If The English Language Had Been Made As A School Assignment…

July 25, 2013

Humor

First off, this is very thorough.  Great job – you’ve got everything here a language needs to be not only functional, but allow for nuance, tone, even connotation.

I do have some concerns, though.

funny-pictures-german-language-meme-5The first is there seem to be some important words missing.  Example: There’s an entire entertainment industry built off of enjoying other people’s misfortune and humiliation, yet there’s no word for it.  Hans, in the language he wrote, came up with “Schadenfreude.” Yes, I know the words and spelling in Hans’ language are kind of over the top and occasionally hilarious, but he has words for everything.

Second, is that your language seems a little scattershot with the rules. To be honest, most of them.  It seems like there are very few rules without exceptions. Example: this “i before e” thing.  “I before e” – clear enough; “except after c” – why?  Is there some purpose?  So, fine you learn that – but then there are fourteen exceptions to this already unnecessarily complex rule?  Don’t just make things complicated to make it seem more sophisticated. It’s just confusing

Then there’s things like “affect” and “effect”. I can’t see a point to having two different words here.  Maybe you can explain the need?

Similarly, there’s food. You raise a cow, a pig, a chicken.  But when you eat them, you eat beef, pork, and poultry.  Why would you not just “eat cow” for dinner?

Which brings me directly to another point.  And I want to be clear: I’m not accusing you of anything.

English: The "KFC Bowls" of languages.

English: The “KFC Bowls” of languages.

Beef, pork, and poultry are pretty clearly taken from Pierre’s project language, where the animals are “boeuf,” “porque,” and “poulet,” respectively.  And this isn’t isolated.  To be honest, much of what you’ve done here seems like you just took a bunch of elements of other students’ work and mashed it together.  Greek.  French.  Latin.  Norse.

Now, I’m not accusing you of plagiarism, per se.  It just seems like you could have spent a little more time constructing clear, consistent rules and a little less time picking this and that from the others.

Also – and your punctuation is fine, I guess – but how come Miguel is the only one who thought putting exclamation and question marks at the start of the sentence as well as at the end?

Anyway, an impressive effort, but needlessly confusing, and riddled with inconsistencies.  Perhaps a revision?

C

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About The Byronic Man

Recently voted "The Best Humor Blog in America That I, Personally, Write," The Byronic Man is sometimes fiction, sometimes autobiography. And sometimes cultural criticism. Oh, and occasionally reviews. Okay, it's all those different things, but always humorous. Except on the occasions that it's not. Ah, geez. Look, it's a lot of things, okay? You might like it, is the point.

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107 Comments on “If The English Language Had Been Made As A School Assignment…”

  1. Soma Mukherjee Says:

    oh wow excellent points specially the cow and beef one.
    and while we are it I have a question. What is this fuss about white and red meat. why would you call a meat white? what, it didn’t have enough blood or was sucked dry by a vampire before it was cooked for human consumption??

    Reply

  2. Michael Says:

    My favorite non-English word is “backpfengesicht”: a face that cries out for a fist in it. English needs a word like that.

    Reply

  3. elsavayatres Says:

    And just don’t get me started on the pronuntiation… Do you know how confusing it is for foreign people? Never knowing if you are pronouncing a word correctly, always fighting with the spelling… Exhausting! But the grammar is great: simple and direct (sight of relief!)

    Byronic, you always make my days better, thanks! 🙂

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      And we have so many words for words (or parts of words) that look the same but are pronounced differently, that even those are hard to keep track of.

      Heteronyms (“It’s hard to wind my watch in this wind”) (and there’s multiple kinds of heteronyms…)
      Capitonyms (“It seems like August is such an august month.”)
      Homonyms (“Can you aid my aide with the lemonade?”)
      Oronyms [a string of words that sound the same]: “The good can decay many ways” vs. “The good candy came anyways”)
      And my favorite…
      Autoantonyms – words that are the opposite of themselves! (buckle; bound; left; etc…)

      Reply

      • jacquesfelixdouglas Says:

        I grew up speaking English so I never took notice of how strange and arbitrary our pronunciation rules are. It was only when I started learning French that I realised how much simpler it could have been. In French the pronunciation is the same as the spelling so you can more or less know the pronunciation just by reading the words.

        That said, I wouldn’t have English any other way. Great post Mr (Lord?) Byron. I look forward to reading more of your work.

        Reply

  4. Renee B-W Says:

    Also, you need to decide what sound “ough” represents. I found cough, though, through, bough, thorough, rough and ought. This shows a lack of attention to detail and consistency.

