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English is Hard!

Face it: English is a crazy language.

There's no egg in eggplant, no ham in hamburger, neither apple nor pine in pineapple, English muffins weren’t invented in England, nor do French fries come from France. Sweetmeats are candies, sweetbreads aren‘t sweet nor meat. Quicksand works slowly, boxing rings are square, and guinea pigs are neither from Guinea nor pigs.

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. One moose, two meese? One index, two indices? You can make amends but not an amend? If you get rid of all your odds and ends save one, what do you call it?

If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? People recite at plays and play at recitals, ship by car and send cargo by ship, and have noses that run but 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 alarms go off by going on. When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. How can inflammable and flammable mean the same thing? And when a car slows up, it slows down!

Try to sight-read these sentences correctly:

  • A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
  • A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
  • A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
  • A wise man is the opposite of a wise guy.
  • After a number of injections my jaw got number.
  • An alarm goes off when it’s on.
  • Boxing rings are square.
  • English muffins aren’t from England nor French fries from France.
  • He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  • How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
  • How can we have noses that run and feet that smell?
  • I did not object to the object.
  • I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  • If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
  • If teachers teach and preachers preach, why does a teacher taught, but no preacher ever praught?
  • If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?
  • People recite at plays and play at recitals.
  • Quicksand works slowly.
  • Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  • Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.
  • The bandage was wound around the wound.
  • The buck does funny things when the does are present.
  • The dump was so full that it had to ref use more refuse.
  • The farm was used to produce produce.
  • The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  • The plural of goose is geese, but the plural of moose is not meese.
  • The plural of tooth is teeth, but the plural of booth is not beeth.
  • The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  • The wind was too strong to wind the sail
  • There is neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
  • There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger.
  • There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row
  • They were too close to the door to close it.
  • To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
  • Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
  • We must polish the Polish furniture.
  • We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
  • When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
  • Why doesn’t Buick rhyme with quick?
  • Why is a slim chance and a fat chance the same thing?
  • Writers write, but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham.
  • You can make amends but not one amend.
  • You fill in a form by filling it out.
  • Your house burns up as it burns down.

One two-letter English word has more meanings than any other two-letter English word: up. It means toward the sky or at the top of a list, but when we awaken, we wake up. At a meeting, a topic comes up. We speak up. Officers are up for election and it is up to the secretary to write up a report. We call up friends, dress up, brighten up a room, polish up silver, warm up leftovers, and clean up kitchens. We lock up houses and fix up cars. People stir up trouble, line up for tickets, work up an appetite, and think up excuses. Drains must be opened up when they stop up. We open up a store in the morning and close it up at night. If you are up to it, build up a list of the ways up is used; it will take up a lot of time, but if you don’t give up, you may wind up with a hundred. When it threatens to rain, it clouds up. When the sun comes out, it clears up. When it rains, it wets the earth and often muddies things up. When it doesn’t rain, things dry up. I could go on and on, but my time is up, so I’ll wrap it up since it's time to shut up!