English is a strange language when you think about it
English! Itís So Confusing
By Al Owens
Try this! Go JUMP in the shower. At my age thatís a daunting task. In fact,
nobody I know really ever JUMPS in the shower. They may put one foot, then the
other foot into the shower. But Iím pretty sure they donít take a leap in the
direction of some slippery-when-wet surface that could cause them serious injury
if they failed.
In fact, when you think about it, you donít really TAKE a shower either! But
Iíve heard hundreds of people say they take or jump into the shower.
Thatís just one of the many idiomatic phrases that must send visitors from other
countries running for their English books.
They may hear one of us say weíre talking ON the telephone, and they may wonder
why weíre not really telling the truth. For most of us the telephone is on us,
while we converse through the telephone. But weíre rarely, if ever, on top of
We donít get INTO bed either. Can you imagine trying to actually get INTO bed?
How would you do that? What would that look like?
The English language gives us so many wonderful opportunities to get confused!
You may hear people in Uniontown say theyíre going UP TO MORGANTOWN, but itís to
the south. Youíll hear people say theyíre going DOWN TO PITTSBURGH, but itís to
the north. Itís enough to make you RUN FOR YOUR MAP, even though youíd look
silly actually running for a map.
Does your nose really RUN? Do you really CATCH a plane? Do you really HOP a
flight? Do you really get ON your computer? Do you really CATCH a cold? Am I
asking too many questions? Well donít JUMP on me!
The more I use this English language, the more Iím inclined to ask silly
questions about it.
Whatís the difference, for instance, between standing IN line and standing ON
line? Or is there really a difference?
After youíve been IN bed, do you really MAKE the bed, when you get OUT of it?
Somebody else MADE my bed. And if I actually had to MAKE my bed every time I
slept ON it (or IN it), Iíd be too tired to ever get OUT of it (or OFF of it),
or something! Iíve had it with this. I donít think Iíll ever get the HANG of it.
And what heck does get the HANG of it mean in the first place?
And when does the jury pay so dearly when they canít come to a decision, that
they get HUNG? Arenít they there to determine that somebody else will or wonít
Iím not making fun of you if you happen to use any of these phrases. I use them
all the time myself. In fact, I canít really find another way to tell people
about my telephone conversations without using the phrase, ON the phone! Iím
desperately seeking good ways to explain how I wash my BVDís without saying Iím
THROWING them in the washer (or INTO), or something!
You might try to TIE your shoes, but Iím not! Iím not going to do anything that
could break my toes! I will, however, tie my shoelaces.
These, of course, are all idioms. The stuff that probably makes Russians and
Germans and the Chinese THROW down lots of Tylenol, by the time they get OFF
their planes! Before they even CATCH a bite. Before customs even tries to make
them JUMP THROUGH HOOPS.
Well, I guess Iíll get OUT of here. Itís not like Iím really IN here, mind you.
Iím just sitting here, typing ON this computer. Ah English! Itíll SEND YOU nuts!