The Inexactness of the English Language
The English Language is a strange beast. First you have the fact that one word can have multiple meanings. Or one object can be defined by many words that have extremely different origins. But not to be outdone, three different words with separate meaning and spellings can be pronounced the same. Then the English language absorbs new words at an outrageous and prodigious rate. With fanciful tales of twenty-thousand new words added per a year even in this modern day, it is a wonder that anyone can speak, read or write English even moderately fluently.
Yet three hundred to four hundred million people speak it as their first language. Actual numbers of writers is more dubious. Secondary speakers are estimated to be any where between two hundred million and almost one and half billion more.
The single most wonderful thing about the English language though is that it can be both very exacting, and very vague. Words can can be mixed and changed to bring new ideas to life.
Swift used the language to spear his detractors metaphorically.
“A man should never be ashamed to own that he has been in the wrong, which is but saying… that he is wiser today than yesterday.”
Mark Twain forced an entire generation to come to terms with their own racism and frivolities.
“I have no color prejudices nor cast prejudces nor creed prejudices. All I care to know is that a man is a human being, and that is enough for me; he can’t be any worse”
Emerson laid forth the simple truth.
“A man is a god in ruins. When men are innocent, life shall be longer, and shall pass into the immortal, as gently as we awake from dreams. “
Shakespeare observed, reported, coined, and extrapolated human existence.
“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”
Japanese and Greek are naturally resistent to new words. German embraces new words, but instead invents them out of seemingly thin air. Russian takes the English words and gives it an accent, maybe changing a few letters around. Chinese doesn’t even attempt to disguise it’s borrowing of the English word.
Yet only English embraces all these thoughts and massages it into a cohesive language. It adds another twist by taking a fairly dirty common word and by mere popular use gives it an entirely new meaning. A native speaker may not know even a tenth of the words in the English Lexicon, yet communication is effortless on spoken level.
“I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds ’round my neck.” – Emma Goldman
“One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon-instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today.” – Dale Carnegie
“The first man to compare the cheeks of a young woman to a rose was obviously a poet; the first to repeat it was possibly an idiot.” – Salvador Dali
“A life with love will have some thorns, but a life without love will have no roses” – Unknown
“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns. I am thankful that thorns have roses.” – Alphonse Kerr
A mere five quotes about a flower. Yet each one quickly becomes profound in ways that you may never thought before. Such is the English Language. Even words strung together incoherently may have meaning far beyond their original intent.