English is nutty.

What’s so hard about learning English? 

Nothing compared to teaching English as a Second Language to really

smart students who love to ask “Why?”


Day 1 lesson plan — Explain why:

quicksand is slow

A guinea pig is not a pig, and it is not from Guinea.

A boxing ring is square

the blackbird hen is brown,

blackboards can be green or blue


Day 2 lesson plans — Explain why:

There’s no butter in buttermilk,

no egg in eggplant,

no grape in grapefruit,

no bread in shortbread,

neither pine nor apple in pineapple,

neither peas nor nuts in peanuts,

and no ham in a hamburger.


Day 3 lesson plans — Explain why:

English muffins were not  invented in England,

French fries are not from France,

Danish pastries are not from Denmark

sweetmeat is made from fruit,

while sweetbread, which isn’t sweet, is made from meat.


Day 4 lesson plans — Explain why:

panda bears and koala bears aren’t bears (they’re marsupials);

a woodchuck is a groundhog, which is not a hog;

a horned toad is a lizard;

glowworms are fireflies,

but fireflies are not flies (they’re beetles)


Day 5 lesson plans — Explain why:

the sun shone yesterday while I shined my shoes,

I treaded water and then trod on the beach,

I flew out to see a World Series game in which my favorite player flied out?

If pro and con are opposites, is congress the opposite of progress?

People drive in a parkway and park in a driveway?


Day 6 lesson plans — Explain why:

In what other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? 

In what other language can your nose run and your feet smell?     

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same

while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?

If button and unbutton and tie and untie are opposites,

why are loosen and unloosen and ravel and unravel he same?             


Day 7 —  Rest. . . but first, make a sign that reads,  “That is another exception to the rule!”



About robertstevenson

Dr. Robert Stevenson is a Professor of Journalism and Director of Student Publications for the Department of Mass Communications and Theater at Lander University in Greenwood, SC. He received the Distinguished Faculty of the Year award for 2007-'08, and the Lander University Young Faculty Scholar Award in 2005-06. Stevenson also serves as chair of the Lander University American Democracy Project. First and Formost I am a dad of two wonderful boys.
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6 Responses to English is nutty.

  1. Well we certainly are unsure and inconsistent in our choices of words, aren’t we! lol…

  2. This is very fun and witty!

  3. Great post. I, for one, love the idiosyncrasies of language. It reminds us of the imperfect nature of human beings.

    In some ways, that’s why Esperanto never caught on – it was too precise.

  4. Jack Payne says:

    Got a big kick out of this compendium of grammatical goofs. Right on, Robert. You called this shot exactly like it is.

  5. Lenka Bliss says:

    I am re-reading this for a fourth time at least 😀 it’s great 😀 I was even thinking.. I am editor of school magazine (650 students, not much really). And I’d like to ask whether I could actually post this in the new issue. With credit, of course 🙂 I think it would interest really since it’s witty, interesting and even useful 🙂 If not, then it’s okay too 🙂 Thanks in advance 🙂

  6. timethief says:

    I read this over 3 times and laughed every time. You are indeed a witty man. Have a great weekend and keep those posts coming. 😛

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