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:
- If ‘prejudice’ is a viewpoint based on insufficient information, why am I not postjudiced’ about things I know something about?
- 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”?
- If women go to a gynaecologist, why don’t men go to an androcologist (or at the very least, to a GUYnocologist)?
- Ballerinas are female. What are the males called? Ballerinos?
- 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”?
- 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.
- 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.