language does have many peculiarities and the word itself has many synonyms - abnormality, affectation, attribute, bizarreness, character, distinctiveness, eccentricity, feature
, foible, freakishness, gimmick, idiosyncrasy, kink, mannerism, mark, odd trait, particularity, property, quality, queerness, quirk, savor, shtick, singularity, slant, specialty, trait, twist, unusualness. A decisive minority among these have a negative connotation. If only on this basis, it is fair to say that peculiarities are a positive component of this language.
The language peculiarities make english
very attractive. These can be enjoyed regardless of where they came from – absorbed from other languages, overlooked in standardization efforts etc. - although knowing something about their source does help to decode them. Those who enjoy decoding will find this historical aspect of the peculiarities attractive. Another source of attractiveness may be the images conjured up by some peculiarities and also simply the fact that these elements of the language are still outside the regime of rules to be remembered. Choosing to remember often allows for greater impact and imprint than having to remember.
I suppose all teacher
s find it at least a bit thrilling when a student is sufficiently interested in the language to ask ‘Why is this so?’ When it is a case of a language peculiarity I simply say ‘Surprise! No rule here. It is a case of ‘Just Because’. As these cases multiply, quite soon students join the game and before asking ‘Why is this so?’ they ask ‘Is this a Just Because case?’
These distinctive language tidbits will not intimidate students as long as the teacher
is able to use them in an attractive way. I have found that these exceptions to the rules are remembered quite willingly and successfully. I have preferred to treat them as precious collectibles to be used as teaching aids in vocabulary acquisition, pronunciation, spelling or punctuation.
Here are a few especially brilliant and fun:
Picturesque Imagery in peculiarities (1)
Quicksand can work slowly
Boxing rings are square
People recite a play and play at a recital
We have noses that run and feet that smell
We park in a driveway but drive on a parkway
A slim chance is a fat chance at the same time
A wise man and a wise guy are opposites
A house can burn up as it burns down
You fill in a form by filling it out
An alarm goes off by going on
Pronunciation differs but spelling is the same (2):
The bandage was WOUND around the WOUND.
They were too CLOSE to the door to CLOSE it.
When I saw the TEAR in my dress, I shed a TEAR.
The farm was used to PRODUCE PRODUCE.
He could LEAD if he got the LEAD out of his shoes.
The insurance was INVALID for the INVALID.
He was at the BOW of the ship when he saw Robin Hood on the bough of a tree with his BOW and arrow. Little John would not BOW to the Sheriff of Nottingham who was in a BOW tie and was imprisoned.
Spelling differs but pronunciation is the same (2):
He THREW the ball THROUGH the window.
WHERE did you last WEAR that dress?
THEIR friends were all THERE.
YOU should stand under a YEW tree in a storm.
Punctuation and spelling are the key (3):
When urging students to listen closely or read carefully or punctuate properly, a very vivid illustration can be used - the story of a little girl who, when asked what is her favorite song at Sunday School services, said that it’s about the bear named Gladly - ‘Gladly the cross-eyed bear’,
but the actual phrase was ‘Gladly, the cross I’d bear’
Word components do not add up to the total meaning in peculiarities (3):
Hamburger is from Hamburg and has no ham in it.
fries are not a french
Guinea pig is not from Guinea but from peru
and it is not a pig.
No pine or apple makes up a pineapple.
These are just few examples of peculiarities that might raise an eyebrow or a chuckle and are distinctive enough to sink into memory.
(1) More peculiarities of the english
language | Dorothy Dankel's Blog at http://dorothydankel.blogspot.com/2010/05/more-peculiarities-of-english
(2) myLot Blog - Peculiarities of english
- Can you add more? at http://www.mylot.com/w/discussions/2122831.aspx
(3) The author’s own collection from unidentified sources.