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Polls, poles, and polling — more challenges for those learning English


As I sit here watching political speeches and ralliess on various cable channels, I am reminded again of the challenges of learning to speak, read, and write the English language effectively. (I also feel a great deal of thanksgiving that I learned it “naturally” as a native speaker — and that the U.S. elections are almost over.)

Elections give us a perfect illustration of some of the challenges of the English language. I’ve referenced it in the title of this post: polls, polls, poles, and polling. Think about how confusing that usage and even spelling would be if you didn’t know American English.

Polls are those opinion surveys political organizations follow closely as they consider their candidate’s chances of election.

Polls are those locations voters go to when they cast their votes.

Poles are those long slender objects from which all candidates who wish to be elected proudly fly the flag. (Poles are also residents of Poland.)

Polling is the process of gathering those opinions in a survey.

Polling is also used as the process of taking or counting votes that were cast at the polls.

Are you confused enough yet? You may not be confused by all this, but think of how easy this is for you if you’re a native English speaker. Then just imagine how challenging it is for someone from a non-European language group trying to gain fluency in the English language.

I love words, and I love thinking about the history and usage of words. I’m limited by really only knowing one language, American English, but I do try to have fun with it.

How about you? What word fun have you got going on today?

Oh, yes, one more thing: Be sure to get out and vote if you are qualified and able. That’ll be the most political I’ll get here. (I have another blog where I do tend to get more political if you’re interested.)