Saturday, June 15, 2013


As a general statement of fact, we can safely say that English is a difficult language to learn if you didn't grow up with it.  So many letter combinations that are pronounced different ways in different words, silent letters that don't seem to have any reason to be in the word at all.  And as a constantly growing language, we have added many words with origins from other languages, especially here in the U.S. during our formative years as a new country.

And there's all those words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently and have different meanings, not to be confused with words that are pronounced the same but spelled differently and have different meanings.

I recall a time not that long ago when France made a concentrated effort to purify the French language by banning all foreign origin words even though saying the same thing in French took two and three words rather than the one word being replaced.

Unlike other languages that have set rules for specific situations when spelling and pronouncing, English is more flexible with its rules.  I think we've all laughed at the spelling rule that says "i before e" and then in the same sentence starts naming the exceptions "except after c" followed by exceptions to the exception "or when sounded as a as in weigh" and then even more exceptions.  Kind of leaves you scratching your head and wondering how anyone ever learns English as a second language.  :)

But what about those words where we all agree on how they are spelled and what they mean, but we're a little confused on which is the appropriate word to use.

Is it soda or pop or soda pop?  Or perhaps it's a soft drink?  Or Coke used as a generic term? Those type of variations are usually regional.  In the deep south, Coke has been used as a generic term for many years.  Give me a Coke.  What kind of Coke do you want?  I'll have a Pepsi Coke.

And, of course, there's the ever popular submarine sandwich or sub for short…not to be confused with its twins such as the hoagie, grinder, Dagwood, and Po' boy.  Again, primarily regional usage.

As with all (or most?) countries, there are different regional pronunciations for the same word.  We can consider a choice between car-ml and carra-mel for the sticky candy.  And then there's that choice between coo-pon and cue-pon.  And what about the choice of may-uh-naze or man-aze?

Uh oh…I think I'm getting a headache.  It's time to have some dessert (as in pie with some ice cream on top), then desert this effort (as in abandon), and take a trip to the desert (as in arid region).

Now my head really hurts!


Mickie Sherwood said...

Hi Shawna,

Let me add to your headache.

I'm in the Deep South--Louisiana. I'll muddy the waters a litte. A lot of people in parts of south Louisiana ask for "colddrinks". You want to know where the drinks are located in the store, you ask, "Where are your colddrinks?" Could be any kind, Coke, Pepsi, etc.

How's that for confusion?

Shawna Delacorte said...

Mickie: Oh my headache is worse. :) I need a "colddrink". Do you keep the white wine in the same place as the soda/pop/sodapop/softdrinks?

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula where "you guys" means people of either sex. I still use those words even though I've confused a lot of people (all female) with the usage. Jane

Shawna Delacorte said...

Jane: LOL...I do that, too. Guy (singular) is male, but you guys is two or more people in a group regardless of gender.

Thanks for commenting.