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Fun with English by Mikie Metric

1. "stewardesses" is the longest word typed only with the left hand because all the letters are on the left side of the typical English keyboard

3. No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, purple.

5. The sentence: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog." uses every letter of the alphabet.

7. There are only four words in the English language which end in "dous" : tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, hazardous.

2. "lollipop" is the longest word typed only with your right hand, if your right hand stays on the right side of the keyboard.

4. "Dreamt" is the only English word that ends with the letters "MT".

6. The words racecar, kayak, and level are the same when read from left to right or from right to left. They are called "palindromes".

8. There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order: "abstemious" and "facetious."

"Typewriter" is the longest English word that can be made using letters from only one row of the keyboard.

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IQ Test

Can you raed tihs?  Olny srmat poelpe can.  I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.  The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae.  The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm.  Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.  Amzanig, huh?  Yaeh, and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

(This was forwarded to me by a friend.  Source unknown.)

loose - (rhymes with goose and moose, with a Long U sound;  means not fitting tightly, not bound together)  "The runner's shoe was so loose that it fell off during the race." lose - (rhymes with shoes, news, with a Long U sound followed by a Z sound;  means to misplace, to be unable to find, to NOT win a contest or competition)  "John's opponent said, "I hope you lose the election."

The bandage was wound around the wound.

wound - (rhymes with 'tuned' and means an injury as from a knife or bullet)  "The soldier received a serious wound in the battle." wound (rhymes with 'sound' and is Past Tense of 'wind' meaning to twist or turn as with a watch spring)  "The clock spring broke when the boy wound it too tightly."

The farm was used to produce produce.x

produce - pronounced PROduce: fruits, vegetables and other goods from a farm. This is a noun. "During the summer, many farmers sell their produce from roadside stands." produce - pronounced proDUCE: a verb meaning to make or manufacture.  "American factories produce top-quality machinery for the world market."

xA bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

bass - rhymes with 'pass', a type of fresh-water fish.  "The boy was very excited when he caught a five-pound bass on his first fishing trip." bass - rhymes with 'base', meaning lower in musical pitch; also a common name for a bass guitar , a bass viola or a bass drum.  "The skinny man with the long neck sang bass in the church choir."

(Note: Use a good English dictionary to learn the correct pronunciation and meaning of the look-alike words in the following sentences.)

1. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

2. We must polish the Polish furniture.

3. He could lead the team to victory if he would get the lead out.

4. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

5. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present to his mother.

6. When the shot came near, the dove dove into the bushes.

7. The medical insurance was invalid for the invalid.

8. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

9. The buck does funny things when the does are present.

10. The sewer in the shirt factory dropped a spool of thread down into the sewer line.

11. To help with planting, the farmer taught his prize sow to sow.

12. The wind was too strong for us to wind the sail in.

13. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

(Some of the following material has been sent to me anonymously, some has been borrowed from various sources and some came out of my own convoluted brain.  If anyone can prove original authorship of any of these items, I will be glad to give credit or delete it from this page.)

How strange can a language be?

There is no egg in an eggplant.  It doesn't look or taste like an egg. 

There is no ham in a hamburger. 

There is no pine nor apple in a pineapple. 

Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

English muffins were not invented in England and French fries were not invented in  France, so where did such names come from?

Some names seem to describe the opposite of what the things really are:

Quicksand pulls you down slowly.

Boxing rings are square.

A Guinea pig is not from Guinea and it is not a member of the pig family.

Some examples of why you cannot blindly follow English grammar rules:

If writers write and painters paint and riders ride, then why don't fingers fing or hammers ham?

If the plural of tooth is teeth and the plural of goose is geese, then shouldn't the plural of phone booth be phone beeth and the plural of moose be meese?  Maybe they should be, but they aren't.

If the teacher taught, why didn't the preacher praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what do you think a humanitarian eats?

How can a house that is burning up finally end in being burned down?

At a bank or loan office, how can you fill in the necessary information as you fill out the forms?

Why is it that when the stars are out they are visible, but when the lights are out they are invisible?

Why do people recite at a play, yet play at a recital?

Why do people park on driveways but drive on parkways?

Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend?  If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

Answer: I simply don't know.

I did not object to the object placed on my desk.

object - pronounced OBject.  A noun, a thing, something you can see and touch.  "The doctor carefully removed the small, sharp object from the patient's eye." object - pronounced obJECT.  A verb meaning to voice an opinion in opposition to a proposal; to oppose the current situation or matter.  "The kind woman tried to object to the way her neighbor was treating his dog."

 They were too close to the door to close it.

close - Pronounced with a Long O and an S sound.  It means near.  "I worried when my friend stood very close to the lion's cage." close - Pronounced with a Long O and a Z sound, as in 'nose'.  It means to shut, to finish or bring to an end. A verb.  "Don't forget to close the door when you leave."

 Upon seeing the tear in the painting, I shed a tear.

tear - Rhymes with tare, with Long A sound, meaning to rip or pull apart.  "The old man used duct tape to repair the tear in his screen door." tear - Rhymes with 'beer' and means the liquid that seeps from one's eyes at times of extreme happiness or sadness - a  product of crying.  "The girl felt one tear slowly slide down her cheek as her best friend recited her wedding vows."

There are dozens of other examples of words such as these that look the same, are spelled the same, but are pronounced differently and have different meanings, making English such a challenge to learn.

