What D'y Say?

Week 55

What D’y Say?

It may be different for other dreamers, but it is not often that I dream about conversations that cover the insanity of the English language. I did last night and it woke me with a headache. It wasn’t even in color! However, there I was with a few others whose faces I cannot recall discussing English pronunciation. I woke wondering why and how such a confusle of language not only works, but has 359 million people speaking it as a first language1?

Note I am not counting those who learn it as a second language – kudos to them for that! I’ve tried teaching ESL and there is no end of confusion. Idioms and cultural expressions aside, the spelling/grammar makes no sense:

Examples (yes, dear eager ones, Gallagher’s legendary rant is also one of my favorites, but these are ones I have observed) beyond having wound a bandage around a wound and polishing the Polish furniture:

  1. The knight stood guard in the lower tower.

  2. You should shoulder more of the household chores.

  3. Let the dour2 lady pour the sour milk.

  4. Guy is almost done with his cold; he has a rough cough, though.

  5. Without a word, she lunged to ward off the forward thrust of the sword.

[Please feel free to add your own here.]

It makes no sense, if we are looking for rules and consistency and logic.

Take a gander (but be careful: the male goose may bite!) at Latin, Italian, Spanish, I believe Russian, German and any number of other languages. They are spelled as they are pronounced. The alphabet runs consistently with the words it forms. Meme si, I know enough to know French to know that they pocket some letters without pronouncing them (or by half-swallowing the sound) and inflection is all, French nonetheless has a better record of consistency than my own first language.

(And, I beg your pardon, American English, idioms and cultural nonsense aside, is English. Americans simply can’t or won’t deal with grammar.)

Now, I know the other language wonks out there will point out that English is a curious stew of other “mother tongues.” So many mother tongues I used to wonder how mine kept hers to lecture me on my spelling grades. Despite my growing up believing English rooted itself firmly in Latin or Greek, I’ve since learned we have more to thank the Germanic languages for our words. However, we still owe thanks to Latin, Greek, Old-Middle-Modern French and English, some Chinese, Japanese and other Asian influences, more Spanish than the Mexican-haters would care to admit, and, in my mind, not nearly enough of the original languages of our Native Americans. All have jumped into the same pot and come out lumpy, texturally complex, flavorful and quite delicious.

To wit, in short, old sock, English is in fact a stew. A curious, illogical, inconsistent blending of influences and adaptations to our current situations. One might even say English is diverse. English symbolizes diversity, as might we when we speak it. We who speak English are and should be diverse as well. To do otherwise at best disrespects all those elements that go into our fundamental communication. At worst, it’s simply and plainly ignorant.

  1. Wikipedia. “English Language.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English_language. June 26, 2016.

  2. Oxford Dictionary insists “dour” rhyme with either “doer” or “poor”. https://www.bing.com/search?q=pronunciation%20of%20%22dour%22&pc=cosp&ptag=C1A0E8C88C5FC&form=CONBDF&conlogo=CT3210127

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