(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on December 23, 2010.)


The English language is soooooo complicated and contrary. It is no wonder why many find it difficult to speak and/or write. There are the grammar aspect and past, present and future tenses, punctuation marks and spelling, to name a few.

We greet one person and we say, “How ARE you?” In this case, it is in the second person, present tense, making the “are” used for both singular and plural.

We ask one person, “Where WERE you?” The same principle applies for “were” as the “are” above. (Just for fun, I used to ask my sister, “Where you was?” She would reply, “I were in the backyard.”)

I kiddingly ask my friend, whenever I see her, “How is you?”  She laughingly replies, “I is fine.”

To prove that the English language is contrary, the following are examples:

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. (Should it not be spelled dwarves?) According to the dictionary, both are correct.

Then again, we say there were three fish in the bowl, not three fishes. When one says “fishes,” it means different types and/or species of fish: “In the ocean there are fishes, such as tuna, mackerel and smelt.”

Why do people say …

1. “EXACT same thing.”  If it is exact, it is the same. This is redundancy.

2. “BRING (instead of take) that book over there.”

3. “I NEED such and such” instead of “May I” or “Can I” have such and such.

4. Instead of “You’re welcome,” people say, “No problem.” Grrrr.

5. Instead of  “I’m sorry,” people say, “Sorry about that.” Another Grrr.

6. People say, “David, he did so and so.” This is another redundancy.

When English, like any other language, is spoken correctly, it can be music to the ears. When one hears an excellent sermon on a Sunday morning, it is food for the soul. In writing a novel, a play, a song, a poem or even a catalog /brochure, the words should be appealing, enticing and stimulating to the reader and/or listener.

Composing and writing anything takes much thought and a good command of the English language, or any language for that matter. God has given some sort of talent to everyone and writing is one of the greatest talents a person can have. It takes good coordination of the mind.

Reading, incidentally, can help one write better. One can learn new words and/or increase one’s vocabulary by reading; hence, it improves the writing skill. Writing has been a therapy. When I lost my loved ones — parents, a brother, a sister and two cats — I wrote of the wonderful and/or sad  memories I had of them, expressing my thoughts on paper. It eased the pain and gave me comfort in my grief.

It is a rare person who writes handwritten letters these days One receives mostly emails and computer-typed letters. Regrettably, the “personal touch” of a handwritten letter is slowly but steadily fading away.

One may wonder how to start writing and/or speak correctly. May I say, you start from the heart. Write on!


Maggie Ishino is a Rafu typist. She can be reached at [email protected] Ochazuke is a staff-written column. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.


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