International Mother Language Day

February 21

I’d like to take this moment to assure you that all typos in this blog are my subversive attempts to alter the English language.

That said, you can read all about the history of International Mother Language Day–a holiday that started in Bangladesh over 50 years ago–at last year’s post Name Three Words That End in ‘gry’.

Rather than repeat myself, I decided to research my own native tongue, English, and found that, contradictory to popular belief, English does not borrow from other languages:

English doesn't borrow from other lanugages

But perhaps the most peculiar aspect of English is its pronunciation, as T.S. Watt noted in the poem, “Brush up your English”, published in the Manchester Guardian in 1954:

I take it you already know,
Of tough and bough and cough and dough.
Others may stumble, but not you,
On hiccough, thorough, laugh and through.
Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
To learn of less familiar traps.

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’!

Watch out for meat and great and threat,
(They rhyme with suite and straight and debt).

A moth is not a moth in mother,
Nor both in bother, broth in brother.
And here is not a match for there,
Nor dear and fear for bear and pear.
And then there’s dose and rose and lose –
Just look them up – and goose and choose.
And cork and work and card and ward,
And font and front and word and sword.
And do and go and thwart and cart –

Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!
A dreadful language? Why man alive!
I’d mastered it when I was five.

2 Replies to “International Mother Language Day”

  1. There is something we can do to make English more sensible: We can talk in binary. There are 10 kinds of people in the world, those that understand binary and those that don’t.

    How about Esperanto? The only problem is no one uses it.

    We can have a committee on pronunciation: The committee could make changes to the language, such as forbidding the use of cough, but write it as it sounds, coff or cawf.

    No, I don’t have any solution that would work. Do you?

Leave a Reply