Skip to main content

Odd language

It's been brought to my attention what a strange critter the English Language is.
This week I've been asked what the difference is between inflammable and flammable and valuable and invaluable. Ummm. (Strums lips thoughtfully). Call me daft - I've been called worse - but don't they mean the same thing? Like slim chance and fat chance?

It got me wondering. I mean, what are the opposites of ruthless and gormless, for instance? Ruth? Gorm? I don't think so.

My grandma used to ask tricky questions like that when we were youngsters. (She knew how to show us a good time.) Why do we chop trees DOWN, but chop UP wood? We never could give her a satisfactory answer. Probably because there isn't one. Why do we get IN a car, but ON a bus, train, plane or ferry?

I had a look online, but even Google couldn't help. I did discover that “The sixth sick sheik’s sixth sheep’s sick” is the toughest tongue twister in English, though, and that Donald Duck's middle name was Fauntleroy. How weird is that? I mean who even invented words, anyway??

Luckily, I've pulled myself together. I shan't be doing any more Wondering. It hurts my brain.


ChrisH said…
Hi Karen, I've enjoyed reading your blog - I loved the difference between you and Carrie (congratulations on the hands!). Your observations on past rejections struck a chord too - I wince now at 'rejections' which were in fact 'try again' letters but, hey, guess who thought she knew best!
Debs said…
So funny. Grandmothers are clever when it comes to shutting children up and giving them something to contemplate, or maybe it's just a way to confuse them and get a little peace.
Lane said…
Well your posts are definitely invaluable! Couldn't do without 'em.

Is your brain sore after all that wordly pondering?:-)
I was born under a wanderin' star.
I was born under a wanderin' star.
Wheels are made for rollin', mules are made to pack.
I've never seen a site that didn't look better lookin' back.

Tommo! Clarkey said wondering not wandering. (Oh yeah,sorry my mind was wandering, what a difference a vowel makes)
:) Tommox
Quillers said…
I once wrote a story in which I said that 'children aren't inflammable', entered it for the toowrite comp then someone told me that inflammable and flammable meant the same thing. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die (but the toowrite folks were nice enough to change it).

The English language has a lot to answer for.
Lorna F said…
My favourite tongue-twister is this: 'The Leith police dismisseth us'. You could try alternating that with the sick sheikhs. After a few gins.
HelenMH said…
I have a German volunteer working with me at the moment, and I often have to explain why we say things in a certain way, or don't say certain things. Needless to say - she thinks we're all totally bonkers ...
KAREN said…
chrish - Thanks for dropping by! In future I'm going to treat my rejections with far more respect...

debs - It wasn't just my grandmother then? I did wonder!

lane - Thank you :o) The feeling's mootyewal. My brain IS sore...I need some of your WD40!

tommo - I've had that bloomin' song going round in my head all morning, thanks to you. You're right about vowel movements though...

quillers - It's quite confusing isnt' it? One of the children asked me, and I couldn't answer! Nothing new there though :o)

lorna f - I can't even do it sober. I might do it BETTER after a few gins!

helenmh - It's incredibly complicated. My husband has a couple of Polish guys working for him and he's all but given up trying to explain!
Yvonne said…
It's all too much for me, this language lark. I think I'll go and lie down...

Have a great weekend!
womagwriter said…
You need the book I'm reading at the moment - Bill Bryson's Mother Tongue. He sort of answers some of those questions, and is witty while he's about it, so worth reading.

Flammable and inflammable are interchangeable. Valuable and invaluable aren't - the first is to do with monetary worth, the second means you can't do without it. I think.
KAREN said…
yvonne - Me too! You too. If you see what I mean :o)

womagwriter - I do like Bill Bryson - I'm a recent convert after reading Thunderbolt Kid. You're quite right about valuable and invaluable. I was just being silly. Honest...

Popular posts from this blog

100th Post!

100 posts! This time last year I was a Blogging Virgin. Now I’m a bit of a slag. It’s become the highlight of my week, both reading yours and writing mine. Which means either:

a) I don’t get out much
b) I don’t get out much, or
c) I don’t get out much

(I think it's C)

This was my first ever post. Not a single comment did it receive. I dry-heaved into my hanky for an hour and considered leaving the country. Then I cottoned on to leaving comments in order to entice readers over.

Anticipating disappointment, outrage or (worse) apathy, I was pleasantly surprised to trap some lovely Readers in my cage of blathery nonsense. I nearly threw a Comments Party, but daren't push my luck.

It’s been a real journey, as they say on bad reality TV (is there any other sort?) On the way, I’ve been given some fantastic advice from you lot, as well as from a Real Published Author and more importantly I've learned that…

Mugs CAN live without kettles
The price of gravy changes with the wind
You can live i…

Q&A with Amanda Brittany

I'm thrilled to welcome Amanda Brittany to my blog today, to talk about her debut thriller Her Last Lie. 

It's been described as 'gripping with a shocking twist' and I can confirm that it is!

(It also has an amazing cover)

Which character in Her Last Lie would you like to meet?
Hi Karen, thank you for inviting me to your blog.
I suppose feisty Roxanne is the character I’d most like to meet. She’s so determined to get to the bottom of things, and appears to be a good friend to Isla.
There are definitely a couple of characters in the book I would hope never to meet.

I know the book has several settings, which did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved writing the second part of the book set in Abisko in Sweden. I visited Abisko a couple of years back, and it was great fun bringing the cold, bleak landscape to life, and describing the way The Northern Lights swoop across the night skies.
Are any of your characters based on people you know?
No, not at all, they all sprang from my imagi…

Guest post - Elise Chidley

Today I’m delighted to welcome author, Elise Chidley to my blog. Elise has written two wonderfully warm and witty novels, The Wrong Sort of Wife and Married with Baggage, and I absolutely loved them both. Intelligent and romantic, as well as funny, they’re peopled with characters you can’t help warming to.

Elise is giving away 2 free copies of The Wrong Sort of Wife and 2 copies of the American version, Your Roots are Showing. If you’d like to leave a comment below I’ll pick the winners at random on Sunday!

So, without further ado …

Elise, when did your writing career begin?

I’ve been writing for a living since my first job as features writer with a national women’s magazine in South Africa, but I started writing fiction after my third child was born. At that stage, I was telecommuting as a staff writer for a publisher of health care magazines, writing three feature stories a week. The pressure of these deadlines, coupled with looking after three small children, was just not sustainable. …