Monday, September 5, 2016

Romping Through The Peculiarities Of Our Language

Why is “abbreviation” such a long word?

Why is “lisp” so hard to say if you have one?

How can being “blunt” result in a cutting remark?

These are the things Londoner Teresa Monachino wonders aloud in her book, Words Fail Me, a visually appealing peek at the irregularities, challenges and conflicts of the English language.  It’s a wonderfully packaged short, small book from Phaidon. 

“English hoodwinks us into believing one thing while concealing something quite different.  All is not what it seems," writes Monachino.

She notes the oddities and quirks of our language in a clear and catchy way.

She wonders why palindrome is not one.  She questions why monosyllabic has five syllables.  She wonders how verb can be a noun. She wonders how the anagram of funeral could spell out real fun.

Here’s her best one:  “While there are many cases where a double negative conveys a positive, there is no case where a double positive conveys a negative.  Yeah, right.”

Honestly could become “on the sly,” astronomers becomes “no more stars,” and violence is “nice love.”  

Monachino also notes how we use redundancy for emphasis, such as unexpected surprise, free gift, frozen ice, and past experience.  

She also shows how one letter can make a contradictory difference to a word.  Behold:


She also notes how some words are made up of two unrelated words that, when hyphenated due to where they land on a page, sound revealing.  For instance:

“The ad agency said that they would beg-
in their new campaign.”

or  “Working with you regularly, either in an individual session or within a group, the-
rapists are available either in hospitals or offices, providing treatment for people of all ages whose functioning is impaired.”

Words Fail Me show us that words never fail to entertain and perplex us.  Enjoy it at your own peril -- and delight.

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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog 2016 ©.

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