Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Pete Seeger.....English is Cuh-ray-zee!

"English is Cuh-ray-zee!" is a great song to sing or chant with kids.
It's fun and it gets them thinking about language.

"English is Cuh-ray-zee!" is a cross between a song, a poem and a rap (Pete said it not I).
The words to this song/rap/poem were written by Josh White, Jr. and Pete Seeger in 1996.
It is based on Richard Lederer's book Crazy English, a fascinating book that I got to flip through because a friend had a copy.

According to

If you have ever been completely wowed by the power you can have over language, or its power over you, Richard Lederer is your patron saint. His oft-reprinted introduction to Crazy English, which was originally published in 1989, claims that English is "the most loopy and wiggy of all tongues." And then he demonstrates: "In what other language do people drive in a parkway and park in a driveway? ... Why do they call them apartments when they're all together?" And so on. Lederer's pace is frenetic. He alights on oxymorons ("pretty ugly," "computer jock"), redundancies, confusing words (are you sure you know the meaning of enormity?), phobias, contronyms, heteronyms, retroactive terms (acoustic guitar, rotary phone), and a host of other linguistic delights.
Crazy English by Richard Lederer

English is Cuh-ray-zee by Pete Seeger
(to hear a sample of this song go to Seeds - The Songs of Pete Seeger )

English is the most widely spoken language in the history of the planet.
One out of every seven human beings can speak or read it.
Half the world's books, 3/4 of the international mail are in English.
It has the largest vocabulary, perhaps two million words,
And a noble body of literature. But face it:
English is cuh-ray-zee!

Just a few examples: There's no egg in eggplant,
no pine or apple in pineapple.
Quicksand works slowly; boxing rings are square.
A writer writes, but do fingers fing?
Hammers don't ham, grocers don't groce.
Haberdashers don't haberdash.
English is cuh-ray-zee!

If the plural of tooth is teeth,
shouldn't the plural of booth be beeth?
It's one goose, two geese.
Why not one moose, two meese?
If it's one index, two indices;
why not one Kleenex,two Kleenices?
English is cuh-ray-zee!

You can comb through the annals of history,
but not just one annal.
You can make amends, but not just one amend.
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one,
is it an odd or an end?
If the teacher taught, why isn't it true that a preacher praught?
If you wrote a letter, did you also bote your tongue?
And if a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
English is cuh-ray-zee!

Why is it that night falls but never breaks and day breaks but never falls?
In what other language do people drive on the parkway
and park on the driveway?
Ship by truck but send cargo by ship?
Recite at a play but play at a recital?
Have noses that run and feet that smell?
English is cuh-ray-zee!

How can a slim chance and a fat chance be the same
When a wise man and a wise guy are very different?
To overlook something and to oversee something are very different,
But quite a lot and quite a few are the same.
How can the weather be hot as hell one day and cold as hell the next?
English is cuh-ray-zee!

You have to marvel at the lunacy of a language in which
your house can burn down
While it is burning up.
You fill out a form by filling it in.
In which your alarm clock goes off by going on.
If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of progress?

Well, English was invented by people, not computers
And reflects the creativity of the human race.
So that's why when the stars are out, they're visible,
But when the lights are out, they're invisible.
When I wind up my watch I start it, but when I wind up this rap,
I end it. English is cuh-ray-zee!

Seeds - The Songs of Pete Seeger


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