Video: The lesson, as always, is that we’re dumb. All of us. Even the smartest among us can’t save us because we’re all so dumb. Why? Because when we hear the wrong words, we don’t bother to fix ourselves but instead adopt those wrong words into our language even though they’re clearly wrong. It’s great! Language is always changing… for the worse.
This language lesson from Akira Okrent is fun because it shows how words like “alligator”, “pea”, “riches” and “apron” were products of terrible hearing and poor language skills. In the case of the word “alligator”, the English word came from the Spanish word “el lagarto”, which means “the alligator”. Instead of just using “lagarto”, English speakers adopted the whole word including “the”, so when we say “an alligator” we’re actually saying “a the alligator”. “Pea” was misconstrued as the singular for “pease” and “riches” came from the abstract word for wealth “richesse”.
We’re all just making things up as we go along.