The British TV comedy series “Mind your Language” is hilarious. It is more than comedy. It caricatures the English language with a potpourri of international language flavours. For those whose lingua franca is English, the idiosyncrasy of the English language may not be apparent to you. But seriously, for adults learning the English language, navigating the labyrinth of the language requires that you take away logic else you may be totally misinterpreted. English is an enigma.
Let’s begin English 101 (from “Mind Your Language”).
Q: What’s a sentence?
A: A sentence is what you get when you are sent to prison.
You grimaced. That’s probably not what you expected. The answer is not wrong, just that it is not the intent of the question. Sentence is a homonym. Without the context, its definition is ambiguous. English grammar includes structure of words, phrases, clauses, and sentences, right up to the structure of whole texts. It can be confusing and amusing if not constructed correctly.
A little boy was asked what he brought to school. He replied, “I brang my books to school.” He was taught that the past tense of sing is sang, drink is drank…. Being a smart boy, he deduced that the past tense of bring in brang. So shouldn’t the past tense of think be thank ? This logical train of thought collapses!
What about plurals? If plural of goose is geese, why isn’t the plural of moose, meese? Mouse becomes mice in its plural form, therefore house should be hice? Then there are the “s” and “es” suffixes and replacement of “y” with “ies” for plural nouns: Fox – foxes; Dog – doges; Story – stories; Essay – Essaies! The confounding list goes on and on. The trick is to learn the exceptions to the rule. But why should it be so complicated? Wouldn’t it be easier to add suffix “2” to make a plural, as practised by some other languages: cow – cow2! No more ambiguities nor confusion.
A person who bakes is a baker, and lecturer is one who lectures. Wouldn’t the one who cooks a cooker and he who sews a sewer? Logic implies that these word association renditions are on the right track. But alas, English is not about logic. And if this is not enough, how about these? He goes, they go. He went, they also went. English …. is just confusing.
The conundrum continues with “s” and “z”, “c” and “s”. The American is the purveyor of this perverted misuse of these characters. They just wanted to be different, substituting traditional spellings with their own Yankee version of Yanklish. Emphasise is now emphasize, practice becomes practise (unlike the English version which differentiates a noun or a verb) and so on.
If you are not frustrated already, there is a new paradigm for the acronym-age English. Try to interpret this:
DQMOT, BSF IDK WCA 2TXT W/LOA.
IYO, ITS EZ &PDQ… IDTS.
IMHO, ARE =ADIH. TBH, FUBAR &2M2H. GIAR, PLZ! KISS.
9 Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.