Rules vs. a mongrel language

Native speakers of English may not recognize it, but our language is incredibly difficult to master. Difficult to read. Difficult (maybe more difficult) to pronounce correctly. I do not envy speakers of other languages, particularly languages such as Mandarin and Japanese, which have a lot more innate purity and order than English, trying to learn this mongrel tongue.

A lot of the difficulty is because English borrows words from everywhere. So we have the French-derived silent-t words chalet and ballet sitting side-by-side with hard-t words like millet and billet, which got Anglicized when they transitioned from Old French to Middle English more than 1,000 years ago.

While rules of grammar and usage can be tricky, and while (as I mentioned yesterday) those rules can be bent or broken at times in the service of compelling copy, simply understanding the rules of how a word is to be read, understood and pronounced can be a pain in itself.

To illustrate, read this poem which popped up in my Facebook feed today. Apparently, according to the clickbait headline, if you can read every word correctly you will be speaking English better than 90 percent of the English-speaking population.

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