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October Saturday Guest Bloggers: 10/7 Mark Bacon, 10/14 Elaine Orr, 10/21 WWK's Margaret S. Hamilton, 10/28 Kait Carson, and E. B. Davis 10/31 to fill out our fifth Tuesday.


WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla! Look for Carla's blog this month to find out the winner.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Illogical English Language

I'm going to channel my inner Gallagher today.

Don't worry, you don't need protection from watermelon chunks . . . I'm talking about when Gallagher points out the absurdity of the English language.

In my day job, there's a cafeteria where the daily specials get posted on a chalkboard.  The people who run the cafeteria are not from this country, so English is a second (or maybe third) language for them.  Because of that, sometimes the board will say that a Ham and Chedder sandwich (or something similar) is available for lunch that day.  While that seems minor, when it says we're having Sweat & Sour Chicken for lunch, the problem becomes very unappetizing.

But I don't see it as their fault.  E-a-t is pronounced "eet," so it makes sense that they would think s-w-e-a-t sounds similar.  It's our lexicon that's messed up.

When I lived in Prague, I took a course so I could teach English as a Foreign Language (or EFL).  As part of the class, we had to do some on-hand training with actual Czech students (both children and adults), to learn firsthand the difficulties that we might encounter in our new careers.  It took me a very short while to realize I wouldn't be a good EFL teacher, because I wasn’t able to answer the questions that students would ask for clarification purposes.

Like, why is t-h-r-o-u-g-h pronounced "threw" (which is another word that means something completely different), but r-o-u-g-h is pronounced "ruff?"  And b-o-u-g-h is different still, as "bow" (which is another homonym).  During my training, whenever the students would ask me these quite pertinent questions, all I could say is "It doesn't make sense, but that's the way it is." 

Now, maybe I would've been able to find the "proper" answers if I had done more research into the etymology of words, but I didn't even fully understand my mother tongue, so I felt very inept in trying to teach it to someone else.  I’ve heard that English is one of the hardest languages to teach, and I believe that. There are so many exceptions to nearly all of the rules of our collective vocabulary that it’s hard to tell someone to just accept them without question, when the words in their native tongue follow that language’s rules quite precisely.

Even now, all I remember of my education was that we were told to memorize the pronunciations of the words, and not question them.  There’s even that childhood rhyme “I before E, except after C . . .” that’s used to teach us how to spell.  And even that rule has some exceptions to it.

*Side note, why do you remove the "o" from "pronounce" in order to make a "pronunciation?"*

I'm sure I don't have the answers to these questions, and it would probably hurt my brain to try to figure them all out.  I just have to keep on my toes when reading my company's daily lunch board, and make allowances for the kooky rules of English.

11 comments:

JC Piech said...

I guess the easiest explanation as to why English is so illogical is because it's a mixture of so many languages!

We use words from French, German, Indian, Gaelic, Scandinavian languages... the list goes on. It's no wonder there are no hard and fast rules! That's why I hate it when people start harking on about 'proper' English. There really is no such thing.

Alyx Morgan said...

LOL How right you are, JC.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Maddy said...

My daughter teachers in a charter school where English is the second language and my son-in -law is Brazilian [Portuguese] and we're always finding the most ludicrous anomalies- more interesting though.

Alyx Morgan said...

It's good that you find them interesting, Maddy. I'm sure an etymologist would be fascinated with our language, since it is a mixture of so many other languages (as JC said). But I'm no etymologist. :)

Thanks for reading today.

Dana Fredsti said...

I love the English language for all of these reasons. It's fun, if frustrating! I'm just glad it's my first language 'cause ti would be a bitch to learn!

Kara Cerise said...

I admire people who learn (or teach) English as a second language. I read that "ough" in a word can be pronounced nine different ways. How confusing!

Alyx Morgan said...

I always knew you had a twisted sense of humor, Dana. ;o)

I agree that I'm glad it's my first, too. But it would be easier to learn other languages if I understood my own, first.

Alyx Morgan said...

Nine, Kara? Yikes! I knew there were a lot, but not that many. Seems over the top, somehow.

Thanks for stopping by today.

Warren Bull said...

When I watch the national spelling bee on television, I can't spell or define almost any of the words.

Alyx Morgan said...

I haven't watched those, Warren, but I have heard some of the words the contestants are required to spell, & yes, I've not heard of most of those, either.

Grammarian said...

Hi. English can seem a bit illogical, but there are pretty simple explanations for why the apparent irregularities occur. David Crystal wrote a book called Spell It Out on the history of English spelling. Also I wrote a book called If Houses Why Not Mouses?, which explains amongst other things, the sound change in pronounce/pronunciation - that's actually a perfectly regular pattern of vowel weakening when extra syllables are added. You also see it when the word "fact" gets a prefix and becomes de-fect/per-fect etc, not de-fact/per-fact. Check out my book here

http://www.amazon.com/If-Houses-Why-Not-Mouses/dp/1909395595/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1374742483&sr=8-1&keywords=if+houses+why+not+mouses

Best wishes

Damian O'Brien