REASONS WHY THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
IS HARD TO LEARN:
excerpts from various Richard Lederer articles and the
poem, "The English Lesson." Similar lists circulating
in e-mail exchanges and listservs with minor variations.
This particular adaptation appeared on the
listserv. The earliest individual passing it along
in that chain was Nicholas C. Burbules, Department
of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, though he himself is not
1. The bandage was wound
around the wound.
2. The farm was used to produce produce.
3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
4. We must polish the Polish furniture.
5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.
6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it
was time to present the present.
8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
10. I did not object to the object.
11. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
12. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
13. They were too close to the door to close it.
14. The buck does funny things when the does are present.
15. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
16. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to
17. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18. After a number of injections my jaw got number.
19. Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.
20. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
21. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
Let's face it - English
is a crazy language:
Sometimes I think all the English
speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.
In what language do people 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? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the
same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
There is no
egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger;
neither apple or pine in pineapple.
weren't invented in England, and French fries aren't French.
candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.
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?
If the plural
of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural
of booth beeth?
One goose, two
geese; so, one moose, two meese? One index, two indices?
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?
taught, why didn't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian
eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
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. English was invented
by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of
the human race which, of course, isn't a race at all.