Strange is the English Language

via Daily Prompt: Ordinary

The English word ‘ordinary’ is not an ordinary word. Do I sound odd? Read on.

In a language examination paper, you might have been asked to write the opposites of some words. You might have written ‘small’ for big; ‘short’ for long, and so on. Those words never present any difficulty. But not ‘ordinary’.

The first time I gave my clothes for washing in Madras, the laundry man asked me, “ordinary or urgent?”. Having come from a village in the extreme south of India, I had a great respect for the knowledgeable use of the English words even by the ordinary folk of Madras. So, I diligently included the word ‘urgent’ as the opposite of ¬†ordinary in my vocabulary. At the tea-shop, when I ordered a cup of tea, the ‘learned’ server asked me if I wanted ‘ordinary’ or ‘special’ tea. So, I included special as an opposite of ordinary. My learning of the language continued at unexpected places. At the post office, the clerk asked me if I wanted to send an ordinary telegram or ‘express’ telegram. More surprises followed. When I tried to get into the airport through a harmless-looking gate, the sentry alerted me that it was an entry gate for VIP’s. I had to enter through the gate meant for ‘ordinary’ folk. On that day, I learnt VIP was the opposite of ordinary. The same way, an ordinary day is opposed to an ‘eventful’ day. So, when you are asked to write the opposite of ‘ordinary’, you find yourself in an extraordinary situation. But Americans will find themselves in a ‘sticky’ situation. But that does not mean that ‘sticky’ is the opposite of ‘ordinary’.



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