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The Wonders of The English Language

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by MikeyFingers, Dec 23, 2005.

  1. I've noticed hundreds of little things in our language that just don't make any sense. The use of "silent letters", the pronunciation of some words relative to their spelling, and plenty of others. Here's one that really got me thinking:
    The word "horrific" comes from the word "horrible", or "horror". Therefore, "horrific" means something is horrible, or bad.

    However, the word "terrific" means something is good. But it seems to me that the word "terrific" comes from the word "terrible" or "terror", akin to "horrific". So why does it have a positive meaning??

    Another one:
    The word "Comb". We know how it's pronounced, with the O sounding like it does when you say the letter alone. c-O-mb.
    The word "tomb". Spelled exactly the same but for the first letter, and you say it with the "oooo" sound. WHY?

    I don't get it.
    Post any other frustrations caused by our "beautiful" language here. If you think about it, they're really pretty easy to find.
  2. Brad Barker

    Brad Barker

    Apr 13, 2001
    berkeley, ca
    a good dictionary will partially answer some of your questions.
  3. SnoMan

    SnoMan Words Words Words

    Jan 27, 2001
    Charleston, WV
    Ehh....if you tried to use one letter for ever sound that your mouth and vocal chords can make....well....that would suck

    Think of the number of letters that would require.
  4. If you're disgruntled it means "To make discontented."

    So... if your contented, does that make you gruntled?
  5. Brad Barker

    Brad Barker

    Apr 13, 2001
    berkeley, ca
    my gripe is that roots that differ by only a single letter have completely different meaning.

    i can't think of specific examples, and my interests lie elsewhere now. :meh:
  6. Alvaro Martín Gómez A.

    Alvaro Martín Gómez A. TalkBass' resident Bongo + cowbell player

    Although I find Spanish a richer language, there are things about English that are very logical and I always ask myself why Spanish doesn't work like that. I'm talking specifically about the fact that phrases like "Don't touch anything" or "I know nothing", if literally translated from Spanish, would be like "Don't touch nothing" ("no toques nada") and "I don't know nothing" ("yo no sé nada"), which is totally illogical since that structure is a "negation of a negation" => it becomes an affirmation. That's one of the reasons why I like and respect the English language so much (specially the British accent, which sounds so elegant to me).
  7. You wouldn't happen to be a Gallagher fan, would you? :D

    - Dave
  8. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Maybe your spelling is completely non-fonetic, but it doens't change every ten years. Damn you dutch language union! :spit:
  9. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    They write in cursive with an e lokking i, and an i looking e. Then the put the dot in the middle!

    Gallaher was awesome back in the day.
  10. yeah the english language IS inconsistent, but it's relatively easy too

    and +1 on vorago

    and most languages have those inconsistensies, I for one, always wondered why french needs a subjonctiv, it's just there because it's there, but you could speak french without and not change a thing in the meaning!
  11. With terrific, there was a step in between "fearful" and "excellent"; namely, "severe" or "extreme."

    So you can imagine it going from "god's terrific fury" to "what a terrific racket" to "that's a terrific feat of strength" to "you think bass is sexy? Terrific!"

    I guess there's no reason that shouldn't have happened with horrific too, but the meaning makes total sense to me.

    With comb and tomb: "comb" comes from a germanic word "kambaz" and "tomb" comes from Greek "tymbos" to Latin "tumba" to French "tombe." So basically the answer is that the vowel shift was just more natural.
  12. Brad Barker

    Brad Barker

    Apr 13, 2001
    berkeley, ca
    see also: post no. 2

  13. haHA! I was wondering if anyone would catch that. Yeah, I love Gallagher and I did take that one part from his bit, but this thing has been bugging me since 5th grade when I learned that "psychotic" is pronounced "sykotik". Why all those extra letters? Look: psychotic. You don't need the p or the h, and the c makes the sound of a k. So yeah, no wonder they say the english language is the hardest one to learn. I feel bad for anyone who uses it as a second language.
  14. It seems to me that English really is harder than most other languages because of the fact that there are so many different pronunciations of the same letters and so many different meanings of some words and phrases. It's just that since most of us are used to it, not much thought goes into it. When you look at other languages such as Spanish, you find that there are very few words that don't confrom to specific grammar rules, where in English, it is found that there is a rather large amount of words that don't conform to any rules whatsoever.
  15. Basshole

    Basshole Banned

    Jan 28, 2005
    That's PHONETIC. It just happens to be one of those English words that, you know...doesn't sound like it's spelled...

  16. westland


    Oct 8, 2004
    Hong Kong
    English is an unusual language as a result of its history around 1000AD. During this period of time you had a Danish invasion (the North Sea was much warmer and ice free then) which ultimately controlled 2/3rds of England, and replaced the Anglo-Saxon (a mixture of German, Latin and Old English) with Danish. Then the Normans (English who earlier conquered Brittany in France, and started speaking French) who returned to England and made French the lingua franca so to speak. It was the latter invasion that created our unique class of swearing words. E.g., the Saxon 'sh*t' was considered low class, to be replaced by the more proper French 'excrement'. Because the populace was confused by all these languages, they reverted to a simpler creole or pidgin which dropped the nominative, genetive and accusitive endings of Old English, and the genders of words, leading to the very simple grammer of English today (e.g., English has 7 verb declensions, Romance languages 14, Arabic 48). That's why you have the ideosyncracies of spelling as well. But English also has about twice to three times the number of words as other languages, where English, Danish and French words are applied to the same concept or object.
  17. fourstringdrums

    fourstringdrums Decidedly Indecisive Supporting Member

    Oct 20, 2002
    I was thinking the exact same thing :)
  18. Bard2dbone


    Aug 4, 2002
    Arlington TX
    There was a thing I read a few years back. It said if you paid attention to all spelling, then potatoes should be spelled Gheauxteighteaux.

    That is 'gh' as in hiccough, 'eau' as in 'beaux', 't' as in...well 't', 'eight' you'll recognize, and then 'eaux' as in 'beaaux', again. So Gheauteighteaux = Potatoes
  19. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Every language has it's difficulties at some level. Have you ever heard about the german plurals? Trust me, you don't want to.

    English is a hard language to master, but it seems to me that it has a low entrance level.
  20. Vorago

    Vorago (((o)))

    Jul 17, 2003
    Antwerp, Belgium
    Oh, and Basshole :spit: Can you tell if phonetic is translated in dutch by "fonetisch" of "fonethisch"?