Pun Alley 10-19-2012

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Strange quirks in the English language

By Dick Frank

Much is said about kids ruining English with the texting language they use on cell phones. But, nothing is new. We use many expressions that are really slang; consider the meanings of party animal, paper pushers, goofed up, and kickback. Before that, 23 skidoo” was a slang phrase popularized during the early twentieth century. Today’s Pun Alley goes back even further to look at the peculiarities of English.

There is no egg in eggplant, no ham in hamburger, and neither pine nor apple in pineapple. English muffins were not invented in England and French fries were not invented in France. A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.



We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes, but the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes. One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese, yet the plural of moose is not meese. Since the plural of mouse is mice, should the plural of spouse be spice? If the plural of man is always men, shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen? If I speak of my foot and show you my feet, and I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?



When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.After a number of injections my jaw got number.Upon seeing the tear in my clothes I shed a tear.I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.Will you be able to live through a live concert?

The soldier decided to desert in the desert.The insurance was invalid for the invalid.The buck does funny things when the does are present.They sent a sewer down to stitch the tear in the sewer line.


Are You Positive?

A linguistics professor was lecturing his class. “In English,” he explained, “a double negative forms a positive. In some languages, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However,” the professor continued, “There is no language where a double positive can form a negative.”

A voice from the back of the room piped up, “yeah, right.”



If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?

One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.

I once had a set of silver-plated English alphabet letters, but lost the letters A and B. Now all I have is C to shining Z.

One nice thing about egotists is that they don’t talk about other people.

Is there another word for synonym?

I had a nostalgic English teacher who found the past perfect and the present tense.

If you ate both pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?

If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?

Among the English language’s many puzzling words is “economy,” which means the large size in toothpaste, the small size in automobiles and a debatable term in politics.

Why is it called tourist season if we can’t shoot at them?



An English professor wrote the words, “a woman without her man is nothing” on the blackboard. He directed the students to punctuate it correctly. The men wrote, “A woman, without her man, is nothing.” The women wrote, “A woman: without her, man is nothing.”



No English dictionary has been able to explain the difference between the two words “complete” and “finished,” in a way that’s easy to understand. Some people think there is no difference between the two words; but there is. When you marry the right woman, you are complete. And when you marry the wrong one, you are finished. And when the right one catches you with the wrong one, you are completely finished.



If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? Why do people recite at a play yet play at a recital, park on driveways and drive on parkways? You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language where a house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and a bell is only heard once it goes off. When the stars are out they are visible; but when the lights are out they are invisible. Why it is that when I wind up my watch it starts; but when I wind up this column, it ends.

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