As anyone learning it as a second language will tell you, English could use some tidying up. The orthography alone is a mess: a â€œSpelling Beeâ€ would be completely silly in most other languages, where letters are used with some relationship to phonetics. Never mind Chinese. Then we have all those idiomatic traps (in front of, but behind);Â illogicalities, real and seeming: loosen = unloosen, raveled = unraveled, inflammable=flammable; and all the words whose negating barnacles can no longer be pried off:
Â It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate. I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and she moved in a gainly way. I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I’d have to make bones about it, since I was travelling cognito. Beknownst to me, the hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened….
What we don’t have, and could use, is the wonderful Italian kit of modifying suffixes .Â I know, when you have two words for everything from Latin and German, plus colonial uploads like bungalow, yada yada…Â But wouldn’t you like to be able to stick -accio/a on something to tersely express disdain in the middle of a noncommittal sentence (Tea Partaccia), or signal affection by just saying “Spotuccio!” when your dog brings your unchewed slippers?
They stack, too: “Spotinuccio” for the little pug. This needs care, however, as they can trip over each others’ feet, so if you try this, heed the following, what happens when rough and untrained hands are allowed to meddle with machinery.
The violin was christened a “small viol” (violino). It isn’t really a viol (square shoulders, tuned in fifths, etc.), but violino/violin it is, OK.Â A double bass is a great big one, violone, and it really is exactly that.Â The tenor of the violin family was named a “small big viol”, or violoncello (its official name, also in English, and note the second o) even though it’s more properly a violinone (skipping the viola, but see below) and not any kind of viol.Â Worse, the pieces got disconnected, and we absurdly call this second-largest ofÂ the strings a cello, literally “a small”. By curdled analogy, the tenor, larger mandolin (mandolino = small mandola, OK so far) is a mandocello.
The Germans got off this derailing train with Geige, Bratsche , and Bass-Geige, but even they passed up Kleine Bass-Geige for violoncello. Bratsche is its own mystery, supposedly an attempt to bringÂ Â viola da braccia, “arm viol”, across the Alps. But (i) how can that word not denote a horn? and (ii) how could it not have been called violaccia from the start?