Unless you never think at all, you have probably considered words and thought “Why would anyone choose that to mean this?” If we take things literally, this is what they’d mean:
Now this means a person who is shady, shifty, and in all other ways not to be trusted. But shouldn’t we think of the culinary term of savoury? The opposite of savoury is sweet, so unsavoury should mean sweet. So an unsavoury person should really be a very sweet person. But if you go up to a person you like very much and say “You’re so unsavoury,” they’ll probably get offended. What’s with that?
So, going with the rule of breaking up words to discover what they mean, (like earthquake — a quake in the earth; or pancake — a cake made in a pan) why doesn’t carpet mean a pet in a car? Considering that, most pets are “car pets“, since they go in the car at least once in their lives. So why does “carpet” mean a rug for the floor?
To be honest with this one, once again breaking it up we think awe and full. So a person who is awful should be full of awe. Right? Wrong! Once again, if you go up to your friend who gets amazed easily and say, “Larry, you’re so awful!” He’ll probably get more than a little annoyed at you.
When you are pinning something to a notice board, you are tacking the notice. So why aren’t you thought to be attacking the notice board? Yet when people start fighting, and there is nothing to do with tacks involved, why is the aggressor considered to be attacking?
What does this word bring to mind? Any word with “stup” sounds like it means stupid. So shouldn’t stupendous mean extremely stupid? Yet it means “Oh, that’s wonderful!” or something similar.
This one must be dissected. In + credi + ble. “In” means not, “credi” has to do with banking (as in credit, or the “credi-care” financial place.) So surely incredible means unbankable. Yet, no it means amazing. Or if not in banking terms, “in” still means “not”, and “credible” means something that you can give a person credit for. So “incredible” should at least mean impossible, yet still it means awesome. Why?
In the English language, this is considered a virtue. Why isn’t it considered a sin? I mean, after all, temper means anger, and usually that’s a pretty bad thing. When a person is full of temperance, we say she doesn’t get angry easily, and is very patient. So why, when someone flies into rages, don’t we shake our heads and say, “If only she didn’t show such temperance”?
Question. Why isn’t this word applied when we see a V formation of ducks? They’re in formation, after all. So honestly, why does information mean news? Does that make sense to you?
So as you see, we have a very peculiar language system — full of words don’t always mean what they say. Some words are assumed to mean other things, like droll, for instance. Wouldn’t a droll joke be boring? No, droll is funny. And why are cough, dough, and rough all almost spelled the same, when they sound like coff, dow, and ruff?
How do we get some of our sayings, like “the bees knees,” “the cat’s pajamas,” “sure as eggs,” and all of those?
Yet we speak English and consider it the easiest language of all.