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Bob Lind, Published June 15 2009

Lind: Double meanings in the English language

You have to pity immigrants to this country who have to learn the English language and deal with words that are spelled the same but are pronounced differently and mean different things.

Example: The bandage was wound around the wound.

Wyman Galbreath of Enderlin, N.D., received a list of strange twists in the English language from his World War II Army Air Corps buddy Bob Wiseman of Orlando, Fla., and sent it to Neighbors.

Here are other examples, English fans:

The farm was used to produce produce.

The dump was so full it had to refuse more refuse.

We must polish the Polish furniture.

The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.

Since there is no time like the present, she 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.

The insurance was invalid for the invalid.

They were too close to the door to close it.

After a number of injections, my jaw got number.

Chew on these

Other quirks from the English language:

There’s no egg in eggplant, no ham in hamburger, no pine or apple in pineapple.

Quicksand works slowly. Boxing rings are square. A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

Why, you might ask, do writers write but fingers don’t fing, grocers don’t groce and hammers don’t ham?

Then there’s the question of plurals, i.e., if the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn’t the plural of booth beeth? Or if you have one goose and two geese, why shouldn’t you have one moose and two meese?

The questions just keep coming: How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

Why doesn’t “Buick” rhyme with “quick”?

How can a building burn up as it burns down? For that matter, how can an alarm go off by going on?

Why is it that when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible?

And here’s a grim thought: If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Well, there you go, neighbors. Or maybe not; maybe there you are.

It’s all part of our English language. Which reminds us: English muffins weren’t developed in England, were they? Or french fries in France?


If you have an item of interest for this column, mail it to Neighbors, The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107; fax it to 241-5487; or e-mail blind@forumcomm.com