Originally created 11/09/99

Language is fraught with traps



Why is it that if someone tells you that there are a billion stars in the universe you will believe him, but if he tells you a wall has wet paint you will have to touch it to be sure?

-- Psychology 101

As I may have mentioned, my 5-year-old is beginning to read, and that means we are introducing him to the quirks of English.

I've got to tell you, he thinks we adults are playing tricks on him.

For instance, he does not understand why EAT isn't spelled ET, or PURPLE isn't PURPUL.

I keep saying it's because English is a complicated and confusing language derived from numerous sources, not all of them friendly.

It is a language full of contradictions, as reader Aimee Elwell suggests when she sent in this list of questions.

If people from Poland are called Poles, why aren't people from Holland called Holes?

Why is the man who invests all your money called a broker?

Why are a wise man and a wise guy opposites?

Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?

Ditto infants and infancy and adults and adultery

If horrific means to be horrible, does terrific mean to be terrible?

Why isn't "11" pronounced onety-one?

Why do women wear evening gowns to nightclubs? Shouldn't they be wearing night gowns?

If you take an Oriental person and spin him around several times, does he become disoriented?

When someone asks you, "a penny for your thoughts," and you put "your 2 cents in," what happens to the other penny?

If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted, cowboys deranged and dry cleaners depressed?

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TODAY'S RIDDLE: Champak C. Patel of Martinez sends this one along:

What is it that becomes valuable when it goes right, but has no value when it goes left? (Answer Friday)

* * *

TODAY'S JOKE: Comes from Vince.

One bright, beautiful Sunday morning, the townspeople were in church, listening to the organ play.

Suddenly, the devil appeared at the front of the church. Everyone started screaming and running for the front entrance, trampling one another in a frantic effort to get away.

Everyone except one elderly gentleman, who sat calmly in his pew, not moving.

This confused Old Scratch a bit, so he walked up to the man and said, "Don't you know who I am?"

"Yep," the man replied, "sure do."

"Well," the devil said, "aren't you afraid?"

"Nope," the man said.

"Why not?" the devil asked.

"Don't you know?" the old fellow said, "I've been married to your sister for 48 years."

Reach Bill Kirby at (706) 868-1222, EXT. 107.