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Author Topic: English is weird  (Read 103624 times)

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English is weird
« on: 18 May 2012, 16:28 »

Post strange things about the English language. If you have a Horrible Example of a sentence gone wrong, please be sure it was from a native speaker before posting -- this thread is about ridiculing the language, not the people trying to learn it.

Quote from: A US politician who thought he was using intransitive verbs
[the politician] will work to expand and enhance access and opportunities for Americans to hunt, shoot, and protect their families

Quote from: A book about structural and safety inspections of houses
All chimneys in recent construction must be lined with an inflammable material.

I have endless fun deliberately misparsing compound noun phrases. For example, shouldn't "Fallout Shelter" mean a place to keep fallout out of the cold and rain?
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"Non-compliance is a social skill"
Quote from: an unnamed minister's sermon
In your face, darkness!  We are the light and we outnumber you!

Jimor

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #1 on: 18 May 2012, 16:36 »

A business memo from Pacific Gas & Electric back in 1997. A friend of mine works there, and I typed this from the printout he made at the time to show me, and e-mailed it to myself to save it where I could find it again.

Quote
Compliance is an integral part of safety, the partnership and our business
basics--the foundation of our business. We should be proud of our longstanding
commitment to compliance. One of our objectives in 1997 is to stengthen that
longstanding commitment to full compliance. As part of the implementation of
the new CES Policy, I am issuing our T&CS Compliance Plan.

The T&CS Compliance Plan demonstrates our commitment to compliance and the
methods and activities used to ensure compliance. It also outlines everyone's
responsibilities for ensuring our work is performed in compliance with our
commitments. Also, it identifies corrective actions that we must act upon to
develop, implement, and maintain compliance.

Please review the Plan and take the appropriate implementing actions. With
your help, we will fortify our Compliance Program to prevent, detect and
correct noncompliances with CES commitments.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #2 on: 18 May 2012, 17:02 »

For example, shouldn't "Fallout Shelter" mean a place to keep fallout out of the cold and rain?
As a girl, I thought this about bus shelters. Why are they not called passenger shelters?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #3 on: 18 May 2012, 18:51 »

Roadside sign:

Motel
Food
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jwhouk

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #4 on: 18 May 2012, 18:59 »

English differs from other languages in one key function: the use of pronouns, conjunctions, and articles instead of declinations.

This makes reading sentences with all three difficult: "He and she did that." 
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #5 on: 18 May 2012, 21:20 »

I ain't gots no problems readin's English :P

Take a word that has multiple meanings, but the same spelling.  Like:

He wound the wound in a bandage.

Or different spellings and same pronunciation (bonus: this one even has a proper noun):

Barry went to bury the single berry.


And here's a whole list from the Air Force's writing manual:

2) The farm was used to produce produce.
3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse and it smelled like a fresh dump.  (ok, the last part was added by me :evil:  )
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 a 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 sow.
17) The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
18) After a number of Novocain 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?
22) I spent last evening evening out a pile of dirt.


English weird?  Of course it's not.  It's just the result of what would happen if you mixed several languages together and started stealing words that sound cool/fun from other languages over the course of time.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #6 on: 19 May 2012, 01:23 »

Jimor, loading that one up in a text program and running find and replace on compliance is great fun. Best example thus far:

stingrays is an integral part of safety, the partnership and our business
basics--the foundation of our business. We should be proud of our longstanding
commitment to stingrays. One of our objectives in 1997 is to stengthen that
longstanding commitment to full stingrays. As part of the implementation of
the new CES Policy, I am issuing our T&CS stingrays Plan.

The T&CS stingrays Plan demonstrates our commitment to stingrays and the
methods and activities used to ensure stingrays. It also outlines everyone's
responsibilities for ensuring our work is performed in stingrays with our
commitments. Also, it identifies corrective actions that we must act upon to
develop, implement, and maintain stingrays.

Please review the Plan and take the appropriate implementing actions. With
your help, we will fortify our stingrays Program to prevent, detect and
correct nonstingrayss with CES commitments.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #7 on: 19 May 2012, 01:24 »

Barry went to bury the single berry.

