Quirky words

quirky wordsEnglish is a tough language to learn. Most of us are fortunate we learned it at such an early age. It is difficult because some words have different (and sometimes opposite meaning) and others are just downright quirky.

Some words should have a clear meaning but they sure don’t. For example, the peanut is a legume, not a nut. Danish pastries were created in Austria. The cute and cuddly Koala bear is a marsupial and not a bear. Panama hats originate from Ecuador, not Panama. There is neither pine nor apple in a pineapple, no egg in eggplant and not a bit of ham in hamburger.

Now, consider these questions.

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Why do you fill in a form by filling it out?

Why does a house burn up as it burns down ?

We ship by truck but send cargo by ship. Does that make sense?

Why are boxing rings square?

Doesn’t it seem reasonable that the opposite of ability should be nobility?

Why do we drive on parkways and park on driveways?

Why are slim chances and fat chances the same thing?

Isn’t it odd that a wise man is the opposite of a wise guy.

Shouldn’t overjoyed people be too happy?

In the interest of accuracy, wouldn’t it be more accurate to call a fireman a waterman?

Why are people inept, but never ept?

And lastly, think about this. When the stars are out, at night, they are visible, but when lights are out, they are invisible.

Many times in the English language, one word can mean two opposing things. The word bolt can mean to secure something or to run away. Cleave can mean to adhere to or to separate from, Clip can mean both fasten and detach. If you consult, you could be asking for advice or giving it. The word oversight can mean to tend or care for and also mean an error. The word wear means to endure or last and also to decay through use. Similarly, weather can mean to withstand or to wear away.

A special case are the words flammable and inflammable. Flammable means that something will burn. You would think if something did not burn, it would be considered inflammable. Not true. Inflammable’s definition is the same as flammable. By putting the “in” in front of flammable it makes it mean able to be inflamed.  

Learning the plurals of words must be a nightmare for those learning the English language. As you know, the plural of tooth is teeth but the plural of moose is moose. But wait, the plural of goose is geese. Hmm.

One last thought on this topic. Why doesn’t Buick rhyme with quick?


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