We use language to tell jokes. But sometimes the joke is in the language. Here’s another set of words that makes you wonder. (See also Words that Make You Wonder.)
afterlife — Wouldn’t "after death" be exactly the same thing?
airshow — Is this a display of atmosphere?
alimony — Shouldn’t there be an “e” after the “n” in the word?
amends — How come you can’t make just one?
annals — Wouldn’t it be nice to be mentioned in even one?
bashful — Do you get this way from too many wild parties?
behalf — Why can’t you ever extend a welcome on someone’s "bethird"?
big — Why is this word littler than "little," "small" and "tiny"?
building — If it’s completed, shouldn’t it be called a built?
catwalk — Did you ever see a cat walk on one?
customers — Are they now called "guests" to avoid giving them custom service?
demote — Shouldn’t the word be "remote"; to make small again?
denote — Why isn’t this the opposite of "note"?
escalator, elevator — Are these working improperly when going down?
exterminate — Shouldn’t this mean the opposite of "terminate"?
extraordinary — Is this a lot more ordinary than usual?
goods — Can you buy just one?
goods — How come it’s bad when somebody has them on you?
governmental — Is this a bureaucratic state of mind?
haphazard — Does this mean that lack of order is dangerous?
heretofore — Is this the opposite of "therefromhind"?
holy — Does this describe Santa’s mood when he goes, “Ho, ho?”
homo sapiens — Aren’t most of us heterosapiens?
hummingbird — Is this a parrot that forgot the words to the song?
indisposed — Like two minuses, don’t “in” and “dis” cancel each other, yielding just "posed"?
inexpensive — Since in- and ex- are opposites, shouldn’t it be just plain "pensive"?
inkling — If you have lots, are you a genius?
invalid — Does a physical handicap make a person illegitimate?
kilter — If being out of this is bad, where do you get more?
misrepresent — Is this when you accidentally sent something before again?
mushroom — Is this a place where they practice dog-sledding?
offspring — Is that like a dried up fountain?
pants, trousers, drawers, slacks — How is it you can wear a pair but not one?
pathetic — Is this what you are if you're not apathetic?
premeditated — Could this mean you did it before you thought about it?
preposterous — Doesn’t this really amount to “before” + “after” + “erous”?
skinny — Since fat people are bigger and have more skin, aren’t they more skinny than thin people?
slaughter — Isn’t it macabre that this word is mostly" laughter"?
stalemate — Does this have something to do with the seven year itch?
suitcase — Would this be legal mumbo-jumbo?
ulterior — Have you ever heard this word without the word “motive” after it?
uncooked — How do you uncook something?
wonderful — Is this what you are when you wonder a lot?