I'm intrigued - I pronounce all of those words quite differently.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #8 on: 19 May 2012, 01:26 »

Same here, and I'm 'merican! 
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #9 on: 19 May 2012, 01:32 »

Face-Stabbing is an integral part of safety, the partnership and our business
basics--the foundation of our business. We should be proud of our longstanding
commitment to face-stabbing. One of our objectives in 1997 is to stengthen that
longstanding commitment to full face-stabbing. As part of the implementation of
the new CES Policy, I am issuing our T&CS Face-stabbing Plan.

The T&CS Face-Stabbing Plan demonstrates our commitment to face-stabbing and the
methods and activities used to ensure face-stabbing. It also outlines everyone's
responsibilities for ensuring our work is performed in face-stabbing with our
commitments. Also, it identifies corrective actions that we must act upon to
develop, implement, and maintain face-stabbing.

Please review the Plan and take the appropriate implementing actions. With
your help, we will fortify our Face-Stabbing Program to prevent, detect and
correct non-face-stabbings with CES commitments.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #10 on: 19 May 2012, 01:49 »

How many sounds does "ough" represent for you?

(click to show/hide)
« Last Edit: 21 Nov 2015, 16:16 by pwhodges »
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #11 on: 19 May 2012, 01:56 »

Barry went to bury the single berry.

I'm intrigued - I pronounce all of those words quite differently.

It would be better if it were Barry went to Bury to bury the berry of Barry's Behries.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #12 on: 19 May 2012, 04:14 »

Barry went to bury the single berry.

I'm intrigued - I pronounce all of those words quite differently.
I pronounce them the same. Is that midwestian? It would be interesting to hear them in their different pronunciations.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #13 on: 19 May 2012, 04:29 »

I make bury and berry the same, but Barry is simply nothing like them (the vowels are as in pet and pat).
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"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #14 on: 19 May 2012, 04:56 »

I can hear that difference, but it's strange to me. I'd rhyme him with Harry and airy, and hope he'd not take offense if I rhymed it with fairy.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #15 on: 19 May 2012, 05:03 »

affect as both noun and verb
effect as both noun and verb

His outburst had a longlasting effect on her ability to show affect. Therapy effected some improvement, but also affected her relationships with some of her closest friends.

I think I've got it right.

from my built-in Oxford dictionary:
affect as verb: have an effect on, make a difference, also, to pretend to feel an emotion
affect as noun: emotion or desire, mostly used in psychology
effect as verb: to bring about or cause something to happen
effect as noun: change that is a result or consequence of an action or other cause
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #16 on: 19 May 2012, 05:33 »

How many sounds does "ough" represent for you?
<snip>
and I'm aware of at least one other archaic word:

h-ough (pronounced, and now usually spelt, hock)

And there's the explanation why my name gets mispronounced constantly.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #17 on: 19 May 2012, 05:47 »

The inability of English to handle negative questions logically and unambiguously.

Q: "You're not from around here, are you?"
A1 "No."  <--- In normal usage, this means "I am not from around here", but logically it means the opposite.
A2 "Yes." <--- "Yes (I am not from around here)" but people would normally think you meant: "No, I am from around here".

Q1: "Did you bring the money?"
Q2: "Didn't you bring the money?"

If you did bring the money, in normal usage your answer to both questions would be "yes". If you did not bring the money your answer would normally be "no" to both questions.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #18 on: 19 May 2012, 05:58 »

I did a whole day on yes and no questions with the woman I tutored in English.  Explaining the shades of meaning between the different forms and how to quickly carry on a conversation without getting lost in the maze of positives and negatives.  My advice was to ignore all the nonsense words and true false the core of the question:

Are you cold?
You're cold aren't you?
Aren't you cold?
You're not cold, are you?

You cold.

But for good measure I also told her to answer in a sentence.  "Yes, I am." Because then there is no confusion which she meant. 
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pwhodges

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #19 on: 19 May 2012, 06:13 »

affect as noun: emotion or desire, mostly used in psychology

Also in music, especially when discussing the baroque for some reason.
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"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #20 on: 19 May 2012, 06:18 »

The inability of English to handle negative questions logically and unambiguously.

