English is a strange.
Recently I was reading a post by Claudette of Writer of Words, and Angie of King Ben’s Grandma had left a comment about how one might use the word combobulated, which presumably exists because you can say someone is discombobulated.
I wondered something similar not long ago about disgruntled/gruntled, and apparently, gruntled is actually a word. Combobulated, on the other hand, is not. However, if you’re going through TSA screening at the airport in Milwaukee, there’s a designated recombobulation area. That’s not an actual word either, but at least people have been making it up with somewhat greater frequency than combobulated.
Anyway, I thought it would be fun to do a post about some of the oddities of the English language.
Normally, “-less” gets tacked onto the end of a word to make it mean “without”. Except there is no “normal” in English. A couple of exceptions are feckless and shiftless; there are no fecks to be given, and there are shifts, but they have nothing to do with shiftlessness. Oh, and irregardless? Not a proper word. Regard-less does the job on its own; no ir- required.
Insider.com points out that “Widely used pronunciations can be completely wrong. For example, ‘mischievous’ is often pronounced ‘miss-chee-vee-us,’ but the correct way is ‘miss-chiv-us.'” I’m totally guilty of that, and to my ear, miss-chiv-us sounds like the Queen’s English that no one actually speaks. Perseverance is another word that we (or at least I) want to add a letter to, as in “per-ser-vere-unce.” I want that non-existent r to be there, but I remember that it’s not because in psychiatry, we talk about people perseverating, with no extra r trying to crash the party.
If you’re Canadian (or Australian, apparently), you probably pronounce asphalt wrong. Do you want to put an extra h in there? That’s Canadian mispronunciation. It’s ass-fault, not ash-fault. I still think ash-fault sounds better, though, even though it doesn’t make sense with the spelling.
Do you worry you’re self-absorbed? Turns out we all are, and “I” is the most commonly used word in English, according to Redbook.
This also comes from Redbook: “This is one of those weird english rules that we never break, even though we’ve probably never been explicitly taught it. When describing something, there’s a very specific order in which your adjectives go. Opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin material, purpose. It’s why ‘look at that square, adorable, little, purple, butterfly!’ will never sound as good as ‘look at that adorable, little, square, purple butterfly!'” I had no idea. I’m also not sure why a butterfly would be square.
The word “up” is the most versatile two-letter word going, e.g. get up, speak up, screw up, line up, dress up, open up, close up, etc. (University of Arizona). Then there’s up for and down for, which perhaps should be opposites, but they’re not. You may also have noticed there’s no ham in hamburger, no apple or pine in pineapple, no egg in eggplant, and no sweets or bread in sweetbreads (while sweetmeats have no meat).
A few from Bored Panda:
- “Queue” takes five letters but you only say one of them.
- The word “only” can be plunked anywhere in “she told him that she loved him” and changes the meaning of the sentence each time.
- Similarly, “I never said she stole my money” has seven different meanings depending on which of the seven words you emphasize when speaking.
- Sometimes “that that” is actually correct English, as dumb as it sounds.
- We drop the “l” sound in salmon, but pronounce it in salmonella.
From plainlanguage.gov (yup, that’s a US government site), we have this example of our messed up pronunciation: “The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.”
Do you have any strange and wonderful examples you’d like to add?