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5 Reasons the English Language Makes No Freaking Sense

#2. "Colonel" Is Spelled Weird Because of the French

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The Crazy Rule:

"Colonel" probably has the weirdest spelling of any English word. The "c" and the last three letters are sort of OK. If they were dudes, you might not trust them alone with your wallet, but you wouldn't feel weird sitting next to them on the bus. But just what the hell is that "olo" doing there? That is a sketchy series of letters. That's like a half-naked clown standing outside a preschool at midnight. It has no business being there, and it's only more worrying if it does.

Photos.com
Well, maybe an oddly spelled word isn't quite that alarming.

The Stupid Reason:

The word "colonel" comes from the Italian word "colonnella," which means "little column." It mostly referred to the military officer in charge of a "little column company" and only occasionally doubled as an adorable slang term for a tiny penis. The word spread to France and became "colonelle." And then, as is inevitable with all expats, it slowly became corrupted by its time abroad. It finally ended up as the barely recognizable "coronel."

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Exactly the kind of crap you'd expect from the birthplace of the street mime.

When it was introduced to English, we got the corrupted spelling and pronunciation, and that's mostly fine. You can guess at the phonetics just looking at it. But when we switched over to the "proper" spelling, because the English are nothing if not proper, the old pronunciation still stuck. So now we've got a word that looks like "colonial," is pronounced like "kernel," was wrong across three generations in three different ways, and may or may not be dick slang (if it wasn't, it sure is now). You're a champ, colonel.

#1. "I Before E" and Other Stupid Spelling Rules Are Because of One War

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The Crazy Rule:

You know the rule: "i" before "e," except after "c." A rule that is immediately followed by a metric butt-ton of exceptions: "either," "neither," "weigh," "neighbor," "caffeine," "weird," "protein," "feisty," "conscience" ... and then approximately 10,000 more words. So it's less a rule than a thing that ... just happens, sometimes. Like a tornado.

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The major difference being that the spelling of "tornado" is pretty reasonable.

The Stupid Reason:

In the 11th century, English had developed its own standardized set of spelling conventions that had an almost perfectly phonemic orthography -- meaning that each letter had a specific sound it made, regardless of what word it appeared in or what other letters were around it. People went around saying things, and the things they said looked like the things you'd see on signs and whatnot. Truly, it was a boring utopia.

But a utopia nonetheless!

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It was the golden age of argument-free games of Scrabble.

Then, in 1066, the Norman conquest happened. William the Conqueror invaded with an army of French, Norman, and Breton soldiers, who quickly established Latin and French as the standard languages throughout the British Isles. French and Latin words were absorbed into English like fried Twinkies in a county fair goer's stomach -- that is to say, poorly, and with much regret. "Seize" and "siege," for example: In French, those words (and those vowel combinations) have very different pronunciations. But that distinction didn't survive the migration to the new language, even though the spelling did. Now we write them totally differently but say them the same, because we're just giant wrecks here and nobody is coming to help us.

Via Wikimedia
"'Tis myne royale decree that the spellyng of 'Wednesday' shalt make no goddamn sense."

The problems continued: Norman scribes convinced English speakers to change "cwen" to "queen" and "cwic" to "quick," because, English being the language of the lower class, French speakers were the only ones who could afford any books. Naturally, those original spellings look stupid to you now, but that's only because you're not used to them -- if you're thinking in terms of logic and accessibility, why would you just start throwing "k"s and "q"s around like that? Someone's gonna get hurt. The "k" has those big sharp pointy arms, and that "q" may look soft and round, but it's clearly trying to hide some sort of little club behind its back. Don't you trust the bastard.

Related Reading: There are a ton of words you've been using wrong, including phase and faze. And if you've suspected the advent of the Internet has justified a few new words, we agree! We'll make room for those additions by cutting bullshit words like "panties" and "dollop".

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