Not just questions.  The point is that double negatives may be taken as cancelling (logic style) or reinforcing, depending on context or the style of the user.
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"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

LTK

Re: English is weird
« Reply #21 on: 19 May 2012, 06:48 »

The thread ought to be called 'language is weird', really. Consider this: The English word 'happy' carries both a meaning for the state of feeling joyful and merry, 'robots in little hats make me happy', and a meaning for a sense of accomplishment in life and being where/who you want to be, 'the pursuit of happiness'. In Dutch, however, the latter homonym is instead taken up by the word for 'luck', in the sense that in English you would write "When I grow up I want to be happy," and in Dutch "When I grow up I want to be lucky." What does that tell you about the philosophical outlooks on life of both languages?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #22 on: 19 May 2012, 07:19 »

I can hear that difference, but it's strange to me. I'd rhyme him with Harry and airy, and hope he'd not take offense if I rhymed it with fairy.

How odd, I don't make those words sound the same either!

I'd say Bah-ry (as in bat), buh-ry (not sure how to explain this as I'm aware that my u sounds are very unusual for foreigners or southerners, just a sort of guttural sound) and beh-ry (as in bed).
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #23 on: 19 May 2012, 08:27 »

pl-ough
hicc-ough
t-ough
tr-ough
th-ough
thr-ough
th-ough-t
thor-ough

and I'm aware of at least one other archaic word:

h-ough (pronounced, and now usually spelt, hock)

...and that's why the spelling of some of these has changed across the pond. 

pl-ough --> plow
hicc-ough --> hiccup

And, of course, the aforementioned "hock". 

But arent "though" and "thorough" the same sound for the -ough?  Just a long o sound, lips rounded?

-----------------------

All this reminds me of the fact/joke  that "ghoti" spells "fish";

gh as in laugh, o as in women, and ti as in nation...  "he swims like a ghoti". 
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #24 on: 19 May 2012, 08:38 »

So my phonetics course did have some... reason?

pl-ough
hicc-ough
t-ough
tr-ough
th-ough
thr-ough
th-ough-t
thor-ough

plaw
hɪkəp
təf
trɒf
o
θru
θɒt
θəro

So yes Carl-E, Though and Thorough have the same pronunciation!
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #25 on: 19 May 2012, 08:42 »

Carl, not necessarily!
 I'm trying to figure out a way to type the difference in the way I pronounce Though and Thorough. I suppose it's the same as the difference between how you'd pronounce Bow (the archery kind) and Borough. When I hear people pronounce Thorough to rhyme with Though, I always think it sounds really weird.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #26 on: 19 May 2012, 08:47 »

schimmy, that depends on where your tongue actually meets the back of your mouth. In most cases there is no difference but pronouncing the words expressively can change that. You might have the Though a more open O at the end then Thorough where you close it just a little bit.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #27 on: 19 May 2012, 09:13 »

I can't think of a differently-spelled word that rhymes with how I say thorough, but it's basically like "surrogate" without the gate.

Here are some Visual Limericks by Nikolas Lloyd.

Also by him, an Ulster Limerick (they rhyme in Belfast):

There once was a salty old tar,
Whose lady was trapped in a tower,
Her rescue seems nigh,
He's tried five times now,
He's failed, but he'll never tire.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #28 on: 19 May 2012, 09:20 »

I mentioned in the blog thread that I'm teaching myself Italian, and this thread has reminded me of one of the things I like about Italian - words are (pretty much) always pronounced how they are written. Each combination of letters always makes the same sound. It makes learning how to pronounce words very easy.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #29 on: 19 May 2012, 09:33 »

Yes, I say thorough as though the "o" wasn't there - sort of thuruh. Just to add more issues into the mix, occasionally in choir we sing "thoroughout", for "throughout".
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #30 on: 19 May 2012, 09:54 »

The second syllable of thorough in the UK is schwa.  I note that Wikipedia says it's otherwise in the US, but I can't quite imagine how that would work.
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"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #31 on: 19 May 2012, 10:05 »

plough: /plaʊ/
though: /əʊ/
tough: /tʌf/ (not schwa for me)
thorough: /ˈθʌrə/
hiccough: /ˈhɪkʌp/ (second syllable definitely not schwa for me)
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"Being human, having your health; that's what's important."  (from: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi )
"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #32 on: 19 May 2012, 10:24 »

NOW YOU'VE DONE IT. You made me get my pronunciation book from hell.

