Monthly Archives: February 2014

The English language is funny.

Funny in a “ha-ha” kind of way, and also in a “hmmm … that’s funny” kind of way.

It’s bad enough that the same word can have many different meanings (This is known as a homograph). But where words get really fun is when the same word can be not only a noun, but a verb as well.

(I’m going to reach way, way back into my memory to some of my elementary school English lessons. This will be a little tricky, because the older I get, the more spotty my memory becomes. Just the other night, I had a ten-minute internal argument with myself over whether the Pleiades is a constellation or an ancient sea creature.)

A verb is a word that represents some sort of action: run, jump, fall, cry. (Those off-the-cuff words probably speaks volumes about my athletic abilities.) A noun is a word that represents a person, place, thing, or idea: cowboy, state, bus, happiness (Okay, granted, that last one is more of a state of being, but you get the idea. I hope. ‘Cause I’m out of them.)

I’ve heard that English is one of the hardest second languages to learn. Sensible, considering how hard it is to learn as a first language. It’s all well and good when you can put all the verb words on one side, and all the noun words on the other side, but then come along the words that just can’t decide which side they want to be on, starting all kinds of trouble and confusion.

For instance, you can drink a drink, but you can’t eat an eat. (Well, that does depend on what region of the country you’re in, because in some places, more than one person eats eats.) During your meal, you may even raise a toast to the toast.

See how it works?

No matter where I go, there’s always another word anomaly awaiting me. If I go out at night, I can dance a dance, but try as I might, I can’t sing a sing or song a song. So, if you see me, you’ll just have to settle for watching me move a move. I’ll look nice, as I’m sure I’ll tie a tie even though I didn’t shirt my shirt. Women have it a bit easier – they just dress in their dress. But doubt anyone can shoe on their shoe.

When I’m outside, I can enjoy watching the rain rain, and sometimes even snow will snow. But the wind won’t wind nor will the sun sun down.

At times, I enjoy being in my kitchen, where a cook can cook, even can a can. But try as I might, I can’t bake a bake or boil a boil. That’s okay though, because that leaves me plenty of time to stew a stew and brew a brew. Maybe there’s pie, and I can slice a slice, being careful with the knife so I don’t cut a cut. Or rip a rip. Or tear a tear. Which may make me tear a tear in my eye. Maybe cake my face with cake.

To spread the fun a little, we can move into words that have different spellings as well as different meanings, but sound alike (homophones).

Because you can see a sea even as you saw a saw, but on the other hand, it’s just not possible to ocean an ocean or sew a sew. Use your imagination! You can still be a bee, or two, too. I might try this, because if there’s a mirror around, I can eye an I! (And if there’re two, I can mirror a mirror.)

By now, I’ve probably moved past funny “ha-ha” to “funny that he hasn’t shut up yet, isn’t it?” I’m sure you can easily come up with many examples of your own. Or maybe someone else jotted a few down, and you can note their note that notes notes.

Just mind your mind, and don’t brain your brain.

(In case you were wondering about the argument’s outcome: the answer was constellation. So I won one.)