Ad hoc ad nauseum

I find it ironic that a language that spawned a phrase such as ‘without rhyme or reason’ should be almost completely devoid of said rhyme or reason. I grew up with English as a home language, so I have built up an immunity to the inherent illogicality of the beast, but it never fails to astound and humble me that there are people who manage to learn and understand English as a second (or third or forth) language. The ‘rules’ of English are more like zoning guidelines, rather than anything that one needs to take too seriously. The essential preamble to any rule of English seems to be: “The following always applies, except where it doesn’t”. Okay, I do know that English is the illegitimate child of about ten other languages, but I really don’t think linguistic promiscuity is a reasonable excuse for being so downright sloppy. No wonder people are confused. No wonder there’s been a proliferation of inappropriately placed apostrophes in recent years.

Some of the more troubling aspects of English (for me, at least) include the following:

  1. If ‘prejudice’ is a viewpoint based on insufficient information, why am I not postjudiced’ about things I know something about?
  2. Why is it that there are multiple pronunciations for certain things? For example, some people pronounce ‘often’ as OFF-TIN, rather than OFFIN. If these people decide to visit the local citadel the day after Tuesday, why don’t they say, “I’m going to the KAR-STILL on WED-NESS-DAY”?
  3. If women go to a gynaecologist, why don’t men go to an androcologist (or at the very least, to a GUYnocologist)?
  4. Ballerinas are female. What are the males called? Ballerinos?
  5. SMS is an abbreviation for “Short Message Service”, so why do people say, “I sent you an SMS”, instead of “I sent you an SM”?
  6. Are the various names for phobias deliberately chosen to sound completely unlike the things they are supposed to refer to? e.g. Crapinthewoodsaphobia: Fear of cotton wool.
  7. Spelling. Don’t get me started! Oops, too late. How come the thing in your mouth is spelled ‘tongue’, but we don’t write ‘smoking has been linked to longue cancer’? On the subject of weird (I before E, except after C eh?) spelling, if cough and trough are pronounced KOFF and TROFF, why don’t we write, “Ughuck you!”?

I could go on, but until a red-suited fellow with pointy hair accessories offers me a fabulous deal on a portrait that gets older instead of me, my time on earth is limited. Interesting. The spell-checker has suggested that I actually mean unhook or possibly, bushbuck, instead of ughuck. Well ughuck you, you self-righteous piece of code! I’m trying to make a point here.

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14 thoughts on “Ad hoc ad nauseum

  1. I grew up speaking “Southern” which is the language of Americans born in the South. It’s a dialect of English. Keep pluggin’! 🙂

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  2. I prefer to use the word “text” instead of sms, but then ppl only look at me funny.
    Modern avdertising is one of the worst culprits when it comes to bastardising words and their spelling. Kids are taught one thing at school, but are shown completely different things on billboards, print media and televison.

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  3. Paul: Sob. That subject is way too daunting for me to tackle.

    Chitty: I suspect people look at you funny for other reasons, but I agree with you that the media is heading the fight against literacy.

    Anon: The ubiquitous Anonymous speaks. At last, someone who actually hates my blog sufficiently to put finger to keyboard, rather than leave it to drown in a sea of cold indifference. You could have made more of an effort, though. I mean, ”get a life”? It’s short and to the point, but where’s the passion?

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  4. i love this one…

    having moved to a new state recently, i have become more aware of pronunciations. the ones that get me in indiana are:

    they pronounce cement “sea-ment” (i pronounce it like suh-ment)

    the say grandma like “grandmaaaaah
    (i say it like grand-muh)

    it’s little things that get me on an average day 😉

    great post, though. and watch what you say to anons…. you don’t want them to DELETE you.

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  5. However luck would have it (I think Chitty is still to blame), I am so happy that I’ve found your blog. You really make me laugh. And I don’t mean just a little ‘tee-hee’, but a real, toss your head back complete with a possible snort kind of laughter.

    English is a rather rotten, confusing language. It is the bastard child of many ill-fated relationships and mergers. The majority of people in the States fully ignore the ‘rules’ (that only apply the occasional second Thursday of each month during the winter solstice only if you are wearing a green shirt that once said ‘Eat at Joe’s’ before your little brother ironed on a Backstreet Boys decal.) {looks up to find original point…} Ah yes, the rules… even in pronunciation, no matter where you are from, it is NOT said as OFF-TEN. Nor is the “s” said at the end of ‘Illinois’. The ‘t’ and ‘s’ are silent. Why have them? Good question. Flaunting our excess? Filling a letter quota? It is frustrating to me to hear people say these things or ignore these rules (no matter how inane) then turn around and criticize someone who has learned the language in addition to their own.

    I’d love to learn another language but fear that my ‘American’ teachings have tainted that possibility. I fear that I will not be able to learn a language that actually has a pattern and makes sense.

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  6. Every rule has an exception.

    Except, in the English language the exceptions are so many the real exception is the word(s) that abides by the rule.

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  7. jessafran: Ta 🙂 Regarding the shadowy lurker – I still find it unbelievable that someone would so vindictive as to go and shred your blog.

    LiVEwiRe: That is one of the best digressions I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing in a long time. I hope you’re going to post it on your blog so the rest of your fans can enjoy it too.

    lyn: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. If English was a fruit, it would be the kind where you eat the skin and throw the rest away.

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  8. I find it ironic that you would use the word ironic to describe a situation that is contingent, thereby opposing directly the meaning of the word ironic, and in doing so, actually being ironic.

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  9. redphi5h: Hmm… I’m not so sure that I agree that a contingent situation cannot be seen as ironic, so you’ll have to shake you head in dispair and think, “What an ignorant clot!”. I do love the idea of embedded irony, though.

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  10. Love the post! I have wondered the same things myself…(nearly majored in English until I decided that English sucks!)

    OK, so I’m a midwesterner transplanted to the south. It took me a week to figure out what a pee-can was (pecan). The only thing I could think of was the emergency “potty bottle” my parents always kept in the car on long trips!

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  11. anna: I’m guessing that’s why the pecan pie wasn’t very appealing at first.

    sissoula: Thanks 🙂 It’s always pleasant to have someone else share one’s axe-grindings.–>

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