by Richard Lederer
Let’s face it: English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant or ham in
hamburger, neither apple nor pine in pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England or french fries in France. Sweetmeats are
candies, while sweetbreads, which aren’t sweet, are meat.
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
And why is it that writers write, but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce, and hammers
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, two indices? Is cheese the plural of choose?
If teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what
does a humanitarian eat?
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? Park on driveways and drive on
How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy
are opposites? How can the weather be hot as hell one day an cold as hell another?
When a house burns up, it burns down.
You fill in a form by filling it out and an alarm clock goes off by going on.
When the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.
And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it?
Now I know why I flunked my English. It’s not my fault; the silly language doesn’t quite
know whether it’s coming or going.