Peculiarities of the English Language Language. It?s something that we have


Language. It's something that we have to use on a daily basis in order to function. Communication is essential to the human existence, without it we simply can't survive. Yet as each of us get up in the morning and begin our day, the last thing that crosses our minds is why we use the type of language that we do. Rarely does it occur to us the many oddities that compose the English language. Can we then imagine what it must be like for someone attempting to learn English as a foreign or second language'! When we examine the peculiarities of our native tongue we can sympathize with those seeking to learn it.

In taking a close look at the peculiarities of the English language, I want to draw attention to two main aspects: grammar and usage of words and phrases. Many people loathe the subject of grammar, and no wonder, with all of the many rules and exceptions to the rules, it makes one want to throw up one's hands and give up. Any seasoned student of English will undoubtedly come to the conclusion of 'Who started all of this in the first place' What makes this certain usage correct and this one incorrect'' Take for instance these two sentences, 'She went to the store.' and 'She gone to the store.' Of course we would say that the first one is correct, but why' Each sentence basically says the same thing but one is considered bad English. Robert A. Hall Jr. puts it like this. 'In practical terms if you say 'it ain't me' instead of 'it is not I' or 'I seen him' instead of 'I saw him', you will not be invited to tea again, or will not make a favorable impression on your department head and get the promotion you want.... but in itself, and apart from all considerations of social favor one form of speech is just as good as another.' 1 Using correct English is conducive to making a good impression. Yet it must make the student of English as a foreign language wonder why there are so many words and usages of words to say virtually say the same thing!

But what about individual words' Take the word 'bug.' This has a variety of meanings, an insect, a specter, or a glitch in the design of an instrument. In slang terms it can mean to irritate or annoy as in these sentences, 'Quit bugging me!.' or 'Bug off!' And for all of you spy lovers out there it can refer to 'A miniature electronic microphone, used in wiretapping.' 2 This little word is of frequent use in our vocabulary, but how and why' I think Thomas Jefferson sums it up pretty nicely, 'Society is the workshop in which new [words] are elaborated. When an individual word, if ill-formed, it is rejected in society; if well-formed, adopted and after due time, laid up in the depository of dictionaries.'3 Of course, I must say something about idioms, when talking about peculiarities. Certainly, nothing must seem more peculiar than these comical phrases, 'Bend over Backwards,' or ' Bite the Bullet'. These must conjure up some interesting mental pictures but no matter how funny they seem, native speakers use these phrases quite frequently.

Learning a new language is daunting, especially one that has been coined one of the most difficult languages to learn. Yet when you learn a language you learn about the people who speak it and the culture that has shaped it. Peculiarities to me are fascinating after all it's what makes a language unique.

1. The American Language, H.L. Mencken 2. Webster Comprehensive Dictionary International Version 3. The American Language, H.L. Mencken