Say What?

How does anyone learn English? This language has such a long and bizarre history that even the simplest, smallest word can cause a lot of confusion. Take, for instance, the simple word “to”. It’s a preposition or part of an infinitive or a conjunction or an adverb–just under these uses it gets 22 definitions in the Oxford English Dictionary. Now add another “o” to it and you get “too”, which sounds like “to” but is just an adverb, and has only 6 definitions in the OED. Now take the first “o” and replace it with a “w” and you get “two”, which is a number. Move the “w” to the end and it’s “tow”, which is either a noun or a verb and is pronounced like “no”. If you take “no” and add a “w” to it you get “now”, which is pronounced differently from “tow”. To get “now” to sound like “tow” you have to put a “k” in front of it so you get “know”, and to make “no” sound like “to” you have to replace the “o” with “ew” so you have “new”, and if you stick a “k” in front of that you still have “knew”. Now it gets really tricky because “no” sounds like “so”. If you want “so” to sound like “to” you have to replace the “o” with “ue” so you have “sue”. Or you can make “so” sound like “no” if you replace the “o” with “ew”, so you have “sew”, which doesn’t sound anything like “new”. And if you take “so” and add a “w” to it so you have “sow” the pronunciation depends on whether it’s a noun or a verb. What are we to dew? I mean due…I mean do. I don’t know. Whatever it is it’s going to take a lot of doe. I mean dough.