To vs. Two vs. Too… Ahhh, English.

Monday night marks Brian’s, oh I don’t know, 217th time attempting to beat me in a game of Scrabble…(attempting being the key word here).

It was a valiant effort, and strategic at that.  Brian figured that he’d have the advantage if:

  1. Pregnancy brain ruled.
  2. He turned the television on.
  3. He waited until the very end of the day when I was dead tired.

Alas, I. Will. Not. Be. Defeated.

But I will say that there’s nothing like a game of Scrabble to get me riled over the ridiculousness of the English language.

Let me put it this way: I’m so thankful and blessed that English is my native language, because if I ever had to pick it up as a second language, I think I’d really struggle with the inconsistencies of pronunciation and spelling.

Play along with me, will you?

Pronounce these words aloud (do it!), and notice the spelling similarities and differences:

Time vs. thyme.

Pie vs. high

High vs. my

Ice vs. Police

Police vs. Polite

Kite vs. Might

Sorry vs. Worry

Crying tears vs. Ripping tears in a page

Tear (a page) vs. There vs. Their

Tear (a page) vs. Bear vs. Bare vs. Fare vs. Fair vs. Air vs. Err

More vs. Floor

Less vs. Guess

Two vs. To vs. Too vs. New vs. Few vs. Glue vs. Blue vs. Blew  (Why isn’t there a fourth ‘2’ spelled Tew? Or a fifth ‘2’ spelled Tue – especially considering Tuesday?)

Oh the joys of boys!  vs.  Oh the noise of boys!

Hammer vs. grammar.

Shower vs. Mower.

Shower, Flower Power vs. Show, Flow, Pow.

(Soft ‘C’)  Site vs. Cite.

(Hard ‘C’) Soil vs. Coil.

Soil, coil, boil vs. Loyal.

Maze vs. Phase

Phase vs. Faze

Faze vs. Days

Days vs. Daze

(For a good)  Cause vs. Because vs. ‘Cuz

Pen vs. Pin

Gum vs. Dumb

Thumb vs. Some

Some vs. Dome

Dome vs. Roam

Roam vs. Comb

Comb vs. Womb

Womb, Tomb vs. Room, Loom

Loom, Doom vs. Fume

Glow, Flow vs. Plow, Cow

I could go on and on and on…

This doesn’t even begin to touch on words that are spelled the same with different meanings (ex. I mean it vs. You’re mean.  Or I saw it vs. Let’s saw wood.)

But the one that always perplexes me:

“Blessed are the peacekeepers… (which is commonly read bless-ed, being pronounced with two syllables).”

Yet, “we’re blessed” is pronounced with one syllable.  And dictionaries disagree with each other as to which it should be.


I think you get my point here.

So… I used to have this boss who seemed shamelessly racist when he’d puff out his chest and declare, “Welcome to America…  Now speak English.”  Naturally, he never had the nerve to say this TO anyone who wasn’t American.  No, he preferred to be cowardly and confront the invisible, make-believe Mexicans in his office, with American bystanders nervously chuckling at his ignorance.

Listen.  If you think English is sOoOoOoOo easy, it’s probably because you were born with English-speaking parents.

The next time you receive service from someone who is at least trying to hammer it out, be nice to them.  Perhaps even compliment or encourage their attempts or ask how long they’ve been studying the language.  ‘Cause let’s face it, English doesn’t make much sense (vs. since).  We make rules, then break (vs. brake) them.

(Dismounting my soapbox for now.)


  1. April 18, 2012

    Was embarrassed to learn that I had been saying “breakfast” wrong until my mid-20s when your dad corrected me. Why he waited until we were married a good 7 or 8 years to tell me, I dunno.

    The English language is definitely not an easy language to learn.

  2. I’m ‘write’ with you, sister!

    Benjamin…my youngest offspring was born with the ‘Engineer’ gene…the one that wants everything in this world to be logical. Spelling was a real bear, let me tell you!! He would get SO mad about the injustices and inconsistencies. Finally, one day, I said, “You know, Benjamin, you’re absolutely right! This word DOES break the rules–let’s put that sucker in JAIL!” For quite some time after that he would derive a sense of justice by putting all words that broke the basic enunciation rules behind bars. We just drew them right over the word, haha!

    Hey, whatever it takes, right?

    I, by the way, happen to love Scrabble!! Alas, I am the only one in this household…kudo’s to Brian =)

  3. April 18, 2012
    Margaret Treadwell

    Having had to use my mediocre Spanish, poor German, and hilarious attempts at French, I now have SO MUCH respect for anyone who attempts the English language! I love a good phonetic language (which ours definitely is NOT!)

  4. April 18, 2012

    Haha! That was my first question. I’m glad he “red” it out loud to you. LOL just going with the theme

  5. After trying to learn another language (Thai is tonal, btw, which means the same word can mean FIVE different things depending on whether it’s high, low, mid, rising, or falling…WHAAAAA???) I have an entirely new sympathy for English-learners. So much of this language makes absolute zero sense! I tend to excuse any misspellings or grammar mistakes…I just respect others for learning it! NATIVE English-speakers, though…if they misuse to/too/two, I get peeved. I mean, come ON! 😉

  6. April 18, 2012

    One of my favorites is that there are eight different ways to pronounce ‘ough’ at the end of words. (rough, through, etc.). It’s always fun to see how many one can remember because most of us are probably very familiar with all eight.

      • April 19, 2012

        Suzy, you may take exception to one or two of these. But here’s my best shot at it. I may be missing a sound though.

        1. off: cough, 2. uf: enough, 3. oh: dough, 4. ew: through, 5. ow: bough, 6. yew: hough, 7. up: hiccough, 8. uh: borough (many of us pronounce this oh, like dough. perhaps the ‘uh’ sound is British) Aternatively, if you allow the ough to be in the middle of a word, you get at least one more sound–au: ought.

  7. April 18, 2012

    Being an English teacher – no comment 🙂

  8. April 18, 2012

    It is fascinating how many different words you were able to come up with! Even as an English teacher, I have to think back to fun little sayings that I learned in elementary school to determine which spelling is correct. You forgot the fun of its (possesive) v. it’s (it is). 🙂

  9. April 19, 2012

    This is so my thing. Great article about the word ‘hopefully’ in yesterday’s Post Style section.

    Must tell you, however, my German grandson says English is the easiest language to learn. We don’t have the genders. A market is just a market, not le marche or la marche (choose one) as in French and other romantic languages. If you really want to have fun, look up Latin declensions.

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