Inconsistencies, irregularities and curiosities of English

How about sharing all these little things that strike us as unusual, odd, hilarious, characteristic and whatnot – in short, things that make English… how shall I put it, special? Some of you are already quite active in this area, thus allowing many of us to benefit from your ‘finds’.

You know how constitutionally and irremediably English-prone I am. How could I not be? I mean, almost everyday, if not more often, I stumble upon an amusing or amazing word, idiom, or other language component which I feel like sharing with someone. But I often back out arguing that I’d probably only manage to make a fool of myself, as most of you are bound to know the item in question (maybe even since nursery school, as one of my students’ joke goes – or, to coin one of Alan’s phrases, since right after ‘the gurgling and babbling indulged in in the initial years’).

Well, here go a couple of words I find funny (peculiar rather than ha-ha funny):

Would you believe there’s a word for the mass of unburnt tobacco at the bottom of a pipe? It’s called a ‘dottle’.

And something like the skill at finding your way about woods and forests and living in them has a name, too: it’s ‘woodcraft’.

Note the irregular plural of ‘still life’ (picture of flowers or objects, not people or animals): still lifes.

In toto: “adverb FORMAL - as a total or whole:
The available information amounts to very little in toto”. This one sounds totally informal to me!

Ration only sometimes rhymes with nation,
Say prefer, but preferable,
Comfortable and vegetable.
B must not be heard in doubt,
Debt and dumb both leave it out.
In the words psychology,
Psychic, and psychiatry,
You must never sound the p.
Psychiatrist you call the man
Who cures the complex, if he can.
In architect chi is k
In arch it is the other way.
Please remember to say iron
So that it’ll rhyme with lion.
Advertisers advertise,
Advertisements will put you wise.
Time when work is done is leisure,
Fill it up with useful pleasure.
Accidental, accident,
Sound the g in ignorant.
Relative, but relation,
Then say creature, but creation.
Say the a in gas quite short,
Bought remember rhymes with thwart,
Drought must always rhyme with bout,
In daughter leave the gh out.
Wear a boot upon your foot.
Root can never rhyme with soot.
In muscle, sc is s,
In muscular, it’s sk, yes!
Choir must always rhyme with wire,
That again will rhyme with liar.
Then remember it’s address.
With an accent like posses.
G in sign must silent be,
In signature, pronounce the g.
Please remember, say towards
Just as if it rhymed with boards.
Weight’s like wait, but not like height.
Which should always rhyme with might.

Hi Conchita,

If you haven’t I’m sure you will and if you have, I know you’ll agree with me. What am I on about? I am referring to that genius of a wordsmith P G Wodehouse and I’m talking about haven’t read/have read and will agree in that order. Tiptoe through his prose and you stumble over some of the choicest words and word fabrications in the language and when you pick yourself up again and remember them later they’ll keep you in joy for ever and a day. If I can nick a bit from William Wordsworth and sort of transpose it, this recall goes a bit like this:

Anyhow that’s what I mean when you remember a bit from PGW when you’re stuck in a traffic jam. I can hear Mr Wordsworth tut-tutting at my banality sat up there on Olympus.

Not sure whether this is relevant to your comments but I can’t resist giving a plug for the Master.