An islet is a small, often unnamed island covering less than an acre, and is generally uninhabited due to scant vegetation. So, the Islets of Langerhans sound like they should be a group of islands …
An islet is a small, often unnamed island covering less than an acre, and is generally uninhabited due to scant vegetation. So, the Islets of Langerhans sound like they should be a group of islands near the Azores, which are part of the Portugal archipelago. Or, maybe they’re by the Hebrides, a group of islands off the coast of Scotland. Nope, the Islets of Langerhans are the endocrine cells in the pancreas. When I read this to Gar, he sarcastically groaned, “Oh man, I can’t believe we missed that all these years, and it was so obvious.”
I’m always mesmerized that we learned to speak English, and I feel awful for those souls not born in America who are trying to do so. How do we learn this language? It’s a mystery when you consider that the “th” sound we use in “father” and “Thursday” is nearly non-existent in other languages. Known as a voiced dental fricative, it’s extremely difficult for most foreigners to pronounce. One man comically remarked, “English beats up other languages in dark alleys.”
The English language is full of contranyms, words that have two opposite meanings, which is a hard grammar rule when learning English. Take “weather.” It means to wear away, or the opposite, to withstand, but also an atmospheric term. There’s “overlook” as a teacher will inspect a test, but the opposite, as she will “overlook” errors in spelling if you’re striving to be creative. There’s “dust,” when “removing” particles from furniture (I’ve heard some wives who actually do this) or opposite, when sprinkling, or “adding” powdered sugar on top of a cake, which I would do, though it is on the fringe of my expertise.
We’ve all seen the posters of words that look like they should rhyme but don’t; cough, rough, though and through, but for some reason, pony and bologna do. Then there’s words that look the same but have different meanings depending on how they’re pronounced, like record as in a Beatles album, or reCORD when leaving a voicemail for your mother, who hadn’t heard from you in so long, she went out on the veranda to wait for Jesus.
More nuttiness is why do we have an H in rhinoceros, a B in lamb, an L in salmon, a K in knight or a G in gnat? Some things exist beyond logical debate.
There are homonyms, which are words that are spelled the same but have more than one meaning, like hunters will tell you that a buck “does” funny things when the “does” are around. And when it comes to “buck,” we know it’s a male deer, antelope, rabbit, sheep or goat. It’s also a dollar, the way a horse dumps a cowboy, a way to pass the blame, or used when opposing the system. There are also words with the same meaning, like Gar decided there was no time like the “present” to “present” a “present” to his bride, when what he really wanted to do was go for cigarettes and never come back, but remembered he doesn’t smoke.
Why is it that writers write and painters paint, but grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham, and why is aid and said pronounced differently? Well, there’s binding rules in English. One is adjectives we don’t realize we use correctly, as with “old, fat, alley cat.” We don’t say, “alley, old, fat cat.” We know things, like our shortest word is “I” and it’s the most commonly used.
Another English rule that’s hard to learn is plurals, as in box is boxes, but ox is oxen not oxes. There’s one goose but two geese, but more than one moose is not meese. There’s man and men but a pan is not pen, foot is feet but a book isn’t beek, then there’s a mouse, or a nest full of mice, but the plural of house is houses, not hice.
It’s not just the language either. It’s the way words are created, as in hippogriff. Is it some type of hippo or have something to do with a hippo? No. Legend has it that this mythical animal has the front half of an eagle and the hind half of a horse. Language creators need to be flogged.
There are 25 languages using almost the identical spelling of ananas. Think this is our word for bananas? Ha! It’s PINEAPPLE!
I’m rolling my eyes while reporting America isn’t the only land with people using screwball English. Australia has three “A’s” and all three have different pronunciations.