The vagaries of the English language

It all started with a simple comment.  “Honey, I think I’m going to take a sculpting class at the senior center.” says my lovely wife.  I think, okay I’m not very artistic but it might be fun, so I say, “Hey babe, you want me to go with you?”  She lights up with a 100,000 volt smile and says, “Sure, that would be great if you want to.”   I’m thinking it will be nice to spend some quiet time learning a new skill with my wife.  “So what prompted this interest in art” says I.  The smile turns to a puzzled look, “What art are you talking about?”  “The sculpting class” I say.  She bursts out laughing.  Now I have the puzzled look.  “Okay, what’s so funny?”  “It’s an abs and butt sculpting class, I didn’t even think art.”  Now I’m laughing, “I didn’t think workout.”   After a while we both stop laughing.

It made me stop and think how easy it is to be misunderstood.  The English language has so many variations and words that sound the same or close enough that it causes confusion.  And let’s not even discuss all the local and national colloquialisms.  That’s at least another blog entry or two.  I guess that’s why we have so many lawyers and politicians.  But what do you expect from language where we drive on parkways and park on driveways.

A few other gems of confusion:

  • The plural of foot is feet, but the plural of boot is boots (beet??)
  • A vegetable farmer is a person whose job is to produce produce
  • Your nose can run and your feet can smell
  • “In action” and “inaction” are opposites
  • You can be overwhelmed, but not whelmed
  • “Plague” has one syllable but “ague” has two
  • “ghoti” can be pronounced “fish” (see George Bernard Shaw)
  • “ough” has at least five different pronunciations

All that aside, my legs and butt still hurt from that class.  So I can only reach the conclusion that misunderstanding is painful in more ways that one.  Have a great day and communicate carefully!

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