Why do we say the alarm clock is going off when it goes on?
How can a building burn up and burn down at the same time?
Why is a boxing ring square?
Its a crazy language, you say?
You’re right! As Richard Lederer explains, the English language is very strange indeed.
In the crazy English language, there is no butter in buttermilk, no egg in an eggplant, and no ham in hamburger…
To add to this insanity, blackboard can be green, hot dogs can be cold, darkrooms can be light, nightmares can take place in broad daylight ("that test was a nightmare!"), tablecloths can be made of paper, and silverware (especially in the fast food eateries) can be made of plastic.
A writer is someone who writes, and a stinger is something that stings. But, fingers don’t fing, groceries don’t groce, hammers don’t ham, and humdingers don’t humding.
If you wrote a letter, why don’t we also say that you bote your tongue? If the teacher taught, why isn’t it also true that the preacher praught? If you conceive a conception and receive a reception, why don’t you grieve a greption, and believe a beleption?
Yes, English is a crazy language!
Culled from "The Writer’s Craft" by McDougal Littell at Page 431.