Ms. Nitpicker is not alone in her grammar-induced misery, as evidenced by these gems that appear in various forms in e-mail and on web sites.

  • At the Army base, a bass was painted on the head of a bass drum.
  • A seamstress and a sewer fell down into a sewer line.
  • After a number of Novocain injections, my jaw got number.
  • He could lead if he would get the lead out.
  • How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
  • I did not object to the object.
  • I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
  • I spent last evening evening out a pile of dirt.
  • Since there is no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the present.
  • The buck does funny things when the does are present.
  • The bandage was wound around the wound.
  • The farm was used to produce produce.
  • The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
  • The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
  • The soldier decided to desert his dessert in the desert.
  • The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
  • There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
  • They were too close to the door to close it.
  • To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
  • Upon seeing the tear in the painting I shed a tear.
  • We must polish the Polish furniture.
  • When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.


    We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes;
    but the plural of ox became oxen not oxes.
    One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
    yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
    You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice;
    yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
    If the plural of man is always called men,
    why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
    If I spoke of my foot and show you my feet,
    and I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
    If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
    why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?
    Then one may be that, and three would be those,
    yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
    and the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
    We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
    but though we say mother, we never say methren.
    Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
    but imagine the feminine, she, shis and shim.

    Taken from the introduction to Crazy English: The Ultimate Joy Ride Through Our Language, by Richard Lederer:

    English is the most widely used language in the history of our planet. One in every 7 humans can speak it. More than half of the world's books and 3 quarters of international mail is in English. Of all the languages,it has the largest vocabulary - perhaps as many as 2 MILLION words. Nonetheless, let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in eggplant nor ham in hamburger; neither apple nor pine in pineapple. English muffins weren't invented in England or French fries in France. Sweetmeats are candies while sweetbreads, which aren't sweet, are meat.

    We take English for granted. But if we explore its paradoxes, we find that quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.

    And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing, grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham? If the plural of tooth is teeth, why isn't the plural of booth beeth? One goose, 2 geese. So one moose, 2 meese? One index, 2 indices?

    Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend, that you comb thru annals of history but not a single annal? If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

    If teachers taught, why didn't preacher praught? If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat? If you wrote a letter, perhaps you bote your tongue?

    Sometimes I think all the English speakers should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane. In what language do people recite at a play and play at a recital? Ship by truck and send cargo by ship? Have noses that run and feet that smell?

    How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and wise guy are opposites? How can overlook and oversee be opposites, while quite a lot and quite a few are alike? How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell another?

    Have you noticed that we talk about certain things only when they are absent? Have you ever seen a horseful carriage or a strapful gown? Met a sung hero or experienced requited love? Have you ever run into someone who was combobulated, gruntled, ruly or peccable? And where are all those people who ARE spring chickens or who would ACTUALLY hurt a fly?

    You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form by filling it out and in which an alarm clock goes off by going on.

    English was invented by people, not computers, and it reflects the creativity of the human race (which, of course, isn't a race at all). That is why, when the stars are out, they are visible, but when the lights are out, they are invisible. And why, when I wind up my watch, I start it, but when I wind up this essay, I end it.

    Copyright Richard Lederer.

  • Why can't the English language decide how to pronounce the letter combination 'ough'? You know, like tough, thought, through, cough, bough, hiccough, and through.

  • Do you find it a bit unnerving doctors call what they do practice?

  • How come overtones and undertones are the same thing?

  • How do you get off a non-stop flight?

  • If a pronoun is a word used in place of a noun, is a proverb a word used in place of a verb? Furthermore, if progress means improvement and advancement, does congress mean the opposite?

  • If athletes get athlete's foot, do astronauts get mistletoe?

  • If corn oil comes from corn, where does baby oil come from?

  • If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

  • If 'GH' stands for 'P' as in 'Hiccough' and if 'OUGH' stands for 'O' as in 'Dough' and if 'PHTH' stands for 'T' as in 'Phthisis' and if 'EIGH' stands for 'A' as in 'Neighbour' and if 'TTE' stands for 'T' as in 'Gazette' and if 'EAU' stands for 'O' as in 'Plateau' then wouldn't the right way to spell 'POTATO' be 'GHOUGHPHTHEIGHTTEEAU'?

  • If horrific means to make horrible, does terrific mean to make terrible?

  • If peanut butter cookies are made from peanut butter, then what are Girl Scout cookies made out of?

  • If the 'gh' in enough is pronounced like an 'f', and the 'o' in women is pronounced like an 'i', and the 'ti' in nation is pronounced like 'sh', then why isn't fish spelled 'G-H-O-T-I'?

  • If tin whistles are made out of tin, what do they make fog horns out of?

  • Who decided that live (as in live music) and live (as in being alive) should be spelt the same?

  • Why are a wise man and wise guy opposites?

  • Why can't you make another word using all the letters in "anagram"?

  • Why do "slow down" and "slow up" mean the same thing?

  • Why do caregiver and caretaker mean the same thing?

  • Why do fat chance and slim chance mean the same thing?

  • Why do flammable and inflammable mean the same thing?

  • Why do overlook and oversee mean opposite things?

  • Why do people sit down during the day and sit up late at night? For that matter, why is it that whether you sit up or sit down, the result is the same?

  • Why do they call it "chili" if it's hot?

  • Why do they call it a TV set when you only get one?

  • Why do 'tug' boats push their barges?

  • Why do we drive on a parkway but park on a driveway?

  • Why do we say "bye bye" but not "hi hi"?

  • Why does "cleave" mean both split apart and stick together?

  • Why does the word 'sanction' mean both to permit and to prohibit? How are you supposed to know which it is?

  • Why does your nose run and your feet smell?

  • Why don't tomb, comb and bomb sound alike?

  • Why is it that night falls but day breaks?

  • Why is it that we recite at a play and play at a recital?

  • Why is it that when you transport something by car, it's called a shipment, but when you transport something by ship, it's called cargo?

  • Why is it you can walk down a road, even if it goes uphill?

  • Why is the time of day with the slowest traffic called rush hour?

  • Why isn't phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

  • Why when I wind up my watch I start it, but when I wind up a project I end it?

  • Would you rather own a 'genuine imitation' or an 'authentic replica'?

  • You can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you just be whelmed? Why not?

    Ask a gadzillion more questions on a variety of topics.

    In my dotage I've become
    Inert, defunct, inane.
    Oh to be like yester-year,
    Ert, funct and ane again.


    Laugh at a demonstration of bad writing largely stolen from William Safire.
    For a less educational but entirely authentic demonstration of bad writing, enjoy MAKE THE PIE HIGHER!, a mock poem composed of George W. Bush quotations.
    Note the silliness that ensues when BAD NEWSPAPER HEADLINES are written.
    Medical Malpractice on the English Language.

    Learn HOW TO WRITE ALMOST READABLE FAN FICTION with MS. NITPICKER (including hideous examples of bad writing)


    I'm thoroughly chastened, and want to return to the main page and perhaps yell at Ms. Nitpicker.

    Copyright 1999 - 2013, Jane A. Leavell. All rights reserved.