Irrefutable evidence that English is a funny language

English is a funny language: Guinea pig is a good example

Cute, but not from Guinea or a pig

As any non-native speakers learning English as a second language soon discover, English is a funny language!

Not only has its vocabulary derived from several European language families, but there are also numerous paradoxes and inconsistencies that are a real test of anyone’s linguistic ability.

So, without further ado, here are a number of everyday words and phrases that perfectly demonstrate just some of the ways in which English is a funny language.

Exact opposites

Americans park their cars on driveways and drive on parkways.

Boxing rings are square.

Hot dogs can be served cold.

Noses run, but feet smell.

People recite at a play, and play at a recital.

People who ride motorcycles are called bikers, yet people who ride bikes are called cyclists.

Quicksand works slowly.

Ships carry cargo, while shipments go by truck.

The sun comes up and goes down, but prices go up and come down.

Tomboys are girls.

We cook bacon, but bake cookies.

When the stars are out they’re visible; when the lights are out they’re invisible.


A guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

English muffins weren’t invented in England, or French fries in France.

There is neither apple nor pine in pineapple.

There is no egg in eggplant (aubergine) or ham in hamburger.


“If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers.”

~ Doug Larson

Adults commit adultery, so why don’t infants commit infantry?

An alarm clock goes off by going on.

A slim chance and a fat chance are the same.

A strawberry isn’t a berry, yet a banana is.

A wise man and a wise guy have opposite meanings.

Fatty means full of fat, but skinny doesn’t mean full of skin.

First-degree murder is more serious than third-degree murder, but a third-degree burn is worse than a first-degree one.

Night falls but never breaks; day breaks but never falls.

Vegetarians eat vegetables, so what do humanitarians eat?

We say teachers taught, but not preachers praught.

We can make amends but never just one amend.

We wind up a watch to start it, but wind up a conversation to finish it.

You can turn a light on/off/out, but you can’t turn a light in.

You fill in a form by filling it out.

Over to you

This collection, gleaned from various online sources including this essay, is by no means exhaustive but intended purely as a starting point.

Do you have any other examples proving that English is a funny language? If so, do please share them in the comments.

(image courtesy of tiverylucky via

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4 comments on “Irrefutable evidence that English is a funny language
  1. Seo says:

    I knew English is an irregular language, but not this silly My favourite one among them is the guinea pig. I actually didn’t know there was a country called Guinea, and yes, this animal looks more like a hamster! English muffins remind me “London Bagel Museum” in Korea. This bagel shop is very successful. So, lots of people think this is a British franchise and bagels originated from the UK but both are wrong!

  2. Lee says:

    “If crime fighters fight crime and firefighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight?”

    – George Carlin

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