popular with the invention of the telephone.
“LOL” is used as an example of 20th Century English. Used as an abbreviation of “laughing out loud,” we tend to use this mostly via text message or IM chat. My mum, however, still uses it as “lots of love!”
You can take a sneak peek at, or buy, the book here.
The Commission for the Management of Language Use in Shanghai has reported that English sign accuracy has improved by 85% in the three years since its’ campaign launched to clear up any confusing signage in time for the Shanghai World Expo in 2010.
Signs such as “inform police immediately – if you are stolen” have been removed by volunteer translation students.
Websites such as Cheezburger’s Engrish Funny have been set up to publish photos of translation errors in all languages snapped by tourists, and this has added to the notoriety of such gaffes.
Newspaper Shanghai Daily says that whilst there is a Chinese-language government website for reporting “Chinglish” crimes against English, there were “few channels for ex-pats to report incorrect English signs.”
Have you seen any badly translated signs? Please share in the comments!
You may be familiar with cut and paste kings Cassetteboy. I discovered their latest creation today, and it’s just too good not to share with you. The victim of this video is London mayor Boris Johnson.
On their YouTube page, Cassetteboy introduce the compilation of Borisism’s particularly well.
“Fluff-headed loon Boris Johnson welcomes the world to the London Olympics.”
Watch here before it gets taken down!