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Fazed by the English Language's Quirks

Posted by admin-ngenglishyuk Selasa, 24 Juli 2012

Fazed by the English Language's Quirks
by Geoff Tan for Mypaper, 23 July 2012

I have always been intrigued by the English language and its idiosyncrasies.

It is certainly not as simple and straightforward as it appears to be. I have often stumbled over its inconsistencies and, till today, cannot figure out why certain things are the way they are.

My former boss recently sent me an e-mail message about the more interesting quirks of English.

For example, have you ever wondered why the plural of ox is not oxes, but the plural of box is boxes? Or why the plural of mouse is mice, but that of house is not hice?

I am sure you will agree that your left foot and your right foot constitute your feet. But why are one's left boot and right boot not referred to as one's beet?

And if one of those small, whitish structures in your mouth is a tooth, and many are known as teeth, then why is the the plural of booth not beeth? Beats me!

Now, let's talk about gender. We have all learnt that the masculine pronouns are he, his and him. Can someone tell me why the respective feminine equivalents are she, but not shis and shim?

English is indeed a weird language, with sometimes-funny twists and turns.

Have you ever wondered why an eggplant is so named, when there is no egg in it? And a hamburger contains absolutely no ham.

Why is a boxing ring called a ring when it is, in fact, a square? And why is a guinea pig so named when it is neither from Guinea nor a pig? And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, while grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham?

If you get my drift, you might then ask, if a vegetarian eats vegetables, then what does a humanitarian eat? Or, why do noses run and feet smell?

On the issue of similarities and differences, why do a slim chance and a fat chance mean the same thing, while a wise man and a wise guy are nowhere close in terms of meaning?

Writing all this has made me even more confused about the creative licence that the English language has been granted.

How can it be that, when the stars are out, they are visible but, when the lights are out, they are invisible?

It's time for a stiff drink!

The writer is a senior vice-president of Singapore Press Holdings' marketing division.

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