Yeah, English is Stupid



A friend sent me a link to this poem recently, and I just had to share it. Some of it is well-worn (Who hasn’t heard the old “park on a driveway and drive on a parkway” line?), but much of it is quite clever and original (to me, anyway).

What I like best is the tone it conveys.

People complain too much about English:  “The rules are too complicated and arbitrary. There are too many exceptions. It’s non-intuitive and sometimes makes no sense.”

Others scoff and look down their noses at those of us who get it wrong at times.

I say we quit all this whining. Sure, English is stupid, but it’s also wonderful. The unpredictability and rules-resistance of our language is what makes it fun. It’s a little crazy. It’s random and flexible and ever-shifting. Why would you want it any other way?

This little poem seems to take this perspective. It’s clever, insightful, and fun. Enjoy!


Let’s Face It: English Is a Stupid Language

There is no egg in the eggplant,
No ham in the hamburger
And neither pine nor apple in the pineapple.
English muffins were not invented in England,
French fries were not invented in France.

We sometimes take English for granted, but if we examine its paradoxes we find that:
Quicksand takes you down slowly,
Boxing rings are square,
And a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

If writers write, how come fingers don’t fing?
If the plural of tooth is teeth,
Shouldn’t the plural of phone booth be phone beeth?
If the teacher taught,
Why hasn’t the preacher praught?

If a vegetarian eats vegetables,
What the heck does a humanitarian eat?
Why do people recite at a play,
Yet play at a recital?
Park on driveways and
Drive on parkways?
How can the weather be as hot as hell on one day
And as cold as hell on another?

You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language where a house can burn up as it burns down,
And in which you fill in a form
By filling it out
And a bell is only heard once it goes!

English was invented by people, not computers,
And it reflects the creativity of the human race
(Which of course isn’t a race at all.)

That is why:
When the stars are out they are visible,
But when the lights are out they are invisible.
And why it is that when I wind up my watch
It starts,
But when I wind up this poem
It ends.

I wish I could find the name of the author. If anyone knows, fill me in and I’ll give him/her credit. The website where I found it is here.

About the Author

Brian WaskoBrian is the founder and president of One of his passions is to teach young people how to write better.View all posts by Brian Wasko

  1. Ben

    And a slim chance and a fat chance are the same thing. I think I’m just going to become fluent in Hungarian.

    • Brian Wasko
      Brian Wasko01-26-2012

      Good point, Ben! Köszönöm. (That’s “thank you” in Hungarian)

  2. Brian Wasko
    Brian Wasko01-21-2012

    Wow, Judy. Thanks for commenting. I look forward to checking out your book (“checking out” there’s an idiom for you).

    I find your observations about the difference between speaking and writing/reading English interesting. Can’t wait to learn more.

  3. Judy Thompson
    Judy Thompson01-21-2012

    Sorry I do not know who wrote that great poem but I wrote a book called ‘English is Stupid’ that speaks directly to the craziness of the language. I teach ESL and ‘English is Stupid’ goes a long way to decoding the ‘unpredictability and rules-resistance’ of this language.
    In a nutshell, speaking and writing are so different in English (which is unusual) fluency doesn’t follow from studying the alphabet, spelling and grammar. Students can study the written elements of English for years and still not speak confidently.
    Speaking isn’t writing said out loud. Once it is separated from writing it isn’t difficult at all.

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