    Reply

  5. Exile on Pain Street Says:

    When I got married, I took my wife’s name. What is my old surname? I’m not a maiden so, clearly, it’s not my maiden name. They need to invent a new word to describe my old surname. [As an aside, I sat at the kitchen table practicing my new signature over and over, wondered when I became a girl.]

    Reply

  6. Go Jules Go Says:

    Is it wrong that I experienced Schadenfreude while reading this? I derive great pleasure from watching people struggle with our needlessly confusing language.

    That science picture is just great. The rest of the post, though… Hmm. B-.

    😀

    Reply

  7. Lorna's Voice Says:

    I find silent letters particularly nefarious, you know what I mean?

    Reply

  8. Eagle-Eyed Editor Says:

    And then there’s punctuation. In some countries they use periods between numbers where we would normally use a comma. Potential for major confusion there, especially if you’re referring to big numbers.

    Reply

  9. Don't Quote Lily Says:

    Haha, loved this. And that’s not even the half of it. Seriously the most confusing, unclear, pointless language ever. It’s a wonder any of us manage to learn it.

    Reply

  10. egills Says:

    The joys of grammar…. affect is a verb, effect is a noun.
    What I dislike is when my spell check insists my British grammar is wrong when I know it’s not.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      True, but it seems very, very, very rare that you get someone who can write the proper form without stopping and consciously figuring out if it’s being used as a verb or noun.

      Reply

      • egills Says:

        Unless you happen to be my husband who’s hobby is learning the fundamentals of language….. I feel very stupid around him at times

        Reply

  11. Helena Hann-Basquiat Says:

    Excellent and hilarious points all. English truly is the ragout of languages. (And that’s being generous. Your KFC bowl might be more accurate)

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      After posting that picture, it was hard not to abandon the post and just put a link to Patton Oswalt’s routine about KFC Bowls.

      Reply

      • Renee B-W Says:

        Oh jeez. We have the KFC Double Down which I thought was gross enough, but after googling KFC Bowl (which we don’t have) I can see that things could be so much worse… It’s almost as ridiculous as the hot-dog-stuffed-crust pizza…

        Reply

      • Helena Hann-Basquiat Says:

        Patton Oswalt is the world’s funniest man — and that bit once nearly caused me to get into a car accident! I was listening to it on the radio and was laughing so hard my eyes welled up with tears and I nearly drove into the back of a truck!

        Reply

        • The Byronic Man Says:

          I almost did too, once! It was a bit from his “222” album, where he describes playing Alvin & The Chipmunks records at slow speed. I even thought “I’m going to wreck. I can’t see. I have to stop laughing or my life may be in danger.”

          Reply

  12. The Cutter Says:

    Screw it. Let’s all just start speaking Spanish. We’re probably going to end up that way soon enough anyway.

    Reply

  13. Snoring Dog Studio Says:

    Thank you for helping me with my dieting today. That pic of food put me off food.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I wonder if opening a health food/weight-loss store next door to a KFC or Arby’s would be effective. “I’ll have the KFC Bowl. Oh. Oh, God. I have to change my life.”

      Reply

  14. rossmurray1 Says:

    This is why I hate group projects.

    Reply

  15. Vanessa-Jane Chapman Says:

    Good post, but I just want to pick up on this bit you said ‘Similarly, there’s food. You raise a cow, a pig, a chicken. But when you eat them, you eat beef, pork, and poultry’. I agree abut the cow and pig, but really? You call it poultry when you eat it do you? Because I call it chicken and so does everyone else I know! Is it called Kentucky Fried Poultry? No! I think that proves my point…

    Reply

  16. Blogdramedy Says:

    If the English language wasn’t confusing, red pen manufacturers would be out of business. I give it an A- for supporting the economy.

    Reply

  17. Anka Says:

    The food thing is completely confounding!
    I served bacon for the breakfast the other day and my daughter asked if she was eating “pig?” I said “No, you’re eating bacon.” She replied with a confused look on her face, “but, but, . . .”

    I told her not to worry about it for now. Just wait till you start learning French–a language whose rules clearly make sense.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Apparently it dates back to Puritan times-ish. Feeling squeamish about the kids knowing that we were eating the animal they’d played with earlier, so people started calling them by the French. I remember hearing that, but I’m not looking it up, so don’t hold me to that.

      Reply

      • Anka Says:

        Thanks for the context. Makes sense. Kids cannot reconcile little piggies to the crisp strips of meat laying on their plates. No matter what century they’re in.

        Reply

        • The Byronic Man Says:

          P.S. – Brainrants added an explanation that makes way more sense than mine. That it comes from the Norman invasion in 1066, when the French basically said, “Your language is crude and gross. Try our language. No really, try it or we’ll kill you.”

