Daily Archives: February 27, 2006

English, the easy language

Over at the Quipping Queen, the latest entry is over the letter “D”.

I’ve said before in my entries on English, that this language, which is purported to be so easy, is one of the most difficult to learn well. Sure, you can use certain words, such as get, go, or do, add a preposition, and you change the meaning, but English has a specific word for everything. Some, of course, have fallen into obscurity, and these are the ones that the Queen is playing with. Here are some of my favorite “D” words from the list she’s given us:

  • davering: walking about in a dazed condition, as in to wander aimlessly
  • dashpot: shock absorber
  • deipnosophist: one who is exceptionally good at dinner-table conversation
  • deltiologist: one who collects postcards
  • deosculator: one who kisses affectionately and passionately
  • dharmic: pertaining to an individual’s duty fulfilled by observance of customs or cosmic laws
  • dome doily: a wig
  • donnicker: a toilet
  • donsy: restive or saucy
  • dontopedalogy: putting one’s foot in one’s mouth
  • dowcet: the testicle of a deer or rabbit
  • droobs: dull or boring people
  • dunghavenhooters: imaginary mouthless creatures that beat their victims into gas and inhale them through large nostrils
  • dysbulia: loss of will power

In continuing with the theme of the beauty –and complexity– of the English language, my friend Ron Purvis sent me an email this morning on that same topic. I’d seen it before, but it’s always fun to reread:
(Note: I have no idea of the origins of what I included below. If someone does, please let me know, I’ll give credit where credit is due)

  • 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 .
  • A 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?

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. […] 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? […] 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? […] 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? […] your house can burn up as it burns down, […] 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 visib le, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.

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