I Before E, Except After…W??? (or Why English is a Silly Language)

I’m an English speaker.  I grew up speaking English, and have never had the fortune to learn a second language.  Despite my mono-lingualism, I have still had to conclude that English has some rather bizarre irregularities.  Most school kids can tell you, “I before E”, but then there are the exceptions: “except after c or when it says ‘A’ as in neighbour or weigh”.  But even then, there are words that still don’t fit…like weird.

Or what about the letters “ough”?  I feel sorry for the person learning English who has to figure out that thought, through, though, rough, cough, and bough don’t rhyme…and don’t even mention hiccough!

We pluralize most things by adding an “s”.  But words that end in “us” are often pluralized by dropping the “us” and adding “i” such as “octopus” and “radius” become “octopi” and “radii” (but if you have more than one schoolbus, you have schoolbuses).  “Mouse” becomes “mice” (but “house” does not become “hice”)  Or one moose pluse one moose equals two moose (but more than one goose becomes geese).

We have “big, bigger, biggest” and “small, smaller and smallest”, but instead of “good, gooder and goodest”, we have “good, better and best”, and “fun” has “more fun”and “most fun”.

We have three spellings for the same sound…”to, too, two”, (and that doesn’t even include “tutu”) but two sounds for the same spelling…the wind blows, and wind up the toy.

Then there’s the alphabet…if you live in the United States of America, the last letter of the alphabet is “z” – pronounced “zee”, but if you live in Canada (like me) or the United Kingdom, the last letter is still “z”, but we pronounce it “zed”.  That’s not, however, the main issue with the alphabet.  I can think of at least four sounds in the English language that do not have an individual letter assigned to them, but need 2 letters to make the sound: “ch” as in church, “sh” as in short, “th” as in thin and “th” as in then.  Why don’t these sounds have their own letter?  Especially considering the redundant letters that our alphabet has such as “c” and “x”.  For example, “cat” could be spelled with a “k” instead, or “city” could be spelled with an “s”.  Both sounds that the letter “c” makes can be made by the letters “k” or “s”.  Likewise, “x” can be represented with either the letter “z” or “ks” – Xerox, for example, could be spelled, “Zeroks”

Yes, my opinion is that English is definitely a silly language…if not downright stupid…unless you remember that it’s “I before E except after W” and all those other rules with the myriad of exceptions!


3 thoughts on “I Before E, Except After…W??? (or Why English is a Silly Language)

  1. I think all these inconsistencies in English were designed to separate the literate (who care about such things and think that makes them superior) from the less literate.

    • Perhaps! Of course, English is a mis-mash of numerous other languages. Therefore we have to put up with the spelling rules of all those other languages. I feel for my friend who teaches ESL (English as a Second Language) who has to explain to her students on a regular basis, “There’s no rule for that…you just have to memorize it!”

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