Monthly Archives: June 2018

Why? Why, Why, Why?

Why is English spelling so erratic? Why doesn’t each letter have just one sound, no matter what word it’s in? Why are finger and ginger pronounced so differently? The only difference is their initial letters. I posted the following list a little over a year ago (again, thanks to Nicki N.) I’m still as frustrated as ever. Imagine learning to spell in English if your native language is anything else.

1) The bandage was wound around the wound.

2) The farm was used to produce produce.

3) The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

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 the 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) Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

19) I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

20) How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

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One Newspaper, One Short Sentence, Two Errors

My Florida friend Cami found this confusing sentence in the Miami Herald. (She notes that Opa-Locka is a section of the Miami area): “A homeless family of six was found by Opa-Locka police officers living in their car.”

No doubt, this is a tragic situation. But from a grammatical standpoint, the sentence raises two questions: were the officers living in the same car with the family of six, or were the officers living in their separate car? It’s hard to tell because of the use of the pronoun their in the phrase living in their car. Their could refer to either the family or the police. Make sure you can clearly draw a mental arrow from your pronouns to their antecedents (the word or words they refer to).

It’s easy to fix this sentence. The rule with modifiers (words that give more information) is to place them right next to the word or words they are modifying. A clear version of this sentence would be, “A homeless family of six living in their car was found by Opa-Locka police officers.”

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I Bet You Speak Yiddish

You say you don’t? Let’s take a quick quiz and see what you know.

KVETCH: 1. To scratch  2. To complain  3. To stir

KLUTZ: 1. An instrument  2. A dessert  3. A clumsy person

SCHMUTS: 1. Dirt  2. A breed of dog  3. A stupid person

FRESS: 1. A dress  2. To walk quickly  3. To eat (usually sloppily, in a hurry)

SCHLEP:  1. To shop  2. To carry  3. To sleep

How did you do?

KVETCH #2   KLUTZ #3    SCHMUTS #1    FRESS #3    SCHLEP #2

All these words have become what some people call Yinglish: they are so commonly used in many parts of America that they often need no translation. Here is the dictionary definition of Yiddish:

|Yiddish ˈyidiSH| noun   a language used by Jews in central and eastern Europe before the Holocaust. It was originally a German dialect with words from Hebrew and several modern languages and is today spoken mainly in the US, Israel, and Russia.

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