5 Funny English Language Oddities

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1. Smart and Swell

Some people use the phrase “that smarts” when part of their body hurts. This doesn’t make much sense to me, since the majority of the time we are the ones causing the pain by injuring ourselves: “I just stapled my own finger. Boy, that smarts.” No, it is not smart at all. Maiming yourself with a desk accessory is quite stupid. You should be saying “Ouch, that stupids!” Then the injured area starts to “swell.” Another odd term, because the last time I sprained an ankle or smashed my thumb with a hammer, it wasn’t swell at all!

2. Old Fashioned vs. Newfangled

We usually refer to antiques and quaint concepts as being “old fashioned,” while modern, cutting edge things are “newfangled.” What occurred over the last few centuries that turned fashioning into fangling? Nothing is ever “newly fashioned.” And I know “oldfangled” is a word, mostly because my computer isn’t putting a wiggly red line under it as I type this, but do you ever hear anyone using it? What exactly is fangling? Sounds like something my mother said would make me go blind. Whatever it is, I’m going to add it to my fake profanity arsenal: “Go fangle yourself ya muthafangler!

3. Facial Tissue and Toilet Paper

I find it interesting that the product we use to blow our nose is called “facial tissue” and the product we use to wipe our butt is called “toilet paper.” Shouldn’t it be “anal tissue?” That way you retain some semblance of descriptive consistency. I suppose you could go the other way and call facial tissue “snot paper.” Next time you go to the grocery store, ask the clerk where they keep the anal tissue and snot paper. Snap a photo of his reaction and put it on Instagram. Guaranteed good time!

4. The Opposite of Discombobulated?

If you remove the “dis-“ from words like disintegrated and disconnected, a valid word still remains. Not so for discombobulated (to be confused and upset). Why isn’t combobulate a word? Meaning NOT confused and upset. Cool as a cucumber and in control. Sometimes during job interviews they’ll ask you to describe yourself with one word. I would answer, “Combobulated.” In fact, I think we all need to start using combobulate in our daily conversations and correspondence: “How are you, today?” “I’m feeling rather combobulated. And you?” Eventually the Oxford English Dictionary will be forced to include it alongside recent entries “bestie” and “wackadoo.”

5. Pro and Con

Pro and con are opposites meaning for and against, yet the word professional is not the opposite of confessional. Nor is protest the opposite of contest. In some cases, protest and contest are very similar. A ball player could both protest and contest a bad call. What gives? Apparently with pro and con, anything goes. Are they opposites? If someone doesn’t use prophylactics can I call him conphylactic? Are they the same? Then why isn’t Congress making any progress? It’s a prose conundrum! I mean cons pronundrum. TC mark

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