Over the years, I’ve watched my grandchildren, and other children and adults for that matter, struggle with learning the proper way to speak and write. Past tense, present tense and all the other tenses can simply tense us all up. Plus with the different ways to pronounce a word, things can get confusing. I hear my four-year-old grandson say, he “goed” somewhere instead of “went” somewhere. More than one deer is “deers.” Makes sense to me since more than one finger is fingers.
Many years ago I was taking a class to keep up my credits for my teaching license. It was a science class. At the time, I was teaching four and five-year olds and hearing their various forms of language day after day. An assignment we had in the class was to present an age-appropriate experiment. I decided to do one I did with my students in school.
So, I stood before the classroom, my supplies before me on the table, looked up at the expectant faces of my fellow college classmates and said: “When I ‘doed’ this with my students…” You can imagine my utter (not udder) embarrassment. Then I said, to cover my blunder, “You have to understand I work with preschoolers and this is how they speak.” The laughter from the other adults made me feel better, but I’ve never forgotten the feeling of speaking incorrectly.
The other day I received an e-mail from my husband about why the English language is so hard to learn. I have to admit there are days when I’m writing that I have to stop and recall if a word we use here in the United States is different from other countries. For example, here we say (or should say) “I went toward the car.” In Britain they say, “I went towards the car.” I learned this during my edits in my last book.
Spelling is another issue. My husband and I lived in Canada for a while. I still have trouble remembering if certain words should have the additional “u” in them or not or an “e” at the end.
So back to the article my husband sent to me. Here are some of the items it mentioned:
– The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
– I did not object to the object.
– There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row. (Bet you had to re-read that one to get the pronunciation correct on the first “row.”
– When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
– The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
– One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese?
– If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
– If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
– Why do noses run and feet smell?
– Why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?
– A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
– He could lead if he got the lead out.
– The bandage was wound around the wound.
– How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
– If you have a bunch of odds and ends and you get rid of all but one, what do you call it?
You get the idea. The English language is confusing and contradictory. It’s amazing that we ever all learn to speak and write the same. But then again – do we?