          Reply

  18. Is Everyone an Idiot but Me? Says:

    Wow that KFC bowl, I can’t decide if I want to eat it or barf. I remember having a similar conversation with my Italian grandparents (about English not KFC) and they brought up some similar points that made English really freaking annoying to learn. Every other language follows a pattern and has a reason for what it does….English? Our only reason is “Cuz I felt like it.” Well, welcome to America: we do what we want!

    Reply

  19. speaker7 Says:

    Don’t even get me started on those homonyms. Whole/hole? Seriously?

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      I was mentioning to someone else about Auto-antonyms. Words that are opposites of themselves (bound; buckle, left…). How simple would that seem, when you’re making a language? “Words should probably only mean one thing, not two diametrically opposing things.”

      Reply

  20. Elyse Says:

    In his next draft, can you please have him ban “verbization” (or verb icicle as I prefer to think of it). The latest one I read, in a NEWS story no less, is”orgasm.” Use it in a sentence, you ask?

    It wasn’t rape because he didn’t orgasm.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Oh, verbing. Of course, in some cases, Like “access”, it’s taken over, and you sound verbose if you insist on using it properly, as in, “I would like to gain access to a club about beat the person who made that rape argument about the skull.”

      Reply

      • Elyse Says:

        Drives me crazy. I blame the Democrats for this one, though. Bill Clinton was always talking about how he would “grow” the economy. Grrrrrrr

        Reply

  21. BrainRants Says:

    The cow vs. beef thing comes from the social split after the Norman invasion of England by William in 1066. However, nobody has made the ‘affect’ versus ‘effect’ totally clear to me. And fuck i, especially after c, unless you’re e.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Oh, that makes sense. Way more sense than what I thought, because what I’d heard wouldn’t explain the Brits use the terms, too.

      And as for “affect/effect” even when my students ask, I say, “here’s the important thing: no one cares. But here’s the rule…”

      Reply

  22. Daile Says:

    And then you have Australian English, American English and British English. Words spelt and pronounced differently just to mess with your head a bit more.

    Reply

  23. strawberryquicksand Says:

    I just dug a couple of poems for you off the internet that I hope you will like and appreciate. I know I do! 🙂

    We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes,
    But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes.
    One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
    Yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
    You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
    Yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
    If the plural of man is always called men,
    Then shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
    If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
    And I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
    If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
    Why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
    Then one may be that, and three would be those,
    Yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
    And the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
    We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
    But though we say mother, we never say methren.
    Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
    But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!

    Let’s face it – English is a crazy language.
    There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger;
    neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
    English muffins weren’t invented in England .
    We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
    We find that quicksand can 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?
    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? If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?
    If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
    Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
    Should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
    We ship by truck but send cargo by ship.
    We have noses that run and feet that smell.
    We park in a driveway and drive in a parkway.
    And how can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same,
    While a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? 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. And, in closing, if Father is Pop, how come Mother’s not Mop? And if people from Poland are called Poles
    Then people from Holland should be Holes
    And the Germans, Germs. And let’s not forget the Americans, who changed s to z, but that’s another story.

    Reply

    • The Byronic Man Says:

      Wow. That is seriously impressive. Depressing, but impressive.

      Reply

      • strawberryquicksand Says:

        Great, aren’t they! I saw another one that was pretty awesome, too. Here it is for you -= quite long, but really great to read if you like English. Which I do!

        If you can pronounce correctly every word in this poem, you will be speaking English better than 90% of the native English speakers in the world.

        After trying the verses, a Frenchman said he’d prefer six months of hard labour to reading six lines aloud.

