• Friday, August 01, 2014

Mind your words, please!

Abdul Matin

Anyone who has seen the British comedy series 'Mind Your Language' knows how funny the English language can get on some occasions. The problem is that it does not always follow logic. The English people will argue that this is the beauty of their language.See, in how many ways the letter 's' is pronounced in the following words: sweet, sugar, cousin, pleasure and island? Obviously, it is different in each word while it is silent in the last word. Next, in how many ways can the word 'bow' be used? It can be a long wooden stick with horse hair that is used to play a musical instrument, such as violin. We bow to show respect to others. The front part of a ship is known as a bow. We tie a ribbon around our necks to form a bow (bowtie). It can also be a weapon to shoot an arrow with.
There are also words with similar pronunciations but different meanings. Note the following sentence: You can always pluck a 'pair' of 'pears' from a tree that 'bears' the fruit and but take care when you 'bare' your personal secrets.
We even get confused with words having different pronunciations.  Sir Winston Churchill, former British prime minister, was very meticulous in selecting words for his speeches and writings. In a cabinet meeting, he once cautioned his colleagues to be more careful in choosing words while speaking in the parliament. He then narrated an interesting story to emphasize his point.
A young man went to a surgeon and requested him to perform a surgery on him.   “What kind of surgery do you want?,” the surgeon asked.
“I want to have castration.” The young man replied.
The surgeon was surprised and said: “You are too young to undergo such an operation. I suggest you seriously think over it again.”
The young man was adamant and insisted on having the surgery. Reluctantly, the surgeon performed the operation. Suffering from pain, he found another patient with pain in an adjacent bed next morning. Out of curiosity, he asked the other patient, “What is the problem with you?”


“I had a surgery,” the other patient replied.
“What kind of surgery?” he asked.
“I had circumcision,” the other patient replied calmly.
“Did you say circumcision? Oh! That's the word I was looking for yesterday!” The young man screamed in agony. He finally got the right word but it was too late!
So, take care in choosing your words, please!

The writer is a former chief engineer of Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission.

Published: 12:00 am Sunday, April 20, 2014

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