English Is So Weird

These days, I'm spending an awful a lot of time in my car, and to pass the time, I've started learning French. I downloaded 60-some podcasts from Coffee Break French onto my iPod, and it's amazing how much I've learned. Now, if only I could get to Paris or Quebec City to try it out...

As I learn new words and phrases and conjugations, I continually marvel over the strangeness of our language. In French, for example, they say "I have hunger" or "J'ai faim." In English, we say "I am hungry." And this is something I've never thought about, but it really does not make any sense to say you are hungry or thirsty or tired because you are not literally any of those things. They do not encompass who you are. It makes far more sense to say you have hunger or you feel tired.

I find the same things happens when I talk to young children. They take everything literally, so when you tell a little boy or girl with a problem to "sleep on it," they don't understand. The same goes for expressions such as "keep your eye on the ball" or "flip your lid."

When my brother was little, after a good meal, he would rub his stomach and announce, "I'm filled." And we'd all have a good laugh because the familiar expression is "I'm full," but I think his word choice was much more appropriate. Just because we've grown accustomed to saying things that don't make any sense doesn't mean we have to pass those on to children.

The more I learn French or even brush up on my Spanish, I marvel over the strangeness of our language and how difficult it must be for someone to learn it. I tend to be so critical of those who stumble through the English language, and yet I forget that it's really quite complicated and much of it seems to not make any sense at all.