Well, another week into the new year, and things seem to be
getting even busier than last year. This is the first Sunday
Funnies written on the road... Well, actually, it was written
on a computer screeen and then on paper, but that's not the
important part. Yes, I'm on a business trip to Raleigh, North
Carolina as I write this, and I'll probably be in Pittsburgh,
Pennsylvania to send it out. Isn't Email great?
This week we get into a slippery area - English! Because
of it's muddled history, English has a large number of words an
an extremely unusual structure. Sometimes it seems to be made
up of the leftover pieces of a dozen or more other languages.
All of that makes confusion a way of life. But the stranger it
is the funnier it is. Special Sunday Funnies Thanks this week to
Hong Li & He Libin for all of the wonderful homemade Chinese food,
and to Bob Martens, Junji Taniguchi, Dick Ginkowski, Hong Li,
Helen Yee, Kerry Miller & Peter Adler for their contributions.
Now your on with English as she is spoken and I'm back on the road
Have a fun week!
In a letter to 'The Economist', M.J.Shields, of Jarrow,
England, points out that George Bernard Shaw, among others,
urged spelling reform, suggesting that one letter be altered
or deleted each year, thus giving the populace time to absorb
* * * *
"For example, in Year 1 that useless letter 'c' would be
dropped to be replased either by 'k' or 's', and likewise 'x'
would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which
'c' would be retained would be the 'ch' formation, which will be
dealt with later. Year 2 might reform 'w' spelling, so that
'which' and 'one' would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3
might well abolish 'y' replasing it with 'i' and Iear 4 might
fiks the 'g-j' anomali wonse and for all.
"Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai
iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and
Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and
unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl
tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez 'c', 'y' and 'x' - bai now
jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez - tu riplais 'ch',
'sh', and 'th' rispektivli.
"Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi
wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe
I think that I shall never see
Worse use of the apostrophe
Than greets me early every day,
As morning papers come my way.
The St. Pete Times reports the date
Of *it's* vice president debate. (1)
How often we see mis-used "it's"
Enough to give us pedants fits!
The signs in town find "pig's" for "pigs"
And "car's" and "bar's" and "wig's" for "wigs"
TruValue is the store for "key's"
And one place offers "canopy's" (!)
If you've apostrophes to spare,
I'd like some "robin's" for my hair.
Meanwhile we'll try, the fools like me,
To tame the wild apostrophe.
The following are excerpted from actual letters received by our
Welfare Department in applications for support.
1. I am forwarding my marriage certificate and 6 children. I
had seven but one died which was baptised on a half sheet
2. I am writing the welfare department to say that my baby
was born two years old. When do I get my money?
3. Mrs. Jones has not had any clothes for two years and has
been visited regularly by the clergy.
4. I cannot get sick pay. I have six children can you tell me
5. I am glad to report that my husband who is missing is dead.
6. This is my eighth child. What are you going to do about it.
7. Please find for certain if my husband is dead. The man I
am now living with can't do anything until he knows.
8. I am very much annoyed to find out that you have branded
my son illiterate. This is a dirty lie as I was married a
week before he was born.
9. In answer to your letter, I have given birth to a son
weighing 10 lbs. I hope this is satisfactory.
10. I am forwarding my marriage certificate and my 3 children
one of which is a mistake as you can see.
11. Unless I get my husband's money pretty soon, I will be
forced to lead an immortal life.
12. You have my changed little boy to a girl, will this make
13. I have no children yet, as my husband is a truck driver
and works night and day.
14. I want money as quick as I can get it. I have been in bed
with the doctor for two weeks and he doesn't do me any
good. If things don't improve, I will have to send for
15. In accordance with your instructions, I have given birth to
twins in the enclosed envelope.
The following letter was found at a well-know university;
in the interest of not making that state look any worse, I have
deleted proper names and replaced them with aliases in
parentheses. Except for that, what you see is an exact
reproduction (& no, it doesn't make much sense to me, either)...
Dear (Faculty Member):
We are writing about a male or female musician, we have a
piano in our church, we have church on 1st. and 3rd Sunday,
we practice twice a month. We are looking for someone can
go off with us, come and practice with us. We are located
in (Town, State). about 20 miles from (you), our pastor is
Rev. (Name), president of the choir is Decon (Name). If you
are concerned please contact us.
[ Probably written by the chairperson of the English
Let's face it: English is a crazy language. There is no egg
in eggplant or ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in
English muffins were not invented in England or French fries
in France. Sweetmeats are candies, while sweetbreads, which
aren't sweet, are meat. French Horns came from England while the
English horn isn't a horn at all.
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? 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, two indices? Is cheese
the plural of choose?
If teachers taught, why didn't preachers praught? If a
vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? 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? Park on driveways and drive on parkways?
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a
wise man and a wise guy are opposites? How can the weather be hot
as hell one day and cold as hell another?
When a house burns up, it burns down. You fill in a form by
filling it out and an alarm clock goes off by going on.
When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the
lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my
watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it?
Now I know why we have such a hard time with English. It's
not our fault -- the silly language doesn't quite know whether
it's coming or going.
© 1997 by Bill Becwar. All Rights Reserved.