        Dearest creature in creation,
        Study English pronunciation.
        I will teach you in my verse
        Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
        I will keep you, Suzy, busy,
        Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
        Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
        So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.
        Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
        Dies and diet, lord and word,
        Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
        (Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
        Now I surely will not plague you
        With such words as plaque and ague.
        But be careful how you speak:
        Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
        Cloven, oven, how and low,
        Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.
        Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
        Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
        Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
        Exiles, similes, and reviles;
        Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
        Solar, mica, war and far;
        One, anemone, Balmoral,
        Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
        Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
        Scene, Melpomene, mankind.
        Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
        Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
        Blood and flood are not like food,
        Nor is mould like should and would.
        Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
        Toward, to forward, to reward.
        And your pronunciation’s OK
        When you correctly say croquet,
        Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
        Friend and fiend, alive and live.
        Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
        And enamour rhyme with hammer.
        River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
        Doll and roll and some and home.
        Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
        Neither does devour with clangour.
        Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
        Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
        Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
        And then singer, ginger, linger,
        Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
        Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.
        Query does not rhyme with very,
        Nor does fury sound like bury.
        Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
        Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
        Though the differences seem little,
        We say actual but victual.
        Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
        Fe0ffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
        Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
        Dull, bull, and George ate late.
        Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
        Science, conscience, scientific.
        Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
        Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
        We say hallowed, but allowed,
        People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
        Mark the differences, moreover,
        Between mover, cover, clover;
        Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
        Chalice, but police and lice;
        Camel, constable, unstable,
        Principle, disciple, label.
        Petal, panel, and canal,
        Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
        Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
        Senator, spectator, mayor.
        Tour, but our and succour, four.
        Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
        Sea, idea, Korea, area,
        Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
        Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
        Doctrine, turpentine, marine.
        Compare alien with Italian,
        Dandelion and battalion.
        Sally with ally, yea, ye,
        Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
        Say aver, but ever, fever,
        Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
        Heron, granary, canary.
        Crevice and device and aerie.
        Face, but preface, not efface.
        Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
        Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
        Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
        Ear, but earn and wear and tear
        Do not rhyme with here but ere.
        Seven is right, but so is even,
        Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
        Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
        Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.
        Pronunciation (think of Psyche!)
        Is a paling stout and spikey?
        Won’t it make you lose your wits,
        Writing groats and saying grits?
        It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
        Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
        Islington and Isle of Wight,
        Housewife, verdict and indict.
        Finally, which rhymes with enough,
        Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
        Hiccough has the sound of cup.
        My advice is to give up!!!

        English Pronunciation by G. Nolst Trenité

        Reply

  24. theduffboy Says:

    English might also be a burrito type of language: enigmatic, portable and by all means, foreign, yet familiar.

    Reply

  25. gavinmorningstar Says:

    This post is FILLED with winning! Seriously, when a book the size of The Chicago Manual of Style (edition SIXTEEN) has to exist just to point out the rules of our language, there may be a problem. It’s maddening when you realize that even that hallowed tome doesn’t even address all of them! **facesmash**

    Reply

  26. beck16 Says:

    i before e except after c…weird.

    Reply

  27. List of X Says:

    And on the side note, the teacher couldn’t read Ibrahim’s, Natasha’s and Sunil’s assignments, so they’ll just get an A for their assignments anyway.

    Reply

  28. Teepee12 Says:

    ROFLMAO. Or words to that effect.

    Reply

  29. pegoleg Says:

    You’re right. English is so wierd. I mean, weird.

    Reply

  30. gavinmorningstar Says:

    Reblogged this on Literary Brambles and commented:
    Weekend Writer Reblog! Once a week (every Friday) I will be reblogging a favorite blog post from throughout the week for your enjoyment! These can be from blogs I follow, blogs that are Freshly Pressed, blogs that I stumble upon of my own accord or , the way I’d PREFER it to be, blogs that YOU GUYS recommend! So please, if you see something, SAY something! If it’s about writing, publishing or books, I’ll consider it for sure!

    Reply

  31. She's a Maineiac Says:

    This post makes me want to eat cow.

    The affect/effect thing kills me. I will never get it. I do think most of these ‘rules’ were made up by people busy taking hits off a bong. “hey, duuuude!” (releases cloud of smoke) “I know! Let’s say ‘except after C’! yeah!”

    Reply

  32. angelajardine Says:

    Has anyone else noticed that photo? Should the caption have read ‘the KFC bowels’ of languages? It seems more apt …

    Reply

  33. Every Record Tells A Story Says:

    The English language is what happens if you let other countries invade you for a couple of thousand years…they leave all their insanitary habits lying around…

    Reply

  34. ksujulie Says:

    I honestly clicked on this link because I knew immediately the picture was the KFC potato bowl. And it’s midnight. And I’m really hungry. Nice post, nonetheless. (hey 3 words in one.)

    Reply

  35. Highest Form of Whit Says:

    English does indeed like to plagiarize. I’ve caught it copying off the romantic languages frequently, even stealing some of their answers. It’s lazy sometimes, and other times, way too dedicated to itself. I think a revision is a splendid idea.

    Reply

  36. silkpurseproductions Says:

    I think the revisions are in the “Urban Dictionary”. You are right though, the rules can get pretty messy.

    Reply

  37. Derek Zenith Says:

    Ah yes. English. Degenerated Latin with German grammar and French vocabulary, and with as little to do with Russian as possible.

    Reply

  38. themeredithmouth Says:

    Oh, English. How ridiculous you are.
    In related news, I think this guy gets pretty much everything right:

    Reply

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