Jim Fall: Slim — or fat — chance; It’s the same, either way

Jim Fall

Well, after having been thoroughly hammered about my speculations, and reasoning as to why, on the correct pronunciation of Missouri — Mih-ZUR-uh (preferred by me) or Mih-ZUR-ee (apparently preferred by most everyone else), I want to get back to my original plan for last week: an elevated, educated discussion about the peculiarities of the English language.

As I made reference to last week, before I got sidetracked, how is it that if the plural of mouse is mice, then why isn’t the plural of house hice? But, when you really get into it, that is only the tip of the iceberg, just scratching the surface.

Start with a single, simple box. OK? Add a couple of more and you have a nest (and that’s a whole 'nother discussion) of boxes. Right? Right. But start out with one ox, add another to make a team and do you have oxes? No way; you have oxen.

No arguments that one “honker” is a goose; two, and you have geese. But the plural of moose is sure not meese.

And that’s only the beginning of this nonsense. Consider that if the plural of man is men, why do you have a set of pans in your cabinet, not pen? We can talk about my foot, both feet, actually, but why, if I put on one boot, why not a pair of beet? It’s a front tooth, and a set of teeth, so why isn’t the plural of booth (as in voting, which is about as political as I want to get) not beeth?

Then one may be that, and three would be those, yet hat in the plural would never be hose, just as the plural of cat is cats, not ever cose. We talk about a brother, and also of brethren. We also say mother, but I’ve never heard of methren. Masculine pronouns are he, his and him, but the last I heard, the feminine was she, but not shis and shim.

We really do speak a crazy language around here, much sillier than how you say Missouri.

There is no egg in eggplant; no ham in hamburger, neither pine nor apple in pineapple. English muffins were not invented in England. Watch just one Indiana Jones movie and figure out that quicksand works very slowly. But that’s fine, because everyone will admit a boxing ring is square.

And those are only just the beginning. Writers write, but do fingers fing? Don’t think so. Neither do grocers groce nor hammers ham. And if teachers taught, why didn’t preachers praught?

See, it’s crazy just trying to figure English out.

If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?

Tell me another language where participants recite at a play, but play at a recital. Only in America do we ship by truck, but send cargo by ship. Yep, and we have noses that run and feet that smell. But that’s not all. Think about parking the car in your — driveway; after driving that same vehicle along the parkway.

Being a lifelong newspaperman, well almost, I have written too many stories about a house burning up, and I still don’t know if that is what happened, or did it really burn down. Perhaps it depends on whether the conflagration began on the ground floor, or the attic. Not a good thing, either way, but something to ponder. Oh yes, the firemen who went to the fire — they filled out their report by filling it in. You expected something less confusing, like realizing that the fire alarm went off by going on.

If your father was a wise man, explain briefly why Pop was a wise guy when he said your mother must be a Mop.

As long as this seems to be a collection of silliness, I have obtained more life-improvement slogans — you know like a couple of weeks ago when you were advised right here to always drink upstream from the herd (which, incidentally, I happened to see recently at the bottom of the menu in a Kansas City watering hole — The Flying Saucer, in the bustling Power and Light District).

The first — as I have found out more than once trying to write this column — is, “There is absolutely not substitute for a genuine lack of preparation.”

With the political campaigns winding down, most candidates that I have seen or heard are comfortable in knowing, just like Joe the Plumber has found out, “By the time you are able to make ends meet, they move the ends.”

Certainly the candidates all adhere to the notion that “Anything worth fighting for is worth fighting dirty for.” Also, “Facts, although interesting, are irrelevant.” You betcha. And don’t forget, “Youth and skill are no match for experience and treachery.”

Enough serious commentary.

Just always remember, like where to drink, and especially with winter coming on, “Never pass a snowplow on the right.”

This, too, is indisputable: “One seventh of your life is spent on Tuesday.” 

Maryville Daily Forum