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  • Writer's pictureBenjamin MacShane

A brace of poems about the English language

A poem about the English language,

And its propensity to baffle and bandage,

With loose rules and easy tools

Grammar, lexicon and syntax.

So, on we go to hard questions and facts


Now, why would you lead in the present

And last week you led,

But if I was reading yesterday

I was not in Reading.

Maybe because Red was once the only colour of its kind

Until fruit introjuiced us orange into our minds,

A terrible word to have in a poem -

Like silver, it has no rhyming brother.

But enough of those words – I’m not bothered.

Instead, I’d like to think carefully about the good, the great

, The stuff that makes the unnatives irate,

and how us, with a good English manner

Seem to enjoy flexing our grammar

How Bill Shakespeare invented ED-ing our nouns

Giving us so many new sounds.

And new verbs.

Elbow into elbowed was the first and

And those of you who’ve ever thirsted

For boozing will know that almost any word

Of your choosing can clearly relate

The festering, foul state

Of the utter inebriate

Simply by turning a thing

Into what you once were doing

“Last night, I was totally tabletopped,

Muttonchopped,

Bottled,

Throttled,

Nettled,

Kettled.”

Not to be confused with Ketty.-



Or! You could exalt the language alphabetically,

By using the letters phonetically

We could seek and explore

More of the riches of English’s silliness

To start at random with frilliness

“Yes – F

We waste time when we faff…

We hate the odd tiff…

We puff ourselves up…

As much as we fluff up filibusters…

Not to be confused with fluffing…

That’s pornographic -

But again, English is far from autocratic



So, you see we can find with particular eases

The confusing mess that English teases

Us and the foreigner alike

But for my money I think it’s rather alright




Part two


So how about a second parter

And we return to what we started

When we found

how we find amusing

When English’s idiocy

Gets too confusing

And sets off

Those with short fuses

>This English lark is such a doozy<

What could that mean?

Is it easy to explain?

Or am I being mean

To my foreign friends

Leading them down rabbit holes

To meet false friends


A surgeon may perform an incision

And in so doing be incisive

With all the prerequisite precision

They needed

When they decided

To be decisive

Yet precisely my point

Is that they could never be precisive[BM1]


One rule for them

One rule for us

All animals and words are equal

But some are worth more fuss

But before you turn away

Disguising your disgust

Just remember that

We englicans and anglish

So the seeds of our own distrust

Take the cludes for a moment:

The precludes

But never postcludes

The excludes

And occludes

Which include

But don’t misclude

Or declude

Or reclude


It’s all a bit over or under

But certainly not just whelming

And if you’re still not sure

Perhaps you missed a beat

Went over your head

But not under your feet

I’m afraid I can’t help you

You’ve come far enough

But if I’ve fooled you

Thinking I know this language

At all

It was all just a bluff!



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