Oracle Scratchpad

May 20, 2010

Philosophy – 11

Filed under: humour,Philosophy — Jonathan Lewis @ 7:02 pm BST May 20,2010

The English language is full of irregular verbs, for example:

I am hypothesising about possible explanations
You are guessing
He’s talking rubbish

Addendum: The point, of course, is that your interpretation of an individual’s words may be critically affected by who the individual is. The use of the expresssion “English irregular verb” to describe this phenomenon was current around the time that I was at University.

[The Philosophy Series]


  1. Haiku?
    Honestly, I don’t get the joke. Or the philosophy. The only irregular verb I can spot is “to be”.
    I am hypothesising that this might be due to the fact that English is my second or third language. But then again, it might be just rubbish, I’m guessing.


    Comment by Flado — May 20, 2010 @ 10:37 pm BST May 20,2010 | Reply

  2. Hi,

    It is very good and funny example.


    Comment by Marcin Przepiorowski — May 21, 2010 @ 10:21 am BST May 21,2010 | Reply

  3. @Jonathan: Have you banged your head?

    Comment by Nigel — May 21, 2010 @ 2:38 pm BST May 21,2010 | Reply

  4. I don’t expect every to understand the intent of everything I write so (particularly for people to whom English is a 2nd, 3rd, or Nth language, but also to those for whom irony is similar to steely) : the “irregular verb” is a traditional form of English humour in which the actions of an individual can be hugely restated depending upon your point of view, for example: “I am decisive”, “You are stubborn”, “He is bloody-minded”.

    The humour lies in the extremes between the “I” and “He” forms, and the necessary conflict between diplomacy and bluntness when choosing the “You” form.

    The philosophy underlying the humour is the reminder that we sometimes discard a suggestion because of the source, rather than the content. Remember the comment from Galileo: “I have never met a man so ignorant that I couldn’t learn something from him.”

    Comment by Jonathan Lewis — May 23, 2010 @ 1:53 pm BST May 23,2010 | Reply

  5. I think if Galileo met the internet, he would pull a Cliff Stoll and withdraw into glassmithy.

    Comment by joel garry — May 24, 2010 @ 10:27 pm BST May 24,2010 | Reply

  6. I am born and bred English, with English ancestry, and once took part in a Morris Dancing festival (I am not proud ofit – just making a case for myself) and have laughed even at one or two of Stan Boardman’s better attempts at humour. But I’m still baffled by your examples. Sorry!

    Comment by Nigel — May 25, 2010 @ 9:44 am BST May 25,2010 | Reply

    • Nigel,

      Don’t worry about it, it’s not a fatal flaw. Some people like Monty Python, some like Fawlty Towers, and some like Yes, (Prime) Minister.

      Comment by Jonathan Lewis — May 25, 2010 @ 8:02 pm BST May 25,2010 | Reply

      • But they’re all funny.

        Comment by Nigel — May 26, 2010 @ 4:13 pm BST May 26,2010 | Reply

        • Nigel,

          You’re allowed to think that. I certainly wouldn’t suggest that your opinion was an indication that you had banged your head.

          The concept of the “English Irregular Verb” appeared in two or three episodes of “Yes, (Prime) Minister”, by the way.

          Comment by Jonathan Lewis — May 29, 2010 @ 10:21 am BST May 29,2010

  7. As I heard somewhere “I find the English language to the crème de la crème of languages.”

    Comment by Eric Evans — October 1, 2010 @ 4:44 pm BST Oct 1,2010 | Reply

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