Monday, October 4, 2010
The Joys of Learning English (or, Whoever developed this language had a cruel sense of humor)
Did you guys know that “nauseous” doesn't mean “experiencing nausea”? The proper word for that is “nauseated”, while “nauseous” means “causing nausea”. I can't tell you how many published works by brilliant people I've read that contained this error. I can't tell you how many times (especially when I was pregnant!) I said that I felt nauseous. That seems pretty embarrassing now. Some well-educated Strunk and White reader was probably laughing in his sleeve.
Anyway, I thought I'd best let you all in on the secret so the one-in-a-million person who actually knows the difference doesn't laugh at you, too. :)
Speaking of laughing, the complexity of English does have its good points: listening to a three-year-old trying to figure out the subtleties of pronouns has had me in stitches of late...
I was pointing out the words “me” and “you” in a book with Lucy. She shut the book, climbed up on my lap and said, “Mama, mama, I call you, 'you,' and I call me, 'me.' And you call you, 'me,' and you call me, 'you!'” (Try saying that twice fast.)
I smiled and said, “You're right, Lucy! That's very tricky isn't it?”
She beamed. “Yes. But I know it.”
Then an opportunity for more learning occurred to me. Lucy has been using the third person pronoun “her” or “him” instead of “she” or “he” constantly. So I figured that would be a good time to point out the difference. I pointed to Zoe, my one-year-old. “Well, Lucy,” I said, “If you call me, 'you,' and you, 'me,' then let's think about what you call Zoe. She is Zoe,” I emphasized. “What do you call her?”
Lucy smiled, not to be confused by all my teaching. “Her is my little darling!” she exclaimed.