The English language cops a lot of flak for being inconsistent, illogical and generally a bit rubbish. Here are 20 brain-twisting sentences that prove its reputation is well-earned.
Spelling bee picture from Shutterstock
The excerpts below were taken from various articles by Richard Lederer; an American author and linguist best known for his books on word play and oxymorons. They highlight how the same words can have completely different meanings depending on context and the way they are pronounced.
Variations of this list have been circulating on listservs, e-mails and newsgrouyps since the dawn of the internet. Recently, the list has begun popping up on Facebook to delight and confound a whole new generation of netizens. We figured this was as good a reason as any to share it with our readers. Take it away Dick:
“Let’s face it – English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant, nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. In what language do people recite at a play, and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell? How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites? [clear] [clear] “English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race, which, of course, is not a race at all. That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible.” [clear] [clear]
- The bandage was wound around the wound.
- The farm was used to produce produce.
- The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
- We must polish the Polish furniture.
- He could lead if he would get the lead out.
- The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
- Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
- A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
- When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
- I did not object to the object.
- The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
- There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
- They were too close to the door to close it.
- The buck does funny things when the does are present.
- A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
- To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
- The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
- Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
- I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
- How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
Think you can top Richard’s pretzel-like wordplay? Let fly with your own nonsensical sentences in the comments section below.