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Celebrating English Language Day

Not only is 23rd April St George’s Day we also celebrate English Language Day.The English language is the one language that bridges the gap when you converse with someone in a foreign language. Not only that, it is the language of maths and science and used in aeronautical and maritime communications. Different countries have been able to communicate with each other and established strong connections solely because of the common language.

The English language is the one language that bridges the gap when you converse with someone in a foreign language. Not only that, it is the language of maths and science and used in aeronautical and maritime communications. Different countries have been able to communicate with each other and established strong connections solely because of the common language.

The English language is the one language that bridges the gap when you converse with someone in a foreign language. Not only that, it is the language of maths and science and used in aeronautical and maritime communications. Different countries have been able to communicate with each other and established strong connections solely because of the common language.

Through English language, international laws can be discussed and deliberated. The English language is said to have begun about 450AD when we were invaded by Germanic invaders speaking closely related languages eventually forming Anglo-Saxon or Old English. The Anglo-Saxons do not appear to have had a legal profession but they did develop a type of legal language – some of which we still use today including words like bequeath, goods, manslaughter, murder, oath, right, sheriff, steal, theft, thief, ward, witness and writ.

Anglo-Saxon English involved alliteration – that is words beginning with the same sound. One that has survived is to have and to hold which we all know is still used in many marriage vows. Others include any and all and each and every – still used widely by lawyers.

In 1066 Norman the Conquerer (a French speaking noble) fought his way to the English throne. It was not long before the English-speaking ruling class was conversing in French. Legal documents were written in Latin but around 1275 statutes in French began to appear and by 1310 virtually all acts of Parliament were also in French. The everyday spoken French was declining from 1300 and by the 1400s even the royal household was speaking English.

October 13, 1362 was a momentous day for the English Language. It was the first time that a Parliament was opened in English by the Chancellor of England. The Statute of Pleading condemned the use of French and all pleas to be in English – the statute itself was in French! 600 years after the Norman Conquest and around 300 years after English became the language of this country, French was still being used by English lawyers. Parliament finally ended the use of Latin and French in legal proceedings in 1731.

Things worth knowing about the English language

  • Over 400 million people have English as their mother tongue
  • Samuel Johnson first published a noteworthy English dictionary in 1755
  • The alphabet came from the Greek alphabet’s first two letters; alpha, beta
  • E is the most common letter in English
  • ‘I am’ is the shortest sentence in English
  • Rhythm is the longest English word without a vowel
  • About 80% of the world’s computer information is in English

The English language – is it the hardest language in the world?

‘The Chaos’ written by Gerard Nolst Trenite (1922)

Dearest creature in creation,
Study English pronunciation.
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse, and worse.
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye, your dress will tear.
So shall I! Oh hear my prayer.

Just compare heart, beard, and heard,
Dies and diet, lord and word,
Sword and sward, retain and Britain.
(Mind the latter, how it’s written.)
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as plaque and ague.
But be careful how you speak:
Say break and steak, but bleak and streak;
Cloven, oven, how and low,
Script, receipt, show, poem, and toe.

Hear me say, devoid of trickery,
Daughter, laughter, and Terpsichore,
Typhoid, measles, topsails, aisles,
Exiles, similes, and reviles;
Scholar, vicar, and cigar,
Solar, mica, war and far;
One, anemone, Balmoral,
Kitchen, lichen, laundry, laurel;
Gertrude, German, wind and mind,
Scene, Melpomene, mankind.

Billet does not rhyme with ballet,
Bouquet, wallet, mallet, chalet.
Blood and flood are not like food,
Nor is mould like should and would.
Viscous, viscount, load and broad,
Toward, to forward, to reward.
And your pronunciation’s OK
When you correctly say croquet,
Rounded, wounded, grieve and sieve,
Friend and fiend, alive and live.

Ivy, privy, famous; clamour
And enamour rhyme with hammer.
River, rival, tomb, bomb, comb,
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rhyme with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Souls but foul, haunt but aunt,
Font, front, wont, want, grand, and grant,
Shoes, goes, does. Now first say finger,
And then singer, ginger, linger,
Real, zeal, mauve, gauze, gouge and gauge,
Marriage, foliage, mirage, and age.

Query does not rhyme with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dost, lost, post and doth, cloth, loth.
Job, nob, bosom, transom, oath.
Though the differences seem little,
We say actual but victual.
Refer does not rhyme with deafer.
Foeffer does, and zephyr, heifer.
Mint, pint, senate and sedate;
Dull, bull, and George ate late.
Scenic, Arabic, Pacific,
Science, conscience, scientific.

Liberty, library, heave and heaven,
Rachel, ache, moustache, eleven.
We say hallowed, but allowed,
People, leopard, towed, but vowed.
Mark the differences, moreover,
Between mover, cover, clover;
Leeches, breeches, wise, precise,
Chalice, but police and lice;
Camel, constable, unstable,
Principle, disciple, label.

Petal, panel, and canal,
Wait, surprise, plait, promise, pal.
Worm and storm, chaise, chaos, chair,
Senator, spectator, mayor.
Tour, but our and succour, four.
Gas, alas, and Arkansas.
Sea, idea, Korea, area,
Psalm, Maria, but malaria.
Youth, south, southern, cleanse and clean.
Doctrine, turpentine, marine.

Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion and battalion.
Sally with ally, yea, ye,
Eye, I, ay, aye, whey, and key.
Say aver, but ever, fever,
Neither, leisure, skein, deceiver.
Heron, granary, canary.
Crevice and device and aerie.

Face, but preface, not efface.
Phlegm, phlegmatic, ass, glass, bass.
Large, but target, gin, give, verging,
Ought, out, joust and scour, scourging.
Ear, but earn and wear and tear
Do not rhyme with here but ere.
Seven is right, but so is even,
Hyphen, roughen, nephew Stephen,
Monkey, donkey, Turk and jerk,
Ask, grasp, wasp, and cork and work.

Pronunciation — think of Psyche!
Is a paling stout and spikey?
Won’t it make you lose your wits,
Writing groats and saying grits?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel:
Strewn with stones, stowed, solace, gunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewife, verdict and indict.

Finally, which rhymes with enough —
Though, through, plough, or dough, or cough?
Hiccough has the sound of cup.
My advice is to give up!!!*

References: Peter Tiersma, The Nature of Legal Language

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