It always astonishes me that English has become the predominant international language. The grammar is irregular, with many individual exceptions to learn and the vocabulary is huge with many words that mean something similar, but subtly different, not to mention the many variations in spelling of a similar sounding word.
Consider the confusion of an unsuspecting visitor who is introduced to Mr Cholmondley (Chumley) or Miss Mainwaring (Mannering) or who gets bogged down in the variations in pronunciation of the ‘ough’ sound:
Though – sounds like toe.
Rough – sounds like ruff, another word that means something else.
Cough – this sounds like koff, and that’s a completely different issue – the soft and hard ‘c’ must be very confusing too.
Bough – sounds like bow – but that’s ‘bow’ as in the mail equivalent of a curtsy, not ‘bow’ as in bow and arrows, or in ‘bow-tie’, both variable meanings of the word bow.
So a foreigner could be forgiven for spelling ‘snow’, ‘snough’, or ‘muff’, ‘mough’, or ‘off’, ‘ough’!
Do you feel as though your brain is going into meltdown yet? No wonder that, even with an available vocabulary of around half a million words, most of us stick to a couple of thousand tried and tested words in everyday conversation.
What are the words that have confused, confounded and discombobulated you?
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