“Let grammar, punctuation, and spelling into your life! Even the most energetic and wonderful mess has to be turned into sentences.”—Terry Pratchett
Posts Tagged ‘English’
Some people are born with the gift of weaving words. We call them writers, poets or wisecracks. Their expressions are so witty and original, that they are found everywhere you go. With the advent of the Internet, their coverage is global. I love to follow the quotations of these creative people, to augment my knowledge of English. One of these gifted people is Steven Wright.
Below I have listed twenty of his witty expressions which I hope you will enjoy. Here we go.
- “A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I’m afraid of widths.”
- “I busted a mirror and got seven years bad luck, but my lawyer thinks he can get me five.”
- “For my birthday I got a humidifier and a de-humidifier… I put them in the same room and let them fight it out. “
- “I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time’. So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.”
- “I think it’s wrong that only one company makes the game Monopoly.”
- “Do Lipton employees take coffee breaks? “
- “If you are in a spaceship that is traveling at the speed of light, and you turn on the headlights, does anything happen? “
- “Do you think that when they asked George Washington for ID that he just whipped out a quarter?”
- “I live on a one-way street that’s also a dead end. I’m not sure how I got there.”
- “If it’s a penny for your thoughts and you put in your two cents worth, then someone, somewhere is making a penny.”
- “The Bermuda Triangle got tired of warm weather. It moved to Alaska. Now Santa Claus is missing.”
- “If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do all the rest have to drown too?”
- “Why don’t they make the whole plane out of that black box stuff. “
- “Hermits have no peer pressure. “
- “It doesn’t make a difference what temperature a room is, it’s always room temperature.”
- “I went to a general store. They wouldn’t let me buy anything specifically. “
- “I invented the cordless extension cord.”
- “So, do you live around here often? “
- “If you were going to shoot a mime, would you use a silencer?”
- “I had some eyeglasses. I was walking down the street when suddenly the prescription ran out.”
If at least one of these quotations placed a smile on your face, this blog post was worth its salt. If not, promise to find another wise guy to make your day. Life is too serious, to be taken seriously. Good Day.
For those of you who are studying English, I’ll bet there are times when you just can’t take it any more. It has happened to me lots of times, but after while, when the smoke and the dust settles down, I keep on plowing until the confusion is cleared.
A word that irritated me for some time was “colonel”. Even though there are no ‘rs’ in the word, when Americans or British would pronounce it, I could clearly listen to the consonant ‘r’. “Why is that?”, I asked in total bafflement. Even my English teacher couldn’t give me a convincing answer.
A few days ago, I received an e-mail from a buddy in Chiriquí which revealed the mystery of the weird pronunciation of this military term.
This is what I learned about the word “colonel”.
“From the very beginning, when this word came into English in the 1500s, there were two spelling variants and two pronunciations. Coronel came through French and colonel through Italian. Colonel preserved the look of the related word ‘column,’ but coronel brought a nice, regal ‘crown’ to mind (though it wasn’t actually etymologically related). So it went back and forth until we settled into the ‘l’ spelling with the ‘r’ pronunciation. Yay compromise?”
And now you know the story of why we pronounce an invisible ‘r’ in the military rank. Yep, I affirm once more that English is a difficult language to master. Good Day.
Source: 11 Weirdly Spelled Words—And How They Got That Way – Mental Floss Online
A week ago, while I was casually browsing on the Internet, I chanced upon an interesting idiom which I had never read before; or maybe I did, but since forgot it. If you are a regular reader of Lingua Franca, you already know how passionate I am about English idiomatic phrases.
The idiom includes the words, “hands down”. An example of how the idiomatic phrase might be used would be: “He was the clear winner, hands down”. The expression comes down from British horse racing. When a jockey had the lead in a race and there was no chance whatsoever of anybody catching up with him, the jockey would put his hands down, allowing the horse to continue galloping across the finish line.
I really enjoyed learning this new idiom. Now it makes a lot of sense. If you liked it, go ahead and use it with your friends, relatives or co-workers in your daily life. You could be the next popular kid on the block hands down. Good Day.
I recently received an e-mail from a fellow blogger that confirmed my hypothesis that English is an extremely complex and confusing language. Anybody studying the language of Shakespeare will probably agree with me.
Below is what my fellow blogger sent me which confirmed my theory about English. Be prepared to be baffled by the content of this e-mail. Here we go.
We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men,
Why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
Then one may be that, and there would be those,
Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!
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.
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?
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 didn’t preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
Should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.
In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship…
We have noses that run and feet that smell.
We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
While a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language
In which your house can burn up as it burns down,
In which you fill in a form by filling it out,
And in which an alarm goes off by going on.
And in closing……….
If Father is Pop, how come Mother’s not Mop.???
If you got this far, it means you are really a zealot of the English language and probably have a large smile on your face. Good Day.
