English is the most widely spoken language in the history of our planet, used in some way by at least one out of every seven human beings around the globe. Half of the world’s books are written in English, and the majority of international telephone calls are made in English. Sixty percent of the world’s radio programs are beamed in English, and more than seventy percent of international mail is written and addressed in English. Eighty percent of all computer texts, including all web sites, are stored in English. Nonetheless, it is now time to face the fact that English is a crazy language — the most loopy and wiggy of all tongues.
In what other language do people drive in a parkway and park in a driveway?
In what other language do people play at a recital and recite at a play?
Why does night fall but never break and day break but never fall?
Why is it that when we transport something by car, it’s called ashipment, but when we transport something by ship, it’s calledcargo?
Why do we pack suits in a garment bag and garments in a suitcase?
Why do privates eat in the general mess and generals eat in the private mess?
Why do we call it newsprint when it contains no printing but when we put print on it, we call it a newspaper?
Why are people who ride motorcycles called bikers and people who ride bikes called cyclists?
Why — in our crazy language — can your nose run and your feet smell?
Language is like the air we breathe. It’s invisible, inescapable, indispensable, and we take it for granted. But, when we take the time to step back and listen to the sounds that escape from the holes in people’s faces and to explore the paradoxes and vagaries of English, we find that hot dogs can be cold, darkrooms can be lit, homework can be done in school, nightmares can take place in broad daylight while morning sickness and daydreaming can take place at night, tomboys are girls and midwives can be men, hours — especially happy hours and rush hours — often last longer than sixty minutes, quicksand works very slowly, boxing rings are square, silverware and glasses can be made of plastic and tablecloths of paper, most telephones are dialed by being punched (or pushed?), and most bathrooms don’t have any baths in them. In fact, a dog can go to the bathroom under a tree — no bath, no room; it’s still going to the bathroom. And doesn’t it seem a little bizarre that we go to the bathroom in order to go to the bathroom?
Why is it that when the sun or the moon or the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible; that when I clip a coupon from a newspaper I separate it, but when I clip a coupon to a newspaper, I fasten it; and that when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I shall end it?
English is a crazy language.
How can expressions like “I’m mad about my flat,” “No football coaches allowed,” “I’ll come by in the morning and knock you up,” and “Keep your pecker up” convey such different messages in two countries that purport to speak the same English?
Still, you have to marvel at the unique lunacy of the English language, in which you can turn a light on and you can turn a light off and you can turn a light out, but you can’t turn a light in; in which the sun comes up and goes down, but prices go up and come down — a gloriously wiggy tongue in which your house can simultaneously burn up and burn down and your car can slow up and slow down, in which you fill in a form by filling out a form, in which your alarm clock goes off by going on, in which you are inoculated for measles by being inoculated against measles, in which you add up a column of figures by adding them down, and in which you first chop a tree down — and then you chop it up. Do comment and let me know what u feel.