The Weird and Wacky Tale of the English Language


Bird. Beard. Bear. Beer. Bare. Can you articulate each of these words correctly?

Some say English is one of the hardest languages in the world to learn and looking at those first five words, it’s hard to disagree. Patterns, rules, phonetic regulations, the language of English adheres to none of those.

Let me give you another example. What if I told you that good, flood and food, which are all spelt in the same fashion, sound nothing like each other? Then what if I told you that mood, rude and sued, none of which are spelt the same, all sound exactly like one another? All I can say is welcome to English.

Now for some good news. When, for example, Milan’s Italian differs considerably to that of Bari’s, English does not follow such an arrangement. It remains relatively consistent throughout the world and lacks regional dialects. If you were to travel from England to the USA and then all the way to Australia, you would only find minor expressional differences rather than drastic linguistic changes. For all of English’s complexities, it remains greatly homogeneous.

However, it is with such expressional differences that we can see English showcase its variety and almost flirt with the idea of being a diverse language. Like any native tongue, there are words and phrases that don’t quite translate, making such expressions truly unique in the language.

For instance, in French there is an expression that reads les carrotes sont cuites, literally meaning ‘the carrots are cooked’, yet figuratively suggesting what’s done is done. In Dutch, they say maak dat de kat wijs that has a literal meaning of ‘make the cat believe it’ yet its actual meaning suggests the speaker doesn’t believe a word himself.

English works in a similar fashion. Now whilst colloquial expressions may not be essential for learning a language, they can assist a non-native speaker to break that dreaded cultural barrier and become more acquainted with the locals on a deeper linguistic level.

By using local jargon, you can get yourself some serious brownie points in your host nation. The term ‘brownie points’ in itself is quite a colloquial expression. It is mainly used in North America and it suggests you can gain favour with someone by doing something that pleases them. Now while you’ve probably never seen this particular term before, on the most part, America’s and England’s jargon is quite well known throughout the world. It is mainly through pop culture that we have become accustomed to the idioms and phrases of both nations.

However, Australia’s brand of colloquial English is a different beast altogether. It’s jam packed full of abbreviations and expressions that make it a somewhat unique version of the language. Unlike it’s English and American counterparts, Australian pop culture doesn’t quite make it on the global scale. If I said to you, ‘strewth, what a ripper arvo for a barbie’ or ‘grab me a biccy and a stubby’ do you think you’d understand? I suspect you wouldn’t.

Nevertheless, these are set examples and learning the language goes beyond the odd colloquial expression. English can produce the good, the bad and the ugly for someone trying to master the language but while it remains quite universal, it’s apparent there are pockets of personality that give the globally renowned language a little bit of oomph. Can you figure that last word out?