The quality of vowels:
1: the soft palate can be raised to exclude the nasal cavity, in which case oral vowels are produced, or it can be lowered to include it as a resonator, in which case nasalised vowels can be produced.
2: the lips can be spread to produce unrounded vowels, or rounded to produce unrounded vowels. In ordder to feel the difference between them, say the /o/ of close and the /I/ of rid as quickly after eachother as you can.
3: the tongue, which during the production of most vowels has a bunched shape, the tip being held behind the lower teeth, can be moves in two directions, vertically and horizontally. In the vertical dimension we will recognise four steps,

The schwa is a unstressed vowel.
the shwa examples: about, surprise,anorak, villa, neither, woman

ebout, serprise, anerak, neither, women

Now, pronouncing these words alone will create stress on the syllables. Which means you need to pronounce them in a sentence.
Read some stuff out loud, can you say the last sentence for me? Did you pronounce 'them' with stress on the E? You didn't put stress on the 'the' before the 'the E'? No you didn't, or you are pronouncing it all like it's the hardest thing to do, ever.
Mindfucked you into knowing what schwa's are. You are welkom.
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pwhodges

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #33 on: 19 May 2012, 11:41 »

I do know what schwa is; you will note that all the pronunciations I gave are both how I say them, and as given in the OED (sorry, but I'm well-known as a poster-boy for RP, aka BBC English - indeed, by chance I once even worked at the BBC).

If you search in the CREATE forum (I think) you will find a couple of threads where forumites read stories; you'll find some examples of my speech there - I'll link them here later, but I must go and serve supper now before it's overdone.
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"Being human, having your health; that's what's important."  (from: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi )
"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #34 on: 19 May 2012, 11:43 »

I know what schwa is either, but I'd never seen it written down and assumed it was some fancy symbol I don't know how to write (we talk about it in singing lessons and choir).

Paul has a much more RP accent than I do, and more of my vowels are schwa. I sometimes joke that there are only three vowels in Yorkshire and they're all schwa. It's not completely true (at least not with me - I am very posh Yorkshire) but it's not far off!
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #35 on: 19 May 2012, 12:24 »

As promised, some of my reading, all done off the cuff for this or another forum:

A pronunciation sample from another thread

GB Shaw's criticism of a performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas

Extract from Myself and Marco Polo by Paul Griffiths
(a music critic who helped get my son's career under way)

Extract from Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

A couple of poems by John Betjeman

Leaf by Niggle by JRR Tolkien
(the garden of a house he lived in backs onto my garden)

Henry by Rev Wilbert Awdrey
(The Railway books were written by a cousin of mine - Awdrey was my grandmother's maiden name)

EM Forster - The Machine Stops: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3
« Last Edit: 20 May 2012, 02:08 by pwhodges »
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"Being human, having your health; that's what's important."  (from: Magical Shopping Arcade Abenobashi )
"As long as we're all living, and as long as we're all having fun, that should do it, right?"  (from: The Eccentric Family )

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #36 on: 19 May 2012, 16:11 »

I never heard of the schwa until I studied Marathi before going to India. I think of it as a kind of "uh" sound. And I suppose the reason it came up was that words written in Hindi and Marathi, if I recall, would include a character for every vowel that was not a schwa but provide no character if the vowel sound was a schwa.
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Sorflakne

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Re: English is weird
« Reply #37 on: 19 May 2012, 19:04 »

You know...I just say words.  I can't tell you the difference between an adverb and an adjective, and I can't differentiate between past perfect or past...normal(?).  Hell, if I sat down to take a fifth grade grammar test, I'd probably fail it.  And yet somehow, I'm still able to speak and read English. 

Hmm...my inability with grammar is probably the main reason I have difficulty learning other languages.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #38 on: 19 May 2012, 19:21 »

I would say that (intellectual) inability with grammar is supremely unimportant.  What baby ever learnt grammar before the language?
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #39 on: 19 May 2012, 20:58 »


different spellings and same pronunciation (bonus: this one even has a proper noun):

Barry went to bury the single berry.


A while back, I would have bet lots of money that "bury" was pronounced "burr-ee." But, as you point out, it isn't! Any skeptics need only look to Merriam-Websters, the OED, or pretty much any other reputable dictionary for proof. This fact amazed me.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people pronounce the nounal and verbal forms of "permit" the same. I find it unreasonably infuriating, to be honest. They are not the same word; don't pronounce them as such!!
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #40 on: 19 May 2012, 21:11 »

I would say that (intellectual) inability with grammar is supremely unimportant.  What baby ever learnt grammar before the language?

