Inglish? English?


Muriel from BlogJust before Valentine’s Day, over breakfast at a local cafe, I noticed a new sign reading “Who Do You Love?” I thought about it for a moment and that it should be “Whom do you love?”, but I didn’t say anything nor check it when I got home.

First of all, I gave my trusty grammar book to a lovely young student who has kindly helped me with computer woes which I have now and then, and although I may be right, I didn’t bother with Google, because somehow it didn’t matter to me. Interesting…..

I used to care a lot about the English language. In a way, I still do. I love it. It is full of possibilities and can be wonderfully expressive and great fun. I enjoy words and playing with them, but something is happening.

Aside from the fact that at times I now find myself searching for words I know I know and want but can’t retrieve, I don’t seem to be as distressed by seeing/hearing what I may consider poor grammar. Am I mellowing?

Years ago, one of my children’s third grade teachers told me “She did good.” It was good news, because this particular child didn’t always do “good”. Even so, my insides cringed with the knowledge that this woman, who was teaching my child, would be so careless with the language. It bothered me so much, I still remember it! However, I’ve now accepted that language is a changing, growing, flexible thing and that’s

This woman was teaching my child. I was distressed she misused the language.

This woman was teaching my child. I was distressed she misused the language.

what makes it so intriguing. Seems I’m rolling with the punches.

Once, I chose to write an anti-gun column. It was reproduced on a pro-gun website, after which I received hundreds of negative emails, some nasty, some even theatening, but mostly from people with terrible spelling. I was more bothered by the poor spelling than the threats and had to resist the urge to

He can shoot. But can he spell????

He can shoot. But can he spell????

correct the first 10 or so and return them to sender. (I gave up on reading the rest and just deleted them unread.) My own readers responded positively.

There are certainly things I would change myself in our language if I had my way, particularly with spelling. After having tutored ESL students, I am very aware of how tricky English spelling can be. For instance, why do we need a “b” in “plumber”, or at the end of “bomb”? Why use “ph” when we mean “f”? On and on it goes — most confusing.

My own new English spelling would look something like this: Wat sens duz it mak to spel thum with a “b” wen we don’t prononz it that way? Why mudle thru speling lik the word “through” wich merly confuzes the ishu?

English spelling is especially tricky for ESL students.

English spelling is especially tricky for ESL students.

I also used to warn my ESL students not to rely on their computer spell-checks. (I don’t know how to use mine.) It wouldn’t catch words that are misused if what you have written happens to correctly spell another word. Thus, I was delighted when a friend sent me the following poem.

Beware of computer spell-checkers.

Beware of computer spell-checkers.

“Spell Checker”.

Eye halve a spelling chequer

It came with my pea sea

It plainly marques four my revue

Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word

And weight four it two say

Weather eye am wrong oar write

It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid

It nose bee fore two long

And eye can put the error rite

Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it

I am shore your pleased two no

Its letter perfect awl the weigh

My chequer tolled me sew.

“Who wrote it?” I asked.

“Sauce unnown.”

P.S. Write me and let me know what brings you to my blog. I’d love that.


13 thoughts on “Inglish? English?

  1. When working with ESL students, I always find myself being a bit apologetic about the bizarre vagaries of our language, especially when trying to explain something like why the words “tough” and “through” are pronounced so differently. You’re quite right, Mom — why not simply “tuf” and “thru”? Of course, when I see people actually writing that way (and believe me, as an instructor of remedial English at a community college, I do), I feel the urge to rend my clothes and tear out my hair. Still, I recognize that from a logical perspective, it should be correct to do it that way. Sadly, it is not, which means that the stack of papers sitting in my work bag waiting to be marked will most certainly make me want to gouge my eyes out.

    • I feel for you Susan: However, it took tutoring ESL students for me to realize how crazy our language is. Since it is MY language and I love it, I learned it automatically and embraced it and all it’s craziness. Love, Mom

  2. My favourite experience trying to explain the inexplicable English language to an ESL student was with a friend from India who, in response to something I suggested, said “that was be good”. So of course I said: “No, it’s “that would be good”. He repeated the phrase and seemed to get it. Then fool that I am, I added: “Unless you want to say “that will be good” or “that could be good” or “that should be good” or “that ought to be good”. At which point he of course rolled his eyes, threw his hands up, and said “your language is crazy”. I have to agree!

    By the way, this same friend made a very good point about our term “ESL”. When an “ESL” instructor chastised him for something by saying “learning English as a second language is a privilege and you should pay attention” he replied “English is not my second language. I speak Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, and Punjabi. How many languages do you speak?” That brought her down a peg or two. Most Asians and Europeans speak more than one language. It is we North Americans who are so monumentally monolingual. Very few immigrants are actually learning English as a “second language” but more likely as a third or fourth.

    Lovely and lively piece Muriel. I hope your blog is picking up hits. I’ll continue plugging it on my facebook page.


    • Kevin, for the reason you discussed, some people prefer the term “EFL” — English as a Foreign Language. I stick with ESL, but try to think of it as “English as a Secondary Language”, meaning it is not their primary, ‘mother tongue’ language.

    • Chuckle. You remind me of teaching English to an adult group. One student was a linguistics prof. in Taiwan. We played with just what you refer to. Yes, you CAN say it that way, or like this, or perhaps another way. I admit, I love this about English.

  3. Muriel, I have been enjoying your blog, especially because they remind me of lively and lovely chats we have had over the years! This one really connects with me, as my new husband and I play Scrabble almost every day (an inheritance from my Mother who played Scrabble with you!!) We notice words and often conclude that English is very difficult, even as a “First Language”!!

  4. >
    > Homographs are words of like spelling but with more than one meaning. A homograph that is also pronounced differently is a heteronym.
    > You think English is easy?
    > This took a lot of work to put together…by a retired English teacher!
    > 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 fish 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?
    > 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 or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are animal organs. 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, 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.
    > PS. – Why doesn’t ‘Buick’ rhyme with ‘quick’?
    > Lovers of the English language might enjoy this.
    > There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is ‘UP.’
    > It is 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 officers 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, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses.
    > To be dressed is one thing, but to be dressed UP is special.
    > A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP.
    > We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.
    > We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP!
    > 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 1/4th 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.
    > One could go on and on, but I’ll wrap it UP,
    > for now my time is UP,
    > so…it is time to shut UP!
    > Now it is UP to you what you do with this email.

  5. Hi Muriel

    I really got a kick out of this blog. Particularly like the one about
    my eye have run this poem thru it. har de har

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