Say What?

Just about now, Hebrew students start to complain that Hebrew is so hard. The vocalizations in real text don’t match up with what they memorized on their vocabulary cards. Hebrew just doesn’t “behave” right. So, I give them a little context. I tell them, “If you think Hebrew is hard… try ENGLISH!!”

When they complain about difficulty in pronouncing Hebrew correctly because “the words aren’t following the rules,” I write this on the board:

Cough; Through; Bough; Though; Rough; Bought

(now, think how a non-native English speaker looks at this!)

Then I give them this list:

21 Reasons why the English language is so hard to learn

(I really don’t know the originator of this list, but if you do, please let me know!)

1. The bandage was wound around the wound.

2. The farm was used to produce produce.

3. The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.

4. We must polish the Polish furniture.

5. He could lead if he would get the lead out.

6. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

7. Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.

8. A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.

9. When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.

10. I did not object to the object.

11. The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

12. There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.

13. They were too close to the door to close it.

14. The buck does funny things when the does are present.

15. A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.

16. To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.

17. The wind was too strong to wind the sail.

18. After a number of injections my jaw got number.

19. Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.

20. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.

21. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?

14 thoughts on “Say What?

  1. Taty Gaona

    Agreed. Hebrew is easy compared to English. After 12 years of living in the states, here are a few of my own struggles:

    – I still cannot tell the difference in pronouncing sheep and ship. I just call them lambs and boats.

    – Same with worm and warm.

    – I never say the beach. I say shore and it is not because I “am from Jersey.” I do it to avoid mispronouncing it.

    Those are my favorite. I have tons more.

  2. Jason

    Excellent post! It kills me how many native English speakers still can’t distinguish between their, there, and they’re–AHHHH!!! Or double negatives, or subjective pronouns where objectives should be…

  3. Dan Drake

    Just about the first thing that was presented in my ninth-grade French class was a poem, or doggerel, called -ough (I think). Like,

    I’m told that p-l-o-u-g-h is pronounced “plow”.
    That is easy, mon anglais I’ll get through.

    The teacher corrects this, leading to the comment that English makes him cough. After several interations of this, including hiccough, he despairs: I’ll drown me in the lough. The teacher replies that first he needs to know that that’s pronounced like lock. (It is a variant of loch.)

    He taught no more: I keeled him wiz a rough.

    Incidentally, the chemists who studied unionized atoms are getting unionized. Also, you can deduce properties of periodic acid by finding iodine in the periodic table.

    I agree, too contrived and esoteric. (Anyway: un-ionized and per-iodic.)

  4. Karyn Post author

    Oh, thanks, Dan! I like the science references. And I will add your other “ough” examples to my list. Thanks for stopping by.

  5. Pingback: Another convoluted English sentence for the list

  6. Fred Putnam

    It was and I said not or.

    “It was ‘and’,” I said, “not ‘or’.”

    Not unlike the Greek ei de mh ge (Mt 6.1; 9.17; Lk 5.36, 37; 10.6; 13.9; 14.32; 2 Cor 11.16; and not in LXX)–that one took a highly enjoyable hour of class to sort out.

  7. Julian

    Hi! I wonder what mean :
    06. The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
    please help me 🙂

  8. Karyn Post author

    Hi Julian

    This is what #6 is trying to say:

    The soldier decided to desert (“leave, abandon”) his dessert (“sweet food for after dinner”, such as cake or ice cream) in the desert (“wilderness place”, usually very dry, hot and with sand).

    The first “desert” is pronounced with a long “e” in the first syllable, and the accent is on the second syllable (dee-ZERT); it is a homonym with “dessert.” The second “desert” has a short “e” in the first syllable, and it is the first syllable which is accented (DE-zert).

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