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Words that Make You Wonder

Fun with Words of the English Language

English is a marvelous and rich language.  Yet native speakers seldom pause to consider its weird vocabulary.  Coming from different countries and cultures and meandering the halls of history many English words now seem to have paradoxical definitions.  These are wonder words because they make you wonder… (See also More Words that Make You Wonder.)


Isn’t it fruitless  to eat your vegetables?

Isn’t dogma  a bitch?

Can you enjoy a party  fully?

Are overjoyed  people too happy?

Would church music be considered organic?

Can lay people  be upstanding  citizens?

Why do they call marriage matrimony  instead of patrimony?

Like the wheel, wasn’t the lazy Susan  a revolutionary  idea?

Did you ever wonder why funeral  starts with the word fun?

What are you vacating when you go on vacation?

Isn’t the center of register  the gist  of the word?


Should someone with guests act hostile?  Or take them hostage?

Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call a fireman  a waterman?

Can you orient  yourself out west?

Why are there interstates  in Hawaii?

Why do caregiver  and caretaker  mean the same thing?

If you are just kidding, isn’t that childish?

Is a precaution  something you get before a caution?

Do undertakers  actually undertake when it comes to fees for service?

Could we call an abstract painting an artificial artifice?

At sundown  wouldn’t you expect nightrise instead of nightfall?


Would you expect a high-rise of flats   to be very tall?

Isn’t kidnapping  normal in kindergartens?

Aren’t even small Catholic churches massive?

Just before an artist’s model takes a break, is she predisposed?

Why do they call it a building  even after it's built?

At the drive-in theaters, was there a lot of autoeroticism?


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Would the ugly truth be called the lowdown  lowdown?

Aren’t half-baked  ideas rare?

How do you get off a non-stop  flight?

When you cash  a check,  do you check  the cash?

What is so proper about property?

Isn’t anything underwater  also over water?

How come lipstick  doesn’t do what it says?

If money doesn’t grow on trees, then why do banks have branches?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?

If you run errands, aren’t you a go-getter?

Why don’t we say farrer instead of farther, or nearther  instead of nearer?


Isn’t a good steak rarely  well done?

Didn’t rearing  children once have something to do with spanking their butts?

Wouldn’t it be more correct to call a butterfly  a flowerfly?

If you pull the wings off a fly,  does it become a walk?

If somebody is armed to the teeth,  does he have a neck?

If you cease  to be, then come alive, are you deceased?

How come you are still sitting after you sat.

Isn’t it amazing that anyone can stand sitting?

Instead of a personality,  does a dog have a dogality?

How come someone can be canny  and uncanny  at the same time?

What’s the point of flattery?

If a vegetarian  eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian  eat?

Exactly what is so fast about quicksand?

Are outstanding  pay checks good or bad?

Why do they call dwellings stuck together apartments?

Why do we drive on parkways  and park on driveways?

Isn’t it odd that sweetmeat  is basically bread while sweetbread is meat?

Why do we hear music from speakers  and dial talk-shows on tuners?

Why is brassiere  singular and panties  plural?

How come people recite  at a play and play at a recital?

Why do we iron our clothes and paper our walls?

Why are goods sent by ship called cargo  and those sent by truck shipment?

Why does worthless  mean the opposite of priceless?

Why are the bigheaded  usually also small-minded?

In court, how come you can’t swear except under oath?

Doesn’t it seem the opposite of ability  should be nobility?

If you get a scratch  on your car, can you make something from it?

Is it all right to put cups  in the dishwasher  and dishes  in the cupboard?

Isn’t it odd that to tell time, you look at the hands  on the face  on the wrist?

If you are assassinated  instead of just murdered, are you important?

Shouldn’t guests leave a banquet fed up?

In a stadium, why do they call a place where you sit the stands?

How come cook  and kook  aren’t pronounced the same?

Would you rather have your bank account frozenliquidated, or evaporated?

Can you comprehend  the language of a comprehensive  insurance policy?

If you have a temper, can you give it away? Or get another?

Why does a tugboat  mostly push things in the harbor?

Did you ever have a comb you couldn’t part  with?

Is it good if a vacuum cleaner  really sucks?

Isn't it pointless  to write with a broken pencil?

If you fast to loss weight, do you slow  to gain weight?

What does it mean when the odds  are even  against you?