The following examples show what can happen when a translation is made from a dictionary without taking into account the cultural elements of the other language.
1. When American Airlines wanted to advertise its new leather first-class seats in the Mexican market, it translated its "Fly in Leather" campaign literally, which meant "Fly Naked" (vuela en cuero) in Spanish.

2. When Parker Pen marketed a ball-point pen in Mexico, its ads were supposed to have read, "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you."  The company thought that the word "embarazar" (to impregnate) meant to embarrass, so the ad read, "It won't leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."

3. Frank Perdue's chicken slogan, "It takes a strong man to make a tender chicken." was translated into Spanish as "It takes an aroused man to make a chicken affectionate."

4. The Coca-Cola name in China was first read as "Kekoukela", meaning "Bite the wax tadpole or "female horse stuffed with wax", depending on the dialect.  Coke then researched 40,000 characters to find a phonetic equivalent, "kokou kole", translating into "happiness in the mouth."

5. Pepsi's "Come alive with the Pepsi Generation" translated into "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave" in Chinese. 

6. An American T-shirt maker in Miami printed shirts for the Spanish market which promoted the Pope's visit.  Instead of "I Saw the Pope" (el Papa), the shirts read "I Saw the Potato"  (la papa).

7. Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called Cue, which was also the name of a notorious pornographic magazine.

8. When Gerber started selling baby food in Africa, they used the same packaging as in the U.S., with the smiling baby on the label.  Later they learned that in Africa, companies routinely put pictures on the label of what was inside, since many people could not read.

9. Clairol introduced the "Mist Stick," a curling iron, into Germany only to find out that "mist" is slang for manure.  Not many people had use for the "Manure Stick".

10. Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer Electrolux used the following in an American campaign: "Nothing sucks like an Electrolux."

11. Coors put its slogan, "Turn it Loose!", into Spanish, where it was read as "Suffer from diarrhea."

12. The Dairy Association's huge success with the campaign "Got Milk?" prompted them to expand advertising into Mexico.  It was soon brought to their attention that the Spanish translation read: "Are you lactating?".

The following comments are from an article by Andy Rooney, published in various newspapers in late December, 2003 or early January, 2004, in which he vents his frustrations with the English language.

Last night, the news anchorman paused for a commercial and said, "We'll be right back."  What a strange use for the word  'right,' I thought, missing the whole commercial as I considered some of the many meanings the word 'right' has.  There must be 20. 

   "You're right." meaning correct.  "Take a right." (meaning 'turn to the right').  "He hit him with a right." (meaning a punch with a right hand). "It's a right angle." (meaning an angle of 90 degrees). "You have a right." (meaning legal or moral permission). "He's right wing." (meaning on the conservative end of the political spectrum).  "That's not right to do." (meaning 'that's not proper or decent or nice or legal to do).  "It doesn't fit you right." (meaning 'it doesn't fit you correctly or properly).  "The canoe tipped over and he righted it."  (meaning he returned the canoe to its correct operating position).

How would you teach anyone all those meanings?

Why does someone "go to THE hospital" but "go to prison" without the "THE"?

"I'm afraid we can't go tonight."  What do you mean you're "afraid"?  What are you afraid of?

  • Is "gray" a darker color than "grey"?  Why do we spell it two ways?
  • We say, "I could of hurt myself," but if we wrote it, we'd know it should be, "I could HAVE hurt myself."
  • High school teachers are still insisting on "dived" instead of "dove" and "hanged" instead of "hung." They're fighting a losing battle.
  • We still accept "mankind," but it's politically incorrect to call a woman "chairman."  I don't like just "chair" and "chairperson" doesn't have much authority.  I don't see anything wrong with a woman being chairman.
  • "OK" has been one of the most useful American additions to the English language.  It's old and no one knows its derivation.  There are at least 20 theories.

(End of Andy Rooney quotes.)

What's up, Doc?

There is a two-letter word that perhaps has more meanings than any other two-letter word, and that is "UP."
It's easy to understand UP, meaning toward the sky or at the top of the list, but when we awaken in the morning, why do we wake UP? At a meeting, why does a topic come UP? Why do we speak UP and why are the officers UP for election and why is it UP to the secretary to write UP a report?

We call UP our friends. And we use it to brighten UP a room, polish UP the silver; we warm UP the leftovers and clean UP the kitchen. We lock UP the house and some guys fix UP the old car. At other times the little word has real special meaning. People stir UP trouble, line UP for tickets, work UP an appetite, and think UP excuses. To be dressed is one thing but to be dressed UP is special.

And this UP is confusing: A drain must be opened UP because it is stopped UP. We open UP a store in the morning but we close it UP at night.

We seem to be pretty mixed UP about UP! To be knowledgeable about the proper uses of UP, look the word UP in the dictionary. In a desk-sized dictionary, it takes UP almost 1/4th of the page and can add UP to about thirty definitions. If you are UP to it, you might try building UP a list of the many ways UP is used. It will take UP a lot of your time, but if you don't give UP, you may wind UP with a hundred or more. When it threatens to rain, we say it is clouding UP. When the sun comes out we say it is clearing UP.

When it rains, it wets the earth and often messes things UP.

When it doesn't rain for a while, things dry UP.

One could go on and on, but I'll wrap it UP, for now my time is UP, so......... Time to shut UP.....!

(Source: anonymous)


This is the end of this section.  I will be glad to consider additions that you send me via the e-mail address above.  I know that there are many, many more irregularities, inconsistencies and just plain weird things about the English language, but I am not writing a book.  I simply wanted to give you some examples of the funny or unusual things you will encounter as you study English.


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