When you recognize her beauty
The eye applauds
The heart stands in ovation
And the tongue….
When she is near, is on its best behavior!
It speaks more like light…
What does light speak about?
I asked a plant that once…
“I’m not sure, but it makes me grow!”
By: Kiesha Crowther
Thanks to a collaboration from Richard, a fellow blogger, author of “One More Good Adventure”, I was able to partly clear some confusion I had about several English words. He sent me an e-mail with an article explaining the difference between word-pairs easily confused, even by English-speaking persons. The difference between them is very subtle and it requires concentration to notice the difference between them.
The name of the article sent by my friend is, “Shades of Meaning: Five Commonly Confused Word-Pairs” written by William B. Bradshaw, author of “The Big Ten of Grammar: Identifying and Fixing the Ten Most Frequent Grammatical Errors”. If English is your second language, reading this article will be highly beneficial in polishing up the language. Reading the book will further consolidate the understanding of the difficult language of William Shakespeare.
“Most of the world’s prominent grammarians have reached consensus for the appropriate uses of many often-confused word pairs. I explore the details of many of these grammatical errors in The Big Ten of Grammar and am sharing the grammarian’s official verdict on the usage of five commonly confused word-pairs.
These are the five word-pairs selected by William B. Bradshaw:
- “Sure” and “Certain”
- “Less” and Fewer”
- “Further and “Farther”
- “Big” and “Large”
- “Often” and “Frequently”
Bradshaw offers a comprehensive distinction between the often confused English word-pairs. Even though I’ve read his explanation of items 4 and 5, I still feel confused as to the proper usage of the terms. I’ll keep my ears close to the ground to see how they are used by recognized authors. In the meantime, I’m still inside the English maze trying to find my way out.
Source: “Shades of Meaning: Five Commonly Confused Word-Pairs” penned by William B. Bradshaw
Posted in English, tagged Church of England, Dangling Prepositions, England, English, Grammar, History, John Dryden, languages, Monarchy, Oliver Cromwell, Puritans, Restoration on October 2, 2012 | 6 Comments »
Every civilized society has a clearly defined set of rules to regulate the lives of its inhabitants. Lack of rules would mean absolute chaos. Legal rules discussed in Congress are called laws and rules originated by other social organizations are just called rules. Such is the case of English grammar rules. As an example let’s discuss the rule about dangling prepositions.
It’s wrong to end a sentence with a preposition. Proper English grammar dictates that English sentences should not end in prepositions. A dangling preposition is a preposition that is the last word of a sentence or clause like, “What are you thinking about?” According to true English grammar purists, one should never end a sentence or a clause with a preposition. It’s a sin to do so raged the English purists.
“Who are you going with?”
“Which box did you put it in?”
“Who’s the letter addressed to?”
Do the above sound perfectly correct to you? Well, grammatically speaking they’re not. They’re certainly accepted in everyday speech, and it’s fine if your coworkers, relatives and friends talk that way. But each of the above is technically incorrect, because each one ends with a preposition devoid of its object. In short, it “dangles.”
When using prepositions, they must always be followed by their objects. They may not stand alone. That is the rule which we should follow if we consider ourselves to write proper English. Below is the correct way to write the three examples above:
“With whom are you going?” (Preposition with followed by its object whom)
“In which box did you put it?” (Preposition in followed by its object box)
“To whom is the letter addressed?” (Preposition to followed by its object whom)
What is the reason for the rule of the dangling preposition? Well, it dates back to the 17th century in Great Britain to a writer named John Dryden who is believed to be the first person to posit that English sentences should not end in prepositions because it was against the rules of Latin grammar.
Dryden created the prescription against preposition stranding in 1672 when he objected to Ben Johnson’s 1611 phrase, “the bodies that those souls were frightened from,” although he didn’t offer an explanation of the rationale that gave rise to his preference. The real reason was a political one. John Dryden was a writer representative of the Restoration movement in England after puritanical Oliver Cromwell and Parliament was defeated in 1660.
“Puritans” as the name given to the 16th century to an extreme group of Protestants within the Church of England who thought the English Reformation had not gone far enough in reforming the doctrines and structure of the church. They wanted to purify their national church by eliminating every shred of Catholic influence. In addition, they wanted the Church of England purified of any liturgy, ceremony or practices which were not found in the Scripture. Thus the name “Puritans.” The Bible was their sole authority, and they believed it applied to every area and level of life.
One of the main belief of the Puritans was that if you worked hard, you would get to heaven. Pointless enjoyment was frowned upon. Many inns and theaters were all closed down. Most sports were banned. Boys caught playing football on a Sunday could be shipped as a punishment. In some districts bear-baiting, cock-fighting, horse-racing and wrestling were banned. Betting and gambling were also forbidden. Large numbers of ale-houses were closed. Even theaters were closed.
