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Why English is So Hard to Learn

By: Nicholas X. Bush


There’s nothing magical about it,
nor is it a structural issue—plenty
of languages gallop from subject to verb
in neat, Germanic fashion.

It’s the idiosyncrasies and idioms,
causing confusion to run rampant
through dictionaries, thesauruses, and emoticons
for native speaking grade schoolers
to immigrant adults (and everyone in between)

like how Kansas is pronounced Kansas
but Arkansas which is Kansas with an Ar- in front
is now can-saw…

or how a goat is an animal,
but a scapegoat is the person to blame
when things go bad,
unless it’s sports where we’ve shortened scapegoat to goat.
But thanks to LL Cool J’s 8th album,
GOAT’s now also an acronym for Greatest of all Time
so in sports GOAT can be a good or bad thing.

If you’re ever impatient with someone’s English
but don’t know football, this stanza is for you:
(by the way, I mean American football not English football,
which is soccer).
ANYWAY…there are two safeties on the field:
a free safety and a strong safety.
No, the free safety doesn’t have more free will
and the strong safety isn’t necessarily stronger.
Oh, and a safety is also a type of play where you get 2 points.
It’s the only time in football where you score
and then get the ball back.
You see how fun this is? No? Good, I’ll keep going.

One thing English does well:
if its speakers like something,
they give that something multiple names—homerun, parties, sex.
Which is why I’m troubled to find that we only really have
one word for love—and Latin has a minimum of three.


Nick Bush is an associate professor of English at Motlow State Community College and an English PhD student at Middle Tennessee State Univerisity as well as an amateur standup comic in Nashville who writes fiction and poetry when he’s not watching the Titans or cooking low carb meals. He co-hosts the “Nick & Garrett Get Serious about Jokes” podcast and co-edits the Mosaic literary magazine.



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