Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme--And Other Oddities of the English Language (Hardcover)
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Maybe you've been speaking English all your life, or maybe you learned it later on. But whether you use it just well enough to get your daily business done, or you're an expert with a red pen who never omits a comma or misplaces a modifier, you must have noticed that there are some things about this language that are just weird. Perhaps you're reading a book and stop to puzzle over absurd spelling rules (Why are there so many ways to say '-gh'?), or you hear someone talking and get stuck on an expression (Why do we say "How dare you" but not "How try you"?), or your kid quizzes you on homework (Why is it "eleven and twelve" instead of "oneteen and twoteen"?). Suddenly you ask yourself, "Wait, why do we do it this way?" You think about it, try to explain it, and keep running into walls. It doesn't conform to logic. It doesn't work the way you'd expect it to. There doesn't seem to be any rule at all. There might not be a logical explanation, but there will be an explanation, and this book is here to help. In Highly Irregular, Arika Okrent answers these questions and many more. Along the way she tells the story of the many influences--from invading French armies to stubborn Flemish printers--that made our language the way it is today. Both an entertaining send-up of linguistic oddities and a deeply researched history of English, Highly Irregular is essential reading for anyone who has paused to wonder about our marvelous mess of a language.
About the Author
Arika Okrent is a linguist and author of In the Land of Invented Languages. She worked in a brain research lab on her way to a Psycholinguistics PhD from the University of Chicago, and now writes about language for various publications including Mental Floss, The Week, Smithsonian Magazine, Popular Science, Slate, and Aeon. Sean O'Neill is an illustrator and writer living in Chicago. He is the creator of the Rocket Robinson series of graphic novels for young readers. Arika and Sean are also known for their series of live-drawing whiteboard videos on language and other topics, produced by mentalfloss.com.