Archive | April, 2012

The English Plural according to George Carlin

24 Apr

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,
Why 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, & this 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 & also of brethren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his & him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis & 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;
A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
Why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing,
Grocers don’t groce & 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 people who speak English
Should be in 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 & feet that smell;
We park in a driveway & drive in a parkway.
And how can a slim chance & a fat chance be the same,
while a wise man & 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,
& in which an alarm goes off by going on.
And in closing ….

If Father is Pop .

how come
Mother’s not Mop ? ? ? ?

Today’s Word: Genio (n.): genius; an exceptionally brilliant person, as in: “George Carlin was clearly a genio for writing such a clever piece on the English language”

[George Carlin (1937 – 2008) was an American comedian, author, writer and actor who won several Grammy awards for his comedy albums. In addition to his comments on the English language, he also wrote about politics, religion and psychology among other racy topics.]

The art of the “English Attack”

20 Apr

Yesterday, I had a moment, as one often does, where you suddenly realize how ridiculous something is.

It all started with a field trip with the 7th graders to Malaga – the heart of the Costa del Sol (Coast of the Sun). Ironically, it was dreary and rather cold.

Being a big city, Malaga has a lot of foreigners and English-speaking tourists. Much to my surprise, my students were actually eager to speak English and jumped at the chance to shout “Hello!” at nearly every person who looked like (maybe) they spoke English. I assure you, this is every bit as annoying as you can imagine. But this time, something was different.

As I normally find myself on the other end of this elusive “English Attack” (the end that is constantly getting “Hello!” and “Goodmorning!” shouted at my face), I’m ashamed to say I was amused at being in the group of assailants. And low and behold, some of my students were practically begging me to tell them how to say things so they could use them to scream at a blue-eyed, fair-skinned passerby. (Ok, begging might be a bit of an exaggeration. But, they were interested in learning!)

I couldn’t help but enjoy this “English Attack”. The high point coming when one of my students shouted, “Hello. How do you say?” with such excitement, vigor and haste, that she was overcome with laughter as she ran back to tell me her great success. Only there was one problem with this particular example: she had no idea what she was saying.

Lost in the moment, with adrenaline pumping, she realized only later that she didn’t know what that particular question meant. When I told her the meaning, we were both tickled over the occurrence. I, at least, was happy to have drilled something into their heads this year! Now if only I could get them to remember what it means.

Later, on the bus ride home, I had some time to properly reflect on the day’s events. Staring at the passing rows of olive trees, I found myself asking: Why do some Spaniards feel the need to shout at foreigners? Does this only happen in English? What are the necessary components of this “English Attack”?

As a frequent victim, I have decided to put my experiences to some good and outline the important components necessary for any decent “English Attack.” Not only will this serve for future field trips, but it will also allow all those who may never get to experience an “English Attack” to share in this beautiful experience.

The first, and most important, rule of the “English Attack” is that it must only be carried out on complete strangers. It’s not necessary to actually confirm that said stranger speaks English before attacking, either. You can normally just make a guess based on any combination of height, eye color, dress, hair style, skin color, etc. A guiri shouldn’t be too hard for you spot, but it will get easier with practice.

The second rule is that this attack must be fast and unpredicted. You’re not trying to make friends here. Shout the few English words that remain somewhere buried deep in the back of your brain. Remember, you most likely wouldn’t be able to respond or hold a conversation even if these people did respond to you. So get in, get out, and move on chuckling at your cleverness.

Finally, the third rule – and this is normally pretty key – is that you should probably say something wrong, or at the very least mispronounce it. Whether you’re shouting “how do you say?” instead of “how do you do?”, or yelling “goodmorning” at 6 p.m., it’s all just part of the effect. It only makes the “English Attack” stronger.

There are some cases, when the English attacking is so good that it elicits a response from the victim. Whether it be a “hello” in return or just simple acknowledgement, these cases are usually best dealt with by some form of follow up. You’ve already got their attention, so now its time to really get them going. Why not throw in a bad word or a profanity? But remember, this is only in extreme cases.

Thus concludes the most important rules of the “English Attack”. I can only assume that the following month and half that remain of my time in Spain will allow me to conduct further research. In the event of a new discovery, I will be sure to come back and amend the rules.

Today’s Word(s): “Cómo se dice…?”: “How do you say…?”, as in: “The tourist didn’t know how to react when the young girl looked at him and shouted, ‘Comó se dice?'”


20 Apr

Rather than try to recap 3 months of inactivity, I’m just going to jump back into blogging as if no time has passed at all. Besides traveling to a new continent, hosting approximately 17 friends/family at our house and being the busiest part-time worker around, life is pretty much the same.

So now that I’ve gotten this off my chest, I think I can successfully get back to doing some writing!