There are times I almost think
Nobody sure of what he absolutely know
From The King and I, Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II.
The King of Siam could very well have been referring to the joys of English — a language of 3,000 rules and 20,000 exceptions, many of which can only be explained by “well, that’s just the way it is.”
If English is not your first language and you find it, at times, a puzzlement, you may take solace in knowing that it continues to mystify us natives. In fact, even the experts continue to learn.
Here are a couple of puzzlements that some of my colleagues and I have attempted to tackle, along with my earnest attempts to rationalize. As always, you’re welcome to chime in.
The suffix –al: mathematic vs. mathematical; geometric vs. geometrical; historic vs. historical, etc.