The Puritans lost control after the Restoration in 1660. The term “Restoration” is used to describe both the real event by which the monarchy was restored, and the several years afterwards in which a new political settlement was established. Theaters reopened after having been closed and women were allowed to perform on stage for the first time.
In literature perhaps the most outstanding result of the Restoration was the reopening of the theaters, which had been closed since 1642, and a consequent great revival of the drama. The drama of the period was marked by the brilliance of wit and licentiousness, which may have been a reflection of the freeness of court manners. This historical period is vividly brought to life in the diaries of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn, and in poetry the Restoration is distinguished by the work of John Dryden and a number of other poets.
It is a literature that include the hysterical attack on theaters from Jeremy Collier, and pioneering of literary criticism from John Dryden and John Dennis. The English rule of the dangling preposition is a direct result of a reaction of the loose court manners of the new monarch Charles II. English grammar is thus tainted by political events.
About ending a sentence with a preposition some English experts say that you shouldn’t take it too seriously. “Forget about it.” If ending a sentence with a preposition is more graceful than not, go ahead and do it. Clarity, simplicity, and grace are what good writing is all about. I understand that the Columbia and Chicago style manuals agree on this matter. We all know the famous Winston Churchill line about ending a sentence with a preposition: “That is the type of arrant pedantry up with which I shall not put.” Some rules can be broken, as long as the communication is clear and graceful like a cloudless sky.
And now you know the controversial story behind the English grammar rule about dangling prepositions. Good Day.
The answer to this question is a “Yes” and a “No”. How come? Let me explain. The reason for this ambivalent answer is a result of the constant evolution of the English language. It is constantly changing the meaning of its words, as it were alive—live a living creature. I’ve made this assertion before.
If you look up the word “faggot” in a dictionary worth its salt it will be defined as follows: [North America, offensive slang] A disparaging term for a homosexual man; a gay man. The expression is also shortened as “fag”. But it also means a bundle of sticks and branches bound together or a package of several things tied together for carrying or storing. The relationship between a bundle of sticks and a homosexual male is odd. The explanation to this linguistic disparity leads us to our previous assertion that the English language is a living creature—always changing.
In the 12th and 13th century in Great Britain, the expression “faggot” meant a bundle of sticks. Examples: “A short distance further lay a little faggot of the same shoots bound together with a strip of bark.”—Typee by Herman Melville. “He ordered his servants to bring in a faggot of sticks, and said to his eldest son: ‘Break it’—Fables by Aesop. It was a burning implement used as kindle for a fire or a rustic broom for sweeping and sometimes used as whip. The word “besom” which is an instrument for sweeping was also used, thus our modern word “broom” which we all obviously understand.
In the 15th century the meaning of the words changed slightly and was used as a pejorative expression for women. Women were called faggots. The view of the men of the time was that their wives were a burden, in the same way carrying a bundle of sticks can be a burden.
According to my research, in 1914 the word faggots was first used as a derogatory term for gay men; a generalized insult (fagula, fegula). Currently the word is used as a derogatory term for gay men or as an informal way to tease somebody; so the meaning depends on the context the word is used.
This is one of many example of a language in permanent change. The historical transformation of the word faggot is indeed admirable. Good Day.
As many of you probably know, I’m been enamored with the English language since I was six. Never lived in an English-speaking country, so the learning process has been like a roller coaster ride, up and down, forward and backwards. But still, the passion for the language is so strong, I keep on plowing forward. My native tongue is Spanish.
The most difficult part of the English language has been learning the ample variety of idioms, also known as idiomatic phrases, parlacences or phrasal idioms. A good dictionary worth its salt will define an idiom as: A matter of speaking that is natural to native speakers of a language or the usage or vocabulary that is characteristic of a specific group of people. Example: “The immigrants spoke an odd idiom of English.” Another meaning is: An expression whose meaning cannot be inferred from the meanings of the words that make it up.
I push myself hard to learn new English idioms by reading English books, movies, magazines and TV programs. Sometimes I will hear the phrase, jot it down in a piece of paper, and later look it up in an online dictionary. I’m amazed of how different the meaning of the idiom is from the real English words. That is what makes it so difficult to grasp if you have not lived in an English-speaking country, which is my case.
Recently I stumbled in this new idiomatic expression while surfing the Web: “Before one had nails on one’s toes.” This is what it means: Before one was born; long ago, in the distant past.
This expression refers to the fact that a baby’s toenails develop prenatally. Thus an event or other matter that occurred before a person’s toenail developed occurred before he or she was born. In its most common usage, the expression cites a younger person’s age as the basis for denigrating his status, experience, ideals, or philosophies.
“There’s Ulysses and old Nestor, whose wit and moldy ere your grandsires had nails on their toes.”—William Shakespeare.
And now you understand how difficult it has been for me to learn the language of Shakespeare. Good Day.