Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme-And Other Oddities of the English Language
Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme-And Other Oddities of the English Language

Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme-And Other Oddities of the English Language

Arika Okrent; Sean O'Neill
  • Answers questions people really have about English, like "Why are there so many ways to say -gh?" and "Why is there an 'r' in Mrs.?"
  • Explores the many quirks of English and how they are connected to the history of the language
  • Explains a wealth of language concepts in an accessible, entertaining way, illustrated by humorous cartoons

Maybe you've been speaking English all your life, or maybe you learned it later on. But whether you use it just well enough to get your daily business done, or you're an expert with a red pen who never omits a comma or misplaces a modifier, you must have noticed that there are some things about this language that are just weird.
Perhaps you're reading a book and stop to puzzle over absurd spelling rules (Why are there so many ways to say '-gh'?), or you hear someone talking and get stuck on an expression (Why do we say "How dare you" but not "How try you"?), or your kid quizzes you on homework (Why is it "eleven and twelve" instead of "oneteen and twoteen"?). Suddenly you ask yourself, "Wait, why do we do it this way?" You think about it, try to explain it, and keep running into walls. It doesn't conform to logic. It doesn't work the way you'd expect it to. There doesn't seem to be any rule at all.
There might not be a logical explanation, but there will be an explanation, and this book is here to help.
In Highly Irregular, Arika Okrent answers these questions and many more. Along the way she tells the story of the many influences—from invading French armies to stubborn Flemish printers—that made our language the way it is today. Both an entertaining send-up of linguistic oddities and a deeply researched history of English, Highly Irregular is essential reading for anyone who has paused to wonder about our marvelous mess of a language.


What the Hell, English?
The Colonel of Truth: What is the deal with the word colonel?
Fairweather Vowels: Why is y a sometimes vowel?
Hey Large Spender: Why do we order a large drink and not a big one?
Crazy English: Why do we drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?
What the Hell is with What the Hell?
Blame the Barbarians
Thoroughly Tough, Right?: Why don't tough, through, and dough rhyme?
Getting and Giving the General Gist: Why are there two ways to say the letter g?
Egging them On: What is the egg doing in egg on?
I Ated All the Cookies: Why do we have irregular verbs?
It Goes by so Fastly: Why do we move slowly but not fastly? And step softly but not hardly?
Elegantly Clad and Stylishly Shod: Why is it clean-shaven and not clean-shaved?
Six of One, Half a Twoteen of the Other: Why is it eleven, twelve instead of oneteen, twoteen?
Woe is We: Why is it woe is me, not I am woe?
Blame the French
A Sizeable, Substantial, Extensive Vocabulary: Why are there so many synonyms?
Don't inSULT me with that INsult: Why are there noun-verb pairs that only differ by stress?
Without Fail: Why is it without fail and not failure or failing?
Ask the Poets Laureate: Why is it sum total and not total sum?
Of Unrequited Lof: Why isn't of spelled with a v?
Blame the Printing Press
Uninvited Ghuests: Why are ghost, ghastly, and ghoul spelled with a gh?
Gnat, Knot, Comb, Wrist: Why do we have silent consonants?
Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda: Why is there a silent l?
Peek, Peak, Piece, People: Why are there so many ways to write the 'ee' sound?
Crew, Grew, Stew, New...Sew?: Why don't sew and new rhyme?
Blame the snobs
Get Receipts on those Extra Letters: Why is there a p in receipt, an l in salmon, and a b in doubt?
Asthma, Phelgm, and Diarrhea: Why all the extra letters?
The Data are in on the Octopi: What's the deal with Latin plurals?
Too Much Discretion: Keeping discreet and discrete discrete, discreetly
Pick a Color/Colour: Can't we get this standardized/standardised?
Blame ourselves
Couth, Kempt, and Ruthful: Why have some words lost their better halves?
If it Ain't Broke, Don't Scramble It: Why is There no egg in eggplant?
Proving the Rule: How can an exception prove a rule?
How Dare You Say How Try You!: Why dare isn't like the other verbs
Release the Meese: Why isn't the plural of moose meese?
Why do Noses Run and Feet Smell?: A corny joke with a serious answer
Negative Fixation: Why can you say "this won't take long" but not "this will take long"?
Abbreviation Deflation: Why is there an r in Mrs.?
How it Comes to Be: How come we say how come?
Phrasal Verbs, Let's Go Over Them: But don't try to "go them over." (You can look them over though)
Terrible and Terrific, Awful and Awesome: How does the same root get opposite meanings?
Literally Messed Up: How did literally get to mean figuratively?
That's Enough, Now, English



Arika Okrent is a linguist and author of In the Land of Invented Languages. She worked in a brain research lab on her way to a Psycholinguistics PhD from the University of Chicago, and now writes about language for various publications including Mental Floss, The Week, Smithsonian Magazine, Popular Science, Slate, and Aeon. 
Sean O'Neill is an illustrator and writer living in Chicago. He is the creator of the Rocket Robinson series of graphic novels for young readers. Arika and Sean are also known for their series of live-drawing whiteboard videos on language and other topics, produced by mentalfloss.com.

"I love everything about this book. Arika Okrent is insightful, funny, and answers questions you didn't even know you had!" - Mignon Fogarty, author of Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

"Arika Okrent is the best at taking oft-repeated stories about English and pushing them a step deeper. If you buy one 'fun facts about English' book, make it this one. Lively explanations from Okrent plus charming drawings by O'Neill make for a highly engaging book perfect for answering your (or your kid's) questions about the oddities of the English language." - Gretchen McCulloch, author of Because Internet and host of Lingthusiasm

"Don't let the joy of reading these stories fool you. Arika Okrent brings real intellectual heft to researching them. As you find yourself eagerly passing them on, you'll realize how much serious stuff about language you've learned too." - Lane Greene, author of Talk on the Wild Side and You Are What You Speak

"Arika Okrent has done the magic trick of compiling the kinds of questions the general public actually asks about language, instead of the kinds of questions we linguists would LIKE the public to ask. Everybody—including many linguists!—will feast on every page." - John McWhorter, Professor of Linguistics at Columbia University, host of the language podcast Lexicon Valley, and Contributing Editor at The Atlantic

"[A] learned and captivating study of how the weirdness of our language unfolded....[Okrent] wields sharp and powerful tools that satisfyingly scratch our linguaphilic itch." - Michael M. Rosen, National Review


ISBN : 9780197539408

Arika Okrent; Sean O'Neill
240 ページ
140 x 210 mm





Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme-And Other Oddities of the English Language

Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme-And Other Oddities of the English Language

Highly Irregular: Why Tough, Through, and Dough Don't Rhyme-And Other Oddities of the English Language