This is my favorite essay on the eccentricities of the English language. The author is Richard Lederer, who wrote Anguished English, Crazy English, Get Thee to a Punnery and other delightful books about language. Enjoy.
Let’s face it. English is a crazy language. 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.
We take English for granted. But 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?
Doesn’t it seem crazy that 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 don’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, are humanitarians cannibals?
Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.
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?
And if I’m uncouth, are you couth?