It occurs to me that English is completely absurd. Now it may seem a little odd that I feel this way about my chosen field of study and career, but there are quite a few reasons. Grammar. Yes, many of you are probably cringing. See? Now that’s just a bad omen. Our own grammar rules make us cringe. I’m convinced that even my teachers were confused about the rules of grammar, or at least were incapable of working through the tangle of my thoughts to explain the different aspects of the subject.
The only thing that is exceptionally clear when studying grammar, is that we are delighted by making it as ridiculous as possible and keeping it in a sort of stasis while the rest of the world adapts. For example, while it makes sense to us that there is a difference between knight and night, it really isn’t necessary and makes things more difficult. We approach grammar without the realization that the only understandable way to teach it is by incorporating the various languages from whence we have derived our current words and quirky spellings. This of course makes so much sense to us (hopefully) when we are adults, but by then we’ve already struggled and learned our bad habits. When we are learning as children that we spell bite and kite one way, but then we have knight and night, we wouldn’t understand the foreign derivations of the words and might be inclined to ask such impertinent questions as: “why don’t we just spell it the way it sounds?” or endure such insightful comments as “well that’s stupid”. These quirky spellings are, of course, necessary for the utter confusion of those trying to learn the language. Then there are the catchy little rules that we learn like “i before e, except after c”. You might as well tack on a few other exceptions while you’re at it because there are names that don’t follow that rule at all. Then we have dear and deer. See and sea. Oh, but then there’s scale. There’s no scail to tell the difference between the word meanings, but we have tail and tale. See what I mean? It’s no wonder many of us cringe when hearing the word “grammar”. It’s as if the English language were designed by a jack-in-the-box who can’t wait to jump up and laugh at you (there’s another great one…why not laf? Not enough letters?) when you miss one of those lovely exceptions. Sorry Webster, it’s not really your fault at all that we’ve neglected our own language and refused to revise it except to simply add common mistakes into the dictionary so they will then be considered legitimate words. It’s much easier to do that, than expect your language to adapt and abide by a more logical set of rules.
What’s really fun is the word bow. Ha! The same exact spelling has two different pronunciations, yet bow can also have the exact same sound as bough. Trippy. Ridiculous? I think so. I’m sure things will continue on as they always have, but if we spent a little more time with grammar and perhaps learning those other languages from whence we derived our words, we might find ourselves better equipped to understand our own language. Pity that we don’t already expect it of our school systems and students. The only fair thing to do if we refuse to educate students in a manner that will properly convey grammar and vocabulary, is to revise the language so it is at least more logical.