English: weird or great?

Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 03:16 pm
I was volunteering in Mo's class the other day when the teacher taught them this handy tip:

When two vowels go walking the first one does the talking.

What a great rule!

.... oh.... wait a minute..... two vowels go walking in "great" and the second one does the talking....

The whole "i before e" thing is just plain weird too.

What other words break these rules?
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 03:20 pm
You can watch a little animated video of that song online at PBS - (Between The Lions).

Lots of limited rules in the language. Another rule is the kicker 'e' rule. When a word ends in a silent e, the vowel in the middle 'says it's name' as in gate, rate, bite. I'm sure there are exceptions to that rule too. I run in to them in school, but promptly forget most of them.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 04:44 pm
I can't remember how exactly it went, but we learned a rule about doubling a consonant before adding ing or ed, as in "totalled". Something about it having to have two syllables and single vowels (no diphthongs) and maybe the emphasis on the first syllable?

Nowadays that doesn't seem to be happening as much, as in focused. We would have written "focussed". shrugs. Jetset - Jetsetted. Then there is Jam - jammed. Dim = dimmed. Hmm...

Sigh. I'll see if I can track that down.
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 04:50 pm
Yeah, found something, from http://www.davidappleyard.com/english/spelling.htm

When a suffix beginning with a vowel is added to a stressed syllable
ending in a single consonant preceded by a single vowel, the consonant
is usually doubled, as in:


control > controllable

In British English, a final letter l following a single vowel is doubled even if the syllable is unstressed: travel > travelled.

American English not only adheres to the usual rule requiring the final syllable to be stressed before doubling, it doubles the final l in all forms of the verb, thereby eliminating this particular spelling headache altogether:

AmE enroll > enrolled
and fulfill > fulfilled;
BrE enrol > enrolled
and fulfil > fulfilled.


stop > stopped
admit > admitted

In the following cases the stress in the final syllable is secondary:

kidnap > kidnapped
program > programmed

Consult a dictionary before doubling a final s to form noun plurals, especially in monosyllabic words:

gas > gases;
bus > buses (but AmE busses).

A final z is always doubled:

fez > fezzes; quiz > quizzes.

In words of more than one syllable, both British and American English follow the usual stress rule when adding -es to form the third person singular of the present tense:

focus > focuses;
nonplus > nonplusses.

In British English (as in the case involving a final l above), a stressed syllable is not a prerequisite for doubling the s before -ed and -ing to form past tenses and gerunds.

So BrE grants you the option of either focussed or focused
and focussing or focusing.

AmE, on the other hand, prefers the latter variants (focused and focusing), which follow the general rule about stress.

Instead of doubling a final consonant c, which only occurs in unstressed syllables, it becomes ck before the addition of a suffix:

traffic > trafficking;
frolic > frolicking.

The consonants h, w, x and y are never doubled (e.g. affix > affixing), and neither are silent consonants found in words of foreign origin:

crochet > crocheting;
ricochet > ricocheting.


big > bigger


begin > beginning
refer > referring


red > reddish

Boy, lots of rules, eh?!
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 05:51 pm
I remember hearing a joke about English grammar:

A teacher tells a class, "In most instances a double negative is a positive, but in no situation is a double positive a negative."

Said one student, "Yeah, right!"
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 08:18 pm
I have a favorite grammatical joke.

This young woman goes to New York, and is to meet her friend in a bar near Rockefeller Center. She walks in, and the only other customer is a rather elegantly dressed woman sitting at the bar. She sits down, orders a glass of wine, and turns to woman, saying:

Hi! My name is Mary Lou, and I'm from Missouri. Where are you from?

I'm from a place in which we do not end our sentences with a preposition.

I'm sorry . . . where are you from . . . Bitch?
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 10:05 pm
I remember a day back in 2nd or 3rd grade in which our teacher, having taught us that "bio" means "life," "geo" means "earth," etc., told us that any of these words can be combined with "ology," which means "the study of." Thus he asked, "What would you call the study of life?" One of my classmates answered in complete earnestness, "Ologybio."
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Reply Sat 15 Mar, 2008 10:46 pm
I thought all the prepositioning went on around Time Square.
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Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 04:37 am
When told that one should never end a sentence with a preposition, Winston Churchill reportedly said, "Madame, that is a rule up with which I shall not put."
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Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 09:22 am
This video explains everything.

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Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 09:37 am
Walking Vowels Video
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Reply Sun 16 Mar, 2008 09:39 am
dadpad wrote:
I thought all the prepositioning went on around Time Square.

Naw, that would be bad press for New Yawk . . . they moved all the hoors into the garment district . . . don't worry, though, if you're ever in Times Square, any cabbie can set you up . . . and i mean that both ways . . .
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