Thursday, 3 October 2013

Is that even English??

Have you ever wondered where words come from? Or why the English language is constructed the way it is? Have you ever thought about the way we speak, and how even when we change our words, the same things seem to somehow make sense to others?

... Me neither.

But I have chuckled when my toddler constantly (though less so now) uses the wrong words in his sentences, because that's the natural thing to do as he battles daily to learn and understand the English language...

Because the English language can be frustrating. It violates rules*; it isn't phonetic**; and plurals aren't what others would think they'd be***.

* I before E, except after C? Sure, unless you're running eight weird feisty protein heists on a neighbour's beige foreign deity, glueing their heir to a freighter (whatever that means).

** 'Phonetic' isn't even spelled phonetically.

*** The plural of tooth is teeth, but the plural of booth isn't beeth. Same with goose to geese, but not moose to meese. The plural of sheep is... sheep, and it's the same for fish. But, when a man goes fishing for fish, he fishes! Hmm.

There's also no egg in eggplant, no ham in hamburgers, and no apple or pine in pineapple. Fat and slim are opposite, but, a slim chance and a fat chance are the same thing, yet a wise man and a wise guy are the opposite. For its meaning, abbreviation is a really long word. And there are so many words for "big", but no other words for thesaurus.

This 102 year old man challenges the English language:

And then you get to the words that just sound like they shouldn't be words.

Like "gobbledygook", for example.

Gobbledygook, n.
Spoken or written language characterised by
circumlocution, pretentious, and unintelligible jargon.

If you've ever had the urge to use meaningless, empty phrases that make it look like you know what you're talking about (or want to start), try this gobbledygook generator.

Why a picture of a turkey? Because turkeys naturally 'gobble', and, because a British educational TV show, called Alphabet Castle, had an animated turkey who's name was "Gobbledygook".

In 1993, they even aired a song called 'gobbledygook':

Here's a bit about the origin of the word "gobbledygook", which is used regularly now, and is even found in the Harry Potter series:

As I've thought about gobbledygook, children's educational TV shows, and the English language, I stumbled upon this book, written by admired Play School performer, Justine Clark. In this book, however, the gobbledygook character is not a turkey, but an out-of-control monster, trying to be introduced to the joys of reading from a little girl... Om nom nom.

I'd love to know if there's a word for the action of gliding a hand over your head while making an aeroplane noise when someone speaks gobbledygook to you... Now that would be a word I'd use all the time! :)

I think I'd also like to know if there's a word for when you aren't hungry anymore, but you really love the food that you're eating, so you just keep eating until you're about to explode. You know, a word that's not what Husband uses when I do it, which is 'insane'.

"If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers."
- Doug Larson

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