November 24, 2008

Why English Is Awesome

One pet peeve of mine is when people go on about how much more expressive Greek is than English because Greek has 3 different words for love, while we only have one. There are a few reasons why.

First of all, Greek may have 3 different words for love, but we have more over 10 words for walk (promenade, saunter, mosey, stroll, tour, hike, jaunt, and more if you check out a thesaurus).

Second of all, we also have around 6 words whose basic meaning is love: love, affection, adoration, romance, amour, amity. We have more than that if we start including friendship, obsession, and poetic devices.

Third, the distinction between philos and agape is incredibly overrated. There is not a strong distinction between them. At best, it is possible to say that agape may have been the stronger term, but that isn't entirely definite. Chances are, the distinction was incredibly similar to our words love and adoration. As for eros, take your pick between romance and amour. (Beside, if agape referred to familial love, then why'd they name the city philadelphia)

Fourth, English is a conglomerate language with one of the largest vocabularies. Most of our words derive from ancient Germanic/Celtic, Latin, and Greek. In fact, for most common Greek word, there is at least one (often more) English word that is derived from it.

There is an English word for every idea out there. Separation of Church and state is called disestablishmentarianism. Rambling on and on where your words stop really making sense to the person you are talking to is called logorrhea. Knowing the word you want but not being able to think of it is called lethologica. Piscivorous means fish eating; a bad poet is a poetaster; to cavil is to disagree with something for petty and irritating reasons; a cooling drink to calm a fever is called a febrifuge. If there is one thing you don't mess with English on, it's vocabulary. I mean, come on, we have a synonym for earwax (cerumen).

Sure, English has its flaws. I mean there are more exceptions to the rules of grammar than there are rules of grammar. But English is a powerful language if you learn to tap into your dictionary. We also have a highly versatile grammar as well. So take it from this logophile, and learn to appreciate your native tongue. You'll be amazed at the joy you'll find.

6 comments:

Pizza Man said...

You're right! It makes it nice too for learning a new language - at least the European ones. We already know a lot of the words. Too bad most of us Americans are monolingual anyway.

TrueHope said...

English is awesome because it only has 26 letters (compared to thousands of letters for some Asian languages), making it easy to type.

One flaw of modern English though is that "you" is used for both singular and plural. Also, the word "man" in the Bible is a bit ambigious in that can refer to any person or an adult male. Many other languages don't have this problem.

Jc_Freak: said...

Truehope:

"Also, the word "man" in the Bible is a bit ambigious in that can refer to any person or an adult male. Many other languages don't have this problem."

Well, English doesn't need to have that problem, hense the TNIV. Also, Greek is the same as English, where anthropos can mean both human or male, though andros means male. The same with adam in Hebrew (meaning either male or human).

bossmanham said...

Wow I've never thought of it this way. Incredibly enlightening.

bethyada said...

English is a conglomerate language with one of the largest vocabularies.

One of the largest?!

The largest.

I concede your point on variety, but there are other issues where English falls down. Syntax is based on word order rather than word endings which limits expression.

26 letters is reasonable, but there is redundancy for some phonemes and no letters for others. (TrueHope, if a language has thousands of symbols then these are words, not letters).

I do think the number of exceptions is excessive. I am glad it is my first (and only actually) language.

TrueHope said...

bethyada,

Actually, I meant thousands of characters, not letters. For an Asian language like Chinese, characters can be combined to form words, although some words contain just one character. Chinese is one of those languages that are easy to read but a total nightmare to write, because even native speakers are bound to forget how to write a less commonly used character at times. And for those who aren't familar with a Chinese input method like ChangJie (or at least PinYin), Chinese is a total nightmare to type as well.

As for another conglomerate language besides English that has a huge vocabulary, perhaps Japanese would be one.