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The Beauty of One-Syllable Sentences

Did you know that it’s possible to tell elaborate and nuanced stories about almost any subject in English using words of only one syllable?

It’s an extraordinary property of English and it’s fun.  If there’s another language that can boast a similar capability, I’d like to know about it.

The rules are so simple, even a child can play the game. In fact, children seem to love the challenge. At first they think it’s impossible. But watch their faces light up as they see it can be done.

Let’s try it. Just give me a subject and I’ll tell you a story about it in words of one syllable. Any subject. Okay, let’s say you suggest horses.  Here goes.

I know a horse whose name is Jack. He’s a great horse with four great feet and a great horse tail that’s right smack dab on his horse ass. Jack likes to eat grass and as a treat I give him oats. He runs when he is in the sun and gets wet when he is in the rain. I just love my horse Jack and I bet you will, too.  Come ride with me and see if I am not right. The end.

“The end” is so, so important to the story.

The rich Anglo-Saxon vocabulary of English is the one-syllable story’s best friend.  For virtually every subject, English seems to offer a nice one-syllable word in addition to the polysyllabic Latinate word. For example, spit and expectorate; wait and procrastinate, small and diminutive, etc.

I know what you want to say.  Okay, smart guy, tell me a one-syllable story about pelicans.  Very well, here goes.

There is a bird whose name I may not say right at this point but you will know what I mean when I tell you how this bird looks and facts. First, it is a sea bird. It is white. But it is not the bird you think it is at first blush. No, it has a big beak.  In fact, the beak is so big it can hold five or six fish it has caught when, from a great height, it dives right in the sea. The bird flies with the fish its its beak to its nest where its chicks wait their turn to snack on fish guts.

Now, can you name the fish? The end.

Isn’t English great?  Now you try. Give me a one-syllable story about a bird.


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