Top 5 Weirdest Things in the English Language

The English language is known to be one of the most challenging languages to perfect. You may confirm this as well if you’ve been struggling with it for some time while attending courses at various Los Angeles language schools.

You’ve probably also had an impression that the English language can sometimes be weird, as you simply can’t understand all the rules and exceptions to them. Well, you’re right, some aspects of English do sound strange. Let’s look at some of them. Read on!

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What is strange about the English language?

Why do we say a house but not a hour? Or, why are vowels in aid and said different? The list of the English language peculiarities is long indeed. Today, we present the top five quirks.

1. Some words have the same vowel structure but aren’t pronounced in the same way. 

For instance, words like cough, rough, though, and through seem like they should rhyme, but they don’t, and no one knows why.

2. A/an rule.  

It’s generally taught that the article a should come before words beginning with consonants, and the article an goes before those beginning with vowels. That's not absolutely correct. A should be used before words that begin with a consonant sound (a clock), and an before words that begin with a vowel sound (an hour). So, pronunciation matters.

3. Voiced vs. voiceless dental fricative (notorious th sound) 

Let’s look at these two words: thing vs. this. The first th is a voiceless dental fricative and the second is voiced. In both sounds, the tongue is slightly out of the mouth, the upper teeth rest on the tongue, and the air flows through, causing a vibration. The only difference is whether you’re using your voice (voiced th) or not (voiceless th).

4. Adjectives must follow a certain order. 

Adjectives need to be put in a specific order when describing something: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin material, purpose. We normally say “a wonderful yellow flower” and not “a yellow wonderful flower”. 

5. English abounds with contronyms. 

A contronym is a word that conveys contradictory or opposite meanings, depending on the context. For instance, we say “dust the cake with sugar” (sprinkle sugar over the cake), but we also say “dust the furniture” (remove the dust from the furniture). 

Another example would be to overlook. 

Her teacher overlooked her English progress.

In this sentence, the verb overlook means “to monitor”. 

But if we say: “Oh! I was so tired that I overlooked so many spelling mistakes in my essay.”

Here overlook means “to fail to notice something”. 

What are weird English words?

English has many unusual words too. Let’s look at some of them and their meanings.

  1. Discombobulate. This informal word is used humorously, and it means “to confuse someone or to make them feel uncomfortable”.

  2. Lackadaisical. You won’t normally hear this word in everyday conversations, as it’s formal. It means “lacking enthusiasm and effort” (This hotel service is so lackadaisical).

  3. Woebegone. You might stumble upon this word in literature. It means “looking very sad” (Her dog sat by the door with a woebegone expression).

  4. Lollygag. She likes to lollygag at the beach. What does she actually do? Well, she simply spends her time aimlessly.

  5. Cacophony. What a cacophony! This means “a lot of unbearable noise”.

Attend classes at one of the best Los Angeles English language schools

Do you want to hear more surprising facts about English and learn about its long history in Los Angeles? Or, do you need help mastering your English? Come to the College of English, and let our native teachers accompany you on your language-learning adventure. 

They’re highly qualified and know how to recognize their students’ weaknesses. With them by your side, you’ll be sure you’re on the right path to honing your English language skills. Drop by on your way to Downtown Santa Monica, pick a course that suits you best, and let’s learn together!

The English language is known to be one of the most challenging languages to perfect. You may confirm this as well if you’ve been struggling with it for some time while attending courses at various Los Angeles language schools.

You’ve probably also had an impression that the English language can sometimes be weird, as you simply can’t understand all the rules and exceptions to them. Well, you’re right, some aspects of English do sound strange. Let’s look at some of them. Read on!

What is strange about the English language?

Why do we say a house but not a hour? Or, why are vowels in aid and said different? The list of the English language peculiarities is long indeed. Today, we present the top five quirks.

1. Some words have the same vowel structure but aren’t pronounced in the same way. 

For instance, words like cough, rough, though, and through seem like they should rhyme, but they don’t, and no one knows why.

2. A/an rule.  

It’s generally taught that the article a should come before words beginning with consonants, and the article an goes before those beginning with vowels. That's not absolutely correct. A should be used before words that begin with a consonant sound (a clock), and an before words that begin with a vowel sound (an hour). So, pronunciation matters.

3. Voiced vs. voiceless dental fricative (notorious th sound) 

Let’s look at these two words: thing vs. this. The first th is a voiceless dental fricative and the second is voiced. In both sounds, the tongue is slightly out of the mouth, the upper teeth rest on the tongue, and the air flows through, causing a vibration. The only difference is whether you’re using your voice (voiced th) or not (voiceless th).

4. Adjectives must follow a certain order. 

Adjectives need to be put in a specific order when describing something: opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin material, purpose. We normally say “a wonderful yellow flower” and not “a yellow wonderful flower”. 

5. English abounds with contronyms. 

A contronym is a word that conveys contradictory or opposite meanings, depending on the context. For instance, we say “dust the cake with sugar” (sprinkle sugar over the cake), but we also say “dust the furniture” (remove the dust from the furniture). 

Another example would be to overlook. 

Her teacher overlooked her English progress.

In this sentence, the verb overlook means “to monitor”. 

But if we say: “Oh! I was so tired that I overlooked so many spelling mistakes in my essay.”

Here overlook means “to fail to notice something”. 

What are weird English words?

English has many unusual words too. Let’s look at some of them and their meanings.

  1. Discombobulate. This informal word is used humorously, and it means “to confuse someone or to make them feel uncomfortable”.

  2. Lackadaisical. You won’t normally hear this word in everyday conversations, as it’s formal. It means “lacking enthusiasm and effort” (This hotel service is so lackadaisical).

  3. Woebegone. You might stumble upon this word in literature. It means “looking very sad” (Her dog sat by the door with a woebegone expression).

  4. Lollygag. She likes to lollygag at the beach. What does she actually do? Well, she simply spends her time aimlessly.

  5. Cacophony. What a cacophony! This means “a lot of unbearable noise”.

Attend classes at one of the best Los Angeles English language schools

Do you want to hear more surprising facts about English and learn about its long history in Los Angeles? Or, do you need help mastering your English? Come to the College of English, and let our native teachers accompany you on your language-learning adventure. 

They’re highly qualified and know how to recognize their students’ weaknesses. With them by your side, you’ll be sure you’re on the right path to honing your English language skills. Drop by on your way to Downtown Santa Monica, pick a course that suits you best, and let’s learn together!

 


 

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