Everyday English Irregularities

As a copywriter and general lover of all things word-related, one of the joys of the English language for me is its irregularities. It can certainly make copywriting a challenge! Those inconsistencies make me hugely glad I’m a native speaker and have never had to learn English as a foreign language – you’ve probably seen the well-circulated poem highlighting some of the peculiarities:

I take it you already know

Of tough and bough and cough and dough?

Others may stumble, but not you

On hiccough, thorough, slough, and through.

Well don’t! And now you wish, perhaps,

To learn of less familiar traps…

But it’s these quirks and the constant changing common uses and acceptances that make English such a fascinating language. If ever I finish a book and don’t have another one to start immediately, or if I need a break between books, I will often flick through a dictionary or thesaurus, or my current go-to read, Samuel  Johnson’s Dictionary, first published in 1755. Where else could you stumble across words like rakehelly, badger legged or linguacious (you have no idea how long it took me to choose just those three) and their definitions and etymology. I’m quite partial to a road atlas too on a long road journey.

I sometimes forget other people might not share my word obsession. I once ‘bought’ a word for a year as an anniversary gift for my husband. It was for charity and the full list to choose from was vast. The usual suspects were there – serendipity, sonorous, wanderlust, quintessential – and many had already been taken so my choice was somewhat limited.

I chose ‘content’ which caused a little confusion due to the various uses of the word. I meant it in a contentment /contented way as a nod to our relationship, but its association to books and their contents gave it a double layer of satisfaction for me. At least the charity benefitted from my wordy wit. My husband wasn’t overly enamoured with my careful choice of gift – I think the suggested anniversary gift that year was copper. Perhaps I should have sellotaped a few pennies to a card instead. Hindsight is a wonderful thing – and a wonderful word.

Photo by Josh Felise on Unsplash

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