The spirit of Ghotiolo lives on!

 

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As I occasionally do during odd moments, I’ve been thinking about English and English spelling.

 

Consider the verb to hone, as in to hone a skill.  You can easily add an s to it.  As in He hones his skills every day.  So far so good.  But append a t to hones and you have honest.  What on earth happened to the h?

 

How about horror and honor and humor?  Exhume and exhale?  Heir and hair?

 

And then there’s the verb to cleave.

 

It can mean to split, as with a sharp instrument, as in There in the corner was the big axe that he used to cleave wood for the fire.  But it can also mean to adhere together, as in Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh (Genesis 2:24).

 

English is a very strange language.  Endlessly fascinating, though.

 

 

  • JL

    And endlessly funny when used by some.

  • Nathan Whilk

    Other cleave-like words can be found at “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto-antonym”.

  • Travis

    On the topic of “h” sounds: if you check Johnson’s dictionary, in the prefatory grammar, he points out that the word “herb” has a silent “h”, so the Americans preserve the earlier pronunciation and the Brits have it all wrong!

    • danpeterson

      Good point.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    “To sanction” can mean “to bless” or “to punish”.
    It is very difficult for native Japanese to learn to pronounce English correctly. On the other hand, an American trying to learn the minimum 2000 or so Chinese characters that written Japanese uses has a huge task ahead, which learning his own language does not prepare him for. It is probably the closest thing in the modern world to learning to read and write Egyptian hieroglyphs.

    • danpeterson

      Excellent example.

  • Renee

    I am reminded of the old saw:

    Beware of heard, a dreadful word
    That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
    And dead: It’s said like bed, not bead-
    For goodness’ sake, don’t call it deed!


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