Why is the English Language so Odd?

shutterstock_88604383The English language can be mastered… or can it? With the understanding of a few English idiosyncrasies, you soon learn that the language makes no sense at all. Native English speakers seem to be able to pick up the oddities and mimic them well. But for non-English speakers trying to speak the language, it’s not long before they are scratching their heads in bewilderment.

When changing one letter changes the sound of a word, silent letters disrupt phonetics, homophones sound the same without being so, and odd phrases make literally no sense, confusion can run rife.

The English language borrows words from several different languages. Over time, English has changed and developed as it adopted these new words. This English mix, brought to Britain from German invaders, also includes traces of Latin, Greek, French, and Spanish.

There are so many oddities within the language that you just have to accept it the way it is. If you aren’t sure of the sounds or meaning of an English word, then it’s best to ask someone else or seek the dictionary.

Words you expect to rhyme that don’t

Looking at these four letter words, you would expect that they would rhyme. Using a B, T, and C completely changes a vowel’s pronunciation. Although the words are spelled similarly, they sound nothing alike.

Say these words aloud, and realise how little sense it all makes.

Bomb and tomb and comb,

Home and some,

Dose and lose and nose.

Homonyms

At the same time, we seem to have words that are spelled the same yet have two completely different meanings.

Tear – to rip, pull apart with force e.g. “I will tear this up”

Tear – to cry e.g. “He shed a tear”

Or

 

Pool – to bring together e.g. “if we pool our resources we will achieve more”

Pool – a vessel in which you swim e.g. “the kids are in the swimming pool”

Pool – the game of billiard e.g. “let’s play a game of pool”

Homophones

Homophones are words that are pronounced exactly the same, yet spelled completely differently. Just to confuse you even more, homophones all have different meanings.

Write – to mark (with letters, words, or other symbols) on a surface, typically paper, with a pen, pencil, or similar implement e.g. “I am going to write a book”

Right – true or correct as a fact, as in “I am not running the right way”

Rite – a social custom, practice, or ceremonial act; a religious ceremony e.g. “the rite of communion”

Oddities

The literal interpretation of some sayings is not what they do at all.

We ‘ship’ by truck; our noses seem to ‘run’, while our feet tend to ‘smell’

We fill ‘in’ a form by filling it ‘out’; and our alarm goes ‘off’ by the sound turning ‘on’

Shhh, silence please

Hundreds of silent letters add to the woes of English pronunciation and spelling. These are those fascinating letters you never seem to hear, yet always appear in the written form of a word. Unlike other phonetic languages, English often ignores the sounds of letters in a word. Here are some examples:

Doubt, debt, gnarl, gnome, knit, knob, knot, and knoll. It is a wonder we aren’t all wrecked, wrinkled, wriggling, and wrung out.

El or le

Word endings may be pronounced the same yet spelled completely different. For example, words that end with the sound L are spelled with either ‘el’ or ‘le’.

Novel, level, cancel VS little, cable, or purple.

Isn’t it weird that the endings of travel, local, and example all sound the same yet have different spellings? 75% of words use the ‘le’ ending. So if you’re not sure which one to use, try this one and you’re most likely correct.

When learning the English language, the best advice to take is don’t try and make sense of it at all.