About two months ago I was buzzed on Skype by a gentleman from Italy. He asked if I had a few minutes to talk to him. It was a dull, boring wet day so I agreed to talk for five minutes or so. He told me his name, where he lived and what he did for a living. Then he asked several questions which I answered without giving away any information.
“Now it is my turn” I said, “Why did you pick me?” He said he looked for an English speaker in the UK and my name came up top of the list. I had a go at that one, I tried several countries, and the list showed up each time in alphabetical order. Now on Skype I do not use either my own name or Grannymar, let me just say the one I use would come after the word Skype on the list! (One day all these names will be a problem as I won’t remember who I am supposed to be!) Again I queried this with Romano Italiano. He assured me he was genuine and asked if I would help him with his English! Now my father always warned me about fellows inviting me to see their etchings, but never anything about helping them with their English! Anyway Romano Italiano was over there in Italy and surely no harm could come to me at this distance. He asked if I had a Webcam, which I don’t, and then he asked and wanted to be assured I was over 18 years of age. He had a webcam and used it so that I was able to see him speak. He has a good voice, pleasing face but seems a very serious chap who seldom smiles!
So what do I do? I was never a teacher. My spelling and grammar are woeful as you all know, so how do I get round this one?
Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. 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. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren’t invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are chocolates or toffees while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat. And why is it that writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?
If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth, beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices? 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 English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?
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.
English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
What hope have I when there is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is “UP?”
It’s easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP and why are the politicians UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?
We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, queue UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.
And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is bunged UP. We open UP a shop in the morning but we close it UP at night.
We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! If you wish to be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost ¼ of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don’t give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more.
When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP. When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP. When it doesn’t rain for awhile, things dry UP
I could go on and on, but I’ll finish UP, because my time is UP, so……….. it is time to shut UP….!
Oh . . . one more thing:
What is the first thing you do in the morning & the last thing you do at night?