Friday, October 9, 2009

Have You Ever Wondered Why ....?

The English language is very inconsistent.  There are rules embedded within other rules, and then there are the inevitable exceptions to the rules.  Remember the old 'i' before 'e' except after 'c' or when sounded as 'a' as in neighbor or weigh?  Remember that one? And I swear people make up words.  Smart people.  And they do it just to mess with our heads.

In this computer age, we all are familiar with the terms 'bit' and 'byte' as they relate to computers.  (Okay, most of us know...)  The term 'bit' originated from binary digit and described what was at the time the smallest measure of information on a machine ...only able to hold one value, either a 0 or a 1.  Do you know what you call 8 bits in a row?  A byte ...pronounced 'bite' tell me someone did not have their tongue firmly lodged in their cheek when they decided on that nomenclature!  Okay, so a byte represents 8 consecutive bits ...but it gets worse, folks.  What if you don't feel like a whole 'byte' today?  You can settle for just half of a byte which is appropriately named a nibble!  See 'tongue in cheek' reference above.  And some people say the nerdy scientific types have no sense of humor! 

But even the non-science related aspects of the language can be confusing.  Ever get tangled up trying to figure out if you want to ensure or insure something?  How about affect or effect something?  How about this one ...if 'notoriety' is such a good thing, why is being notorious such a bad thing?  And this one ...if labeling someone inept at something means they are really a screw up at that particular thing, why then aren't people referred to as ept if they are really GOOD at something?

Then there's the whole 'hot water heater' thing.  Ask a dozen people what they think the problem might be if your shower won't draw hot water and at least 10 of them will tell you the hot water heater is out.  Well, folks, it's a water heater not a hot water heater.  If the water was already hot, why in the world would you need to heat it?

These are just random thoughts the likes of which rattle through my head on a daily basis.  Yes, it is scary to be me sometimes! 


  1. An understanding command of the language is necessary to convey proper thought.

  2. One of my co-workers was telling another about her "clergical" work this week. I believe it was a mix of cleric/clergy = clerical/clergical. The human brain is a little strange sometimes. He comes up with some good "slaughterizations" of the English language but you can normally decipher what he meant and how he mixed it up. The longer I looked at the above words (cleric and clergy) the more they look misspelled. Another one of those things.

  3. Clergical is a good one. Who knows ...if people bat it around enough, other people will start using it too and it might just make it into Webster's dictionary.

  4. Interesting post. I often think of each individual family when I think of language. We each are unique and have our own colloquialisms then add on our part of the world colloquialisms and we are most definitely English speaking, but missing translators!

    Now accents are something to throw into this- when we were stationed at Fort Polk LA- it took me three months to understand how Louisiana folks pronounce oil. I think they thought I was stupid! It was when gas stations were full service and the attendant would ask me if I wanted my OL checked. I would probably look dumbfounded trying to swirl around my brain what he was asking me. I never would answer. Not being a man, I did not tie in that oil and filling the truck went together.

    btw- I just read your bio. I love Tom Selleck too! Something about him, I guess!

    I just reread this and must explain where I come from we pronounce oil oy-el. So ol had no connection in my brain!

  5. LOL! Wouldn't be so bad but I find myself thinking of this stuff too - like why we have 20 spellings for words pronounced the same and they mean different things?? Sheesh!

  6. Hi, Jenn...
    I understood 'ol' the first time you typed it. We moved to Texas when I just 8 years old and I remember even that young having to really pay attention to follow any conversation. It wasn't lack of vocabulary on my part, rather it was learning the pronunciations (like 'ol' for 'oil' and 'tahr' for 'tire') peculiar to the south. But by the time I was 13 and went off to summer camp in Missouri, I had enough 'Texan' in my own speech to warrant considerable razzing from the other campers. I lived in northern Virginia near D.C. for a short time in the late 80's and had a couple of people question whether I really moved there from Texas ...they claimed I didn't have a Texas accent at all. I just smiled and told them, "It only comes out when I'm real mad." Ha!

    ps I think the thing with Tom Selleck has a lot to do with the roles he plays too. He's usually the strong, silent good guy type kinda guy. Packaging is not bad either though. LOL

  7. Hello, Ernie...
    English is one of the toughest languages to learn because it's so darned inconsistent. When I was in high school, my English teacher spent six weeks on Latin roots and that six weeks has benefited me as much or more than the rest of the English classes from high school. When I was homeschooling my own two kids in the early 90's, I made them study Latin roots too. They moaned and groaned at the time, but they both found it useful from time to time in their adult lives since then as well. Teachers often know best ...even when the Teacher is Mom. :)