Athens Review, Athens, Texas

August 16, 2013

Is English complicated and confusing, or is it just me?

Kathi Nailling
The Athens Review

Athens — Trying to understand the English language can be difficult. Recently, an e-mail was sent to the paper by a nice lady that wanted to make sure I knew the difference between accept and except.

I assure you, I do know the difference. Believe it or not, I really do know how to use each word in a sentence. Sometimes, it just happens when your mind gets stuck on one word and it happens to be the wrong word.

Does that make sense? It is hard for me to accept the fact I can make dumb mistakes. Except the mistake is there in black and white. I hope I got those two words correct. By the way, why does dumb have a b, wouldn't it sound the same spelt dum.

I decided to do some research to find out why the English language is so complicated. I never figured out why. What I did find out is, that the English spelling has more complicated rules than most other languages.

Think about  this: If the plural for mouse is mice, then logically the plural for house should be hice. Right?

No, we all know it is houses. Why? Who knows? Why is the plural of goose  geese. Should it be gooses? Should the plural of boot be beets?  Not quite.

I found this on the Internet. If English were spelt fonetikly (phonetically), we mite (might) not have so many oportuneties (opportunities) to make errors.

That’s some more of English that doesn't make sense.   Why is the K silent in front of so many words. For example: knee; knew; know; and knock.

Or why is 'ough' pronounced so many difference ways, such as though, through, rough, cough or thought. The English language can boggle the mind.

Why are there so many words that are pronounced the same, but are spelt differently and have totally different meanings? Some examples might be two-to-too, mail-male, plain-plane, jeans-genes, deer-dear, their-there, hear-here, die-dye, right-write or accept-except.

No wonder they say English is hard to learn. Think about these statements: The bandage was wound around the wound; The farm was used to produce produce; The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse; When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes; I did not object to the object; or They were too close to the door to close it. No wonder we make so many mistakes.

The problem I see with the English language is it is derived from many different sources. These include Celtic, Old Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Norse, Norman French and medieval Latin. This gives the language links and ties to many other world languages.

I don't know any of these languages, but according to the people who know, this is where the English language derives from – which may be what is causing the confusion. Never-the-less, more people speak English in the world than any other language.

The writer of the e-mail had every right to put me in my place. By the way, she did it in a very nice way.  I never felt she was mad. They just wanted to make me aware.

My suggestion to all the readers is keep an eye out for my uses of affect-effect, all ready-already, buy-by, choose-chose, complement-compliment, loose-lose, miner-minor, principal-principle, than-then and there is always my favorite – its-it's.

I don't get upset about being corrected on grammatical errors. I don't necessary like getting information in a story wrong. But the e-mail did make me step back and think about the printed word.

I always say a newspaper is the one profession everyone has the opportunity to find your faults. And sometimes they are very easy to find. Nobody wants to make mistakes, it just happens.

If you have the need to admonish me for destroying the English language, I totally get it. There is an old saying about people who make mistakes” “Everyone makes mistakes, but only the wise learn from their mistakes.” 

Okay, I’m not sure how wise I am, but I have learned to be aware of the difference between accept and except.

Kathi Nailling is a Staff Writer for the Athens Daily Review.