Crazy English

Here is a terrific poem I have found which shows the unbelievable oddness of our language …

Unfortunately, no-one seems to know the name of the genius who composed this fabulous poem about the craziness of the English language:

The English Lesson

We’ll begin with box, and the plural is boxes,
But the plural of ox should be oxen, not oxes.
Then one fowl is goose, but two are called geese,
Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
You may find a lone mouse or a whole lot of mice,
But 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 pen?
The cow in the plural may be cows or kine,
But the plural of vow is vows, not vine.
And I speak of a foot, and you show me your feet,
But I give a boot… would a pair be beet?
If one is a tooth, and a whole set is teeth,
Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be beeth?

If the singular is this, and the plural is these,
Why shouldn’t the plural of kiss be kese?
Then one may be that, and three be those,
Yet the plural of hat would never be hose.
We speak of a brother, and also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.

The masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine she, shis, and shim.
So our English, I think you will agree,
Is the trickiest language you ever did see.

I take it you already know
of tough, and bough and cough and dough?
Others may stumble, but not you
on hiccough, through, slough and though.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps
To learn of less familiar traps?
Beware of heard, a dreadful word
That looks like beard and sounds like bird.
And dead; it’s said like bed, not bead!
For goodness sake, don’t call it deed!

Watch out for meat and great and threat,
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt)
A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
And then there’s dose and rose and lose –
Just look them up – and goose and choose,
And cork and work and card and ward
And font and front and word and sword.

And do and go, then thwart and cart.
Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start.
A dreadful language: Why, man alive,
I’d learned to talk when I was five.
And yet to write it, the more I tried,
I hadn’t learned it at fifty-five.

[An alternative version quotes the final couplet as:

And yet to write it, the more I sigh,
I’ll not learn how ’til the day I die.]

What a fabulous poem!  But such a shame no-one knows the author/s.  So yes, English is crazy, and we have poems like this to remind us!


Spelling question – Is it ware and tare or wear and tear?

Do people make up words these days?

Is spelling important in your resume?

What’s the right way to use embiggen?

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5 Responses to What’s the right way to use embiggen?

  1. ApostropheQueen says:

    OUCH! No, no, no – there is no such word as “embiggen”. It was invented and first aired in the animated series The Simpsons, in February 1986. Unfortunately many people started to use it online, and it has spread like wildfire. Whenever I read it, it makes me cringe :-)

    I checked several online dictionaries and this is what they say:

    Embiggen is not a word

    and here is the original:
    Lisa Simpson first used the word embiggen

    So please – don’t use the word “embiggen” – it hurts my eyes and ears :-)


    • Stephen says:

      I’d assume “embiggen” is a fictional build on “enlarge”, possibly with a nod to “embolden” (to make bold)?

      • ApostropheQueen says:

        Exactly Stephen :-)

        “Fictional” is the key — but so many folks think it’s real now that it’s been on tv for so long.

  2. Lynn says:

    In Montana, everyone says: these ones, those ones, moving on out, moving on in, where you at?, the boyzez room, the girlses toys, a little bit more breezier, a breezy wind (I wonder what other kinds there are?), Him and me, Her and me, me and him or me and her. This bothers me so much more than nails on a chalkboard!!! I was educated in New York state; lived in Colorado for thirty years; now in MT for ten looong years. (I know long has only 1 o in it). It’s (or it is) so good to get this off my chest!!!

    • ApostropheQueen says:

      Hey Lynn,

      I hear you! It grates on my nerves to hear people speaking like this too :-)

      Sounds like you’ve got a lot to contend with – just grin and pretend you’re in a soap opera, that’s what works for me :-)
      It’s always a pleasure to meet someone who enjoys the English language as much as I do!


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