English is confusing – look it up

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As a writer, I am often baffled by the language that I love. I read once that English was hands down the most difficult language to master. I believe it.

There is no egg in eggplant or ham in hamburger. There is neither pine nor apple in pineapple. English muffins aren’t English, and both French fries and Chinese chop suey are strictly American. Quick sand works slowly, boxing rings are square, and a guinea pig is neither a pig nor from Guinea.

Bad enough, but sometimes when I’m bored I try to figure out why writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers don’t ham. And if the plural of tooth is teeth, then the plural of booth should be beeth. And since the plural of goose is geese, by rights the plural of moose should be meese.

I’ve also noticed that people drive on a parkway and park on a driveway.  And, oh yeah, why do slim chance and fat chance mean the same thing?

Now, consider the word “up,” which probably has more meanings than any other word in the English language.

After all, we wake “up” in the morning, bring “up” a topic in a meeting and depend on the secretary to write “up” the minutes. We call “up” our friends, brighten “up” a room, clean “up” the kitchen, lock “up” the house and fix “up” the old car. It clouds “up” and rains, and then, by golly, it clears “up.” All of which helps me work “up” an appetite and think “up” excuses for stirring “up” trouble in my column. And if you look “up” the word in the dictionary you’ll find at least 30 definitions for “up.” I could go on, but, for now, I think I’ll just wrap it “up.”

 

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