Sunday, 21 August 2011

The Complexities of the English Language

This poem was written by Lim Poh Lian and recited by 5 Science 5 who emerged as Senior Choral Speaking Champions in 1986. It's another fine example of the superior grasp and love of the English Language inculcated by our amazing teachers at BBGS! A point to note though, this poem is much easier to appreciate in its oral rather than written form.

The English Language is a polyglot of French, German, Italian and what not,
But as far as we are concerned, English can go pot!
The subtleties of the English Language:
Awful pronunciation,
Tricky grammar,
Unfathomable ambiguities,
Misleading spellings!

Choose your words carefully when describing your hostess:
You can call her a kitten,
But not a cat.
Call her a mouse,
But not a rat.
Call her a chicken,
But not a hen,
Or, you will never be her caller again.
If she burns you up, say she sets you on fire,
And you'll be most welcome, you tricky little liar.

In most languages, pronunciation follows predictable rules,
But not in English!
Because of its peculiarities and idiosyncrasies, its easy to sound gibberish!
For example, words ending in INE are pronounced in several ways;
Long (i) as in ALKALINE, and short (i) as in HEROINE
What would happen if we say ALKALINE and HEROINE?

Likewise, CH can be "tsh" as in ARCHBISHOP
It would be chaotic if we say, chaotic!

Ah, English! What a language!
Confusing, perplexing, exasperating
It spins the head, tires the tongue, boggles the mind, juggles the brain!
Consider the difficulties of a foreigner learning English.
The Indians, with the characteristic roll of the tongue, say,
"The ragged rascal runs over the rugged rock"
The Chinese just can't pronounce the 'r'
"Fried rice" becomes 'flied lice'
For the Malays, they end words with the classic 'lah' and 'dah'
For instance, they always say 'yeslah', 'nolah'

Certain words have double, triple, quadruple, multiple meanings,
Although we lament its irregularities and complexities,
English can also be clear, concise and simple!
We give up,
The English Language is madly paradoxical, irrational and capricious,
But sometimes, while frantically trying to puzzle out the verbs, grammar,
Syntax, pronunciation and spelling,
We fall under its bewitching, magical, utterly inexplicable spell
Our hearts are warmed, minds moved, senses stirred, spirits awakened!
Its very complexities make it unique.
Its very complexities make it beautiful.

In conclusion, we have this to say,
Dilemma that we are in, enigma as it seems,
This we confess, it's not as bad as we profess,
It can be very nonsensical, but the nonsensical can be musical.
The nonsnsical and musical make it comical,
Altogether, the nonsensical, musical, comical makes us positively HYSTERICAL!

1 comment:

Moonlake Lee said...

Hey Jo, i remember this well - it was my class that performed it that year (we have a photo with the trophy !! :).. the poem was written by Lim Poh Lian, who is another BBGS luminary in Singapore ...