terça-feira, 30 de março de 2010

Our crazy language

If pro and con are opposites, is congress the opposite of progress?
English is the most widely used language in the history of our planet. One in every seven human beings can speak it. More than half of the world´s books and three quarters of international mail are in English. Of all languages, English has the largest vocabulary - perhaps as many as two million words and one of the noblest bodies of literature.
Nonetheless, let´s face it: English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, neither pine nor apple in pineapple and no ham in a hamburger.
English muffins weren´t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candy, while sweetbreads, which aren´t sweet, are meat.
We take English for granted. But when we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square, public bathrooms have no baths and a guinea pig is neither a pig nor from Guinea.
And why is it that a writer writes, but fingers don´t fing, grocers don´t groce, humdingers don´t hum and hammers don´t ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, shouldn´t the plural of booth be beeth? One goose, two geese - so one moose, two meese? One index, two indices - one Kleenex, two Kleenices?
Sometimes I wonder if all English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what other language do people drive on a parkway and park in a driveway? Recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?
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 your alarm goes off by going on.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn´t really a race at all). And why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch I start it, but when I wind up this essay I end it.

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