May 20, 2009
Anytime I think German is the most idiotic and nonsensical language ever to have existed, I sometimes turn that criticism inward. And really the more I think about it, English has to be a really tough language to learn. Now given, we don’t assign genders (and non-genders) to inanimate objects or have one all-purpose word that means “You,” “they,” “she” and “it” simultaneously, but English is no cakewalk.
Take homonyms for example. These are words that are spelled the same and sound the same but mean completely different things. There are guards against this confusion in other languages, such as German, French or Spanish, because of the added variable of the gender of a word. A reader or listener of the language can then decipher which definition the speaker means based on the gender of the word and the context. In some Asian languages, the pitch at which the word is said determines its meaning.
It’s a little bit trickier with English. We have context of the sentence and that’s it. So below are some words that I think would cause a lot of headaches.
Deck – This word has four different meanings and they are all spelled the same way.
It can mean an elevated wooden porch (I picked up my cat and threw it off of the deck. Despite some shady scientific research I had read, I had to conclude that cats cannot fly…yet.)
To knock over – (After I pinched that guy’s elbow, he really decked me!)
To adorn – (Deck the halls with bows of holly! Wait…what is a bow of holly?
This is apparently a new definition – a PowerPoint presentation. (Slide 3 in your PowerPoint deck shows a small animation of how to humanely kill a duck.)
Fire– an actual flame – (The Sun is on fire! Everybody run!!!)
To eliminate one from a job – (Bob, you castrated that horse in the most unprofessional manner I have ever seen. You are fired!)
To discharge a firearm – (Tim fired the revolver into the skull of his mortal enemy. The clown dropped from the gun blast like a sack of clown bones and died.)
Mean – This is a tough one. It’s one of those words that is nearly impossible to describe it’s meaning. Dah! See what I mean? Dah…there I go again. The word “mean” in its verb form is used to signify the intent or definition of something. (The word mean means to mean.)
So if that’s not confusing enough, it can also be used to describe a temperament (I’m not mean! I just personally think that men should be allowed to beat the hell out of their wives and children. It’s just tradition.)
And the word can be used to describe resources. (I’d go to the movies with you, but I don’t have the means to get there. My rollerblades are at the shop.)
And it can also be used to define a statistical measure. (Jeff, you’ve brought the mean score of your entire class down to a “D.”)
The physical structure where money is kept – (Hey everyone, the bank is running out of money! No…Seriously!)
To bounce off of and into something – (I banked the basketball off of the backboard and into the hoop. Except it was the wrong team’s hoop.)
To count on something- (I’m really banking on my stimulus check this week. My family desperately needs a new iPod…oh yea, and groceries.)
A steep racing curve – (The NASCAR Racer entered the banked turn with much speed. Yet no one above the Mason-Dixon line gave a crap.)
Counter– The opposite of something – (We must launch a counter-strike against the zombies! Grab a baseball bat!)
A tabletop in a kitchen (I spilled hog lard all over the kitchen counter.)
A device used to count- (I used a counter to count…stuff…uh…)
Nail– the hard part at the end of a finger – (Don’t bother me! I’m doing my nails! What! Timmy’s dead?)
A fastener of wood – (The nail held his bleeding hand firmly to the composite board. Robby, the blind carpenter, had done it again.)
To peg or identify, often used when a lie is exposed – (Ha Ha! I totally nailed you and you didn’t even know it!)
A colloquial word meaning to have sexual relations with – (Ha Ha! I totally nailed you and you didn’t even know it!)
A Genre of music – (Nickelback is the best Rock band alive today.)
To sway back and forth – (The mental patient rocked back and forth in her cell. She had had enough of these damn rainbow trout eggs telling her how to run her life like a tear-drop baby phone call.)
A mineral deposit- (I picked up the rock and flung it at his face. The snowman barely reacted at all to my assault.)