Odd things about words - статья на английском языке

The more you find out about words, the more fascinating they are. Any word can be interesting if you know something of its history, but some words are odd enough to be interesting even when you don't know much about them.
Echo words, those which imitate natural sounds, are among the oddities of language. Here are some of them: bang, buzz, hiss, ping, sizzle, murmur if you read them aloud, you may get the impression of a lot of noise, and that's what the words are — noises people imitated, which then came to be words. There are many more of these echoic words, and new ones are being made up all the time. And children now are inventing more, imitating the sounds of airplanes, of jet planes, and probably even of spaceships.
There are hundreds of words that sound like other words but have different meanings. Here is a verse from a poem by Theodore Hook that uses some of them.
For instance, ale may make you ail, your aunt an ant may kill, You in a vale may buy a veil and Bill may pay the bill.
Do you know what a palindrome is? It is a sentence which reads exactly the same backward as forward. The best-known palindrome probably is the remark Napoleon was supposed to have made when he was banished to the island of Elba after his downfall as emperor of France: Able was I ere I saw Elba .
In these palindromes each word can be read backward or forward, but in others the words must be split differently when the sentence is read backward. An example is "Madam, I'm Adam".
Another odd word group includes those that mean "group". People live in groups, but there are all sorts of special words for groups of animals. For example, goats, sheep, or birds go on flocks, but certain birds have still more special words. A gaggle of geese is a flock of wild geese when on the water, but these same birds in the air are called a skein of geese.
One of the peculiarities of the Reverend W.A. Spooner of Oxford University was that he would accidentally swap the sounds in two words. Thus, intending to ask the dean's secretary, "Is the dean busy?" he said instead, "Is the bean dizzy?". The Reverend Mr. Spooner made so many mistakes and they were so funny that slips like this are now called spoonerisms. Similarly, some other words have grown out of people's names, although the people themselves may now be forgotten. Some of these words are the names of discoverers or inventors. The saxophone is named for its inventor, A.J.Sax. Some came from events or actions with which certain people were connected. Here are some other words from a person's name, cardigan sandwich zeppelin pasteurize
(From "Moscow News" by Helene and Charlton Laird)