One that was either very confused or very intelligent.

Okay, one thing that has always bothered me about English is how there are so many words that have a silent e.  It's not necessarily a schwa sound.  It's just silent. I mean just in this paragraph there are at least 5 different words with a silent e:
one
bothered
there
are
have

Oh, and how do you pronounce pen, pin, and pan.  I say the last one different, but pin and pen would sound exactly the same for me.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #41 on: 19 May 2012, 21:12 »

It'd be pin, pehn, and the usual pan for me.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #42 on: 19 May 2012, 21:30 »

Mr Payne fell through the pane and wound up in a lot of pain
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #43 on: 19 May 2012, 22:07 »

One of my favorite little rhymes that plays with English is as follows:

A flea and a fly in a flue, were imprisoned so what could they do? Said the flea, "let us fly!" "Let us flee" said the fly! So they flew through a flaw in the flue.

Also I just wrote this nonsensical little story:

"Ale will cure what ails you," said the heir in the air balloon. One day the balloon began to descend unexpectedly; they found a leak and plugged it with a leek. While passing over the wildlife preserve, they saw a sick bear; it was bare. They shot it without greeting it - they did not like to meet their meat before meting out its end. They were on their way to steal some steel using letters bearing a false seal depicting a harbor seal. It belong to a foul fowl and they had lifted it during a heavy mist and escaped before he missed it. The next morning he was in mourning but they were far away eating moose mousse and sharpening all their awls. They then caught a peek of a distant peak and their interest was piqued. Their prophet said they'd find profit there ("they're on their way," the troupe of spies warned the ground troops).

Before landing, the muscle men ate mussels and the guerrillas gorilla and the mayor a mare. They all shared some doe wrapped in dough. Their pet marten Martin was in a shoe and was shooed away and they set out through the red reeds, reading what they read. Finally, they reached the camp and razed it with their death rays. "I know no one will wring their hands, nor pilfer so much as a ring," said the colonel as he ate kernels of corn. "Whether the weather holds or not, we're heading for the weir like lambs on the lam" exclaimed the hoarse horse to his herd of heroines who heard him despite being on heroin. They all left. The final pair shared a pear, pared in half. The quean, the queen, and her crews were borne on like newborns on a cruise toward that damn dam of the barren baron, and the hale guests - grown close friends - groaned from the hail and guessed when their adventure would come to a close (preferably in an inn).
« Last Edit: 19 May 2012, 23:15 by TheFuriousWombat »
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #44 on: 19 May 2012, 22:54 »

I would say that (intellectual) inability with grammar is supremely unimportant.  What baby ever learnt grammar before the language?

All of them, according to theorists in the Chomsky/Pinker camp. They argue that brains come with grammar modules in the boot ROM, and exposure to language just selects some parameters that distinguish the baby's language's grammar from that of others.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #45 on: 20 May 2012, 01:33 »

That appears to imply that the child has access to pre-existing grammars, which is clearly nonsense.  The child starts by imitation, and then accumulates examples, and the brain's neural networks use these to generate a recogniser - which corresponds to what we call a grammar.  Each child creates a new grammar for themselves from the examples garnered from those around them.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #46 on: 20 May 2012, 05:13 »

Oh, and how do you pronounce pen, pin, and pan.  I say the last one different, but pin and pen would sound exactly the same for me.
Ditto for my Tennessee-born spouse. I had to ask her to repeat pin or pen.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #47 on: 20 May 2012, 05:44 »

Oh, and how do you pronounce pen, pin, and pan.  I say the last one different, but pin and pen would sound exactly the same for me.
Ditto for my Tennessee-born spouse. I had to ask her to repeat pin or pen.

All different for me. I have no clue how you can pronounce pen and pin as the same, pen and pan might seem the same for me.
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #48 on: 20 May 2012, 05:49 »

How I say some of the words we've talked about: Words
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Re: English is weird
« Reply #49 on: 20 May 2012, 06:45 »

one

Arguably, this isn't a silent e as it does change how you say the word. Even if not in the usual way.
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