Introducing Language in Use: a Coursebook
Fun with Language
Lost Consonants and Errant Vowels
Changing a single consonant in a word can radically change the meaning of the word. Cartoonist Graham Rawle produced a series of cartoons that demonstrate the humour in such changes. Examples from his website include:
- He left hospital with his arm in a plaster cat.
- Pensioners on low income were finding it hard to exit.
- The birds found some wigs and were building their nests.
- They were unaware that their conversation could be overhead.
Such minor changes can occur in writing about linguistics. One of the authors was originally entertained but is now somewhat wearied by sentences such as “the coma must be moved for the sentence to make sense” in student essays.
Your task now is to think of other pairs of words where only one consonant changes and to see if there is any humour to be derived from the difference.
Vowel changes can be similarly entertaining.
One of the authors was so grateful (for entertainment while marking) to the (must remain) anonymous student who wrote in an essay “The farmers left their bollocks in the fields”. The author knows that this was an accidental typo but it still provides enormous entertainment and food for thought.
Your task now is to think of pairs of words where only one vowel changes and to see if there is any humour to be derived from the pair.
In essays, many students confuse compliment with complement. Go to a good dictionary to find out the meaning of each word and go to Introducing Language in Use (Unit 7) to find out which word (and therefore which spelling) you should be using in syntactic analysis.
Linguistic points for consideration:
- the rules of spelling
- words are fun and language is infinitely creative.