One of my high school English teachers once told our class that there were only two guarantees in life - death and taxes. It does seem that life is full of exceptions, things that don’t quite apply all the time. Here is my A to Z list of Exceptions.
A Adverbs. Adverbs are words that describe verbs, they explain how you do something. You write neatly, drive carefully, jog slowly. Most adverbs end with “-ly.” Exceptions to that rule include “friendly, lovely, hourly, leisurely.”
B Breakfast. We grow up thinking that certain foods are eaten in the morning for breakfast. Not necessarily. Especially when restaurants such as IHOP allow you to enjoy pancakes any time of the day or night.
C Chips. Generally, we hear “chips” we think “potato chips.” But there are exceptions. Chips may refer to poker chips, chocolate chips, or banana chips.
D Dress. Women certainly have more options available to them - skirts and dresses, pants and shorts. To compensate, sizes vary widely for women’s clothing, though not for men’s, it seems. A woman, most likely, needs to try on an item of clothing before purchasing. A size “large” by one manufacturer may fit differently than a size large by another manufacturer. However, men can shop merely by size - pick up an XL shirt and jeans with a certain waist-size and know that those items will fit.
E Emotional expressions. Traditionally, we smile when we’re happy and cry when we’re sad. But, there are the exceptions. Times we express our profound happiness with “tears of joy” and we laugh because we’re scared or nervous.
F Flight. We learn that birds have beaks and they fly. Not necessarily. Not all birds have been granted the ability to fly. Those exceptions include penguins, turkeys, and ostriches.
G Grown-Up. Children anticipate each birthday, waiting for the day they will be a “grown-up.” When I turned eighteen, I became an adult in some ways and not in others. I was old enough to join the armed forces and fight for my country. I could vote. I could not order a margarita nor could I put a quarter in a slot machine in Las Vegas.
H Hue. Color isn’t steadfast; there are exceptions. Leaves aren’t always green. Gold isn’t always yellow (white gold), and chocolate isn’t always brown (white chocolate).
I Iceland. It is my understanding that “Iceland” is a misnomer. From what I’ve read, Iceland has less ice than Greenland. Names aren’t always descriptive, as in this case.
J Junior. That moniker only works for males. Some famous examples include - Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Downey Jr., Harry Connick Jr., and Sammy Davis Jr. Women don’t have this option available to them.
K Kilt. My maiden name is Scottish in origin, but I still can’t envision my dad wearing a kilt. Although a kilt is the exception to the widely held rule that men don’t wear skirts.
L Library. I’m a library girl - volunteered in my high school library during my lonely lunch hours and worked in a public library for a few years during college. And thankfully, libraries still exist. Libraries are the exception in our society - a place that is (largely) free, a place that doesn’t pressure you to spend any money, a place that allows you to borrow things without leaving behind your car keys or credit card. A place that celebrates the written word and the honor system.
M Months. How do you calculate how long a month is? 4 weeks, usually, with 7 days in each week means 28 days. But really, the only month that limits itself to 28 days is February. Most months actually consist of 31 days.
N Names. It used to be much easier to determine a student’s gender by looking at their first names. “Jordan” and “Maxwell” may not be boys. Two different years, two different students answered to the name “London” - one a boy, one a girl.
O Oxen. Deer, sheep, children, and feet. These words are “irregular plurals” - exceptions to the rule that plurals have an “s” at the end. When my students ask me “Why?” I tell them the truth, “I don’t know.” I really don’t know who decided we shouldn’t say “sheeps” or “oxes” (We say “foxes” after all).
P Phonemic Awareness. It has been said that English is one of the most difficult languages to learn. I think it’s because of all the exceptions. The letters “gh” often sound like “f” as in “rough” or “tough.” Yet, you take those same letters, “gh,” and put them in another word, “through” and they sound completely different. Likewise, the letter “c” doesn’t always sound like the letter “k” as in camera; instead, the letter “c” sometimes sounds more like the letter “s” as in Cinderella.
Q Quitting. It’s not always a good thing. We’re taught to not give up, to stick it out. Except, when we’re quitting smoking or any other bad habit. Then, quitting is celebrated.
R Renowned individuals. Famous people change the rules. They don’t have to use capital letters to write their name (think of the poet e.e. cummings). They don’t have to use a first and last name (think Madonna and Cher).
S Spelling. I tell my students that the English language is challenging because of all the spelling exceptions. “i before e except after c.” We usually teach students to “drop the e” before adding “-ing” as with “care, caring.” Except, “canoe” becomes “canoeing.” Many suffixes are simply added to words “pain + ful” becomes “painful.” Except “nine + th” becomes “ninth.”
T Taxes. Turns out there’s an exception to my English teacher’s philosophy. Yes, there are taxes, but even within the state of California, different cities have different sales tax rates which means the same product can cost more in one city than another.
U Umbrellas. They’re a rainy-day accessory. Except, when it’s sunny and then some people choose to use them to block the sun.
V Vermilion, crimson, ruby, red. Pick your synonym, but it’s a color with many exceptions. Red is the color associated with fire and danger, love and valentines, ladybugs and strawberries, passion, and feng shui.
W Weather. Living in Southern California makes explaining the seasons to my toddler son a bit more challenging. Usually, winter is described as “cold, snowy, rainy.” Usually, but not always, as viewers of the annual Rose Parade in Pasadena will attest when they look with envy at our blue skies.
X X-Rays. Most times a patient only experiences an x-ray because something is wrong and doctors are trying to determine exactly what is wrong or how wrong it really is. The exception to that rule is dental x-rays. Dentists perform periodic x-rays not because something has been determined to already be wrong, but just in case something is wrong.
Y Youth. We are young, itching to be older. Old enough to stay up late, wear lipstick, do what we want to do. We want to be grown-ups, have freedom, have fun (isn’t that what children think?). Then, we become adults, and women especially, want their youth again, want to be young again, try to disguise the laugh lines they have earned. Any wrinkles I have, I’ve earned. They mean I’m alive, I’m experiencing life, and I don’t think that’s anything I should be disguising. I strive to be like wine - getting better with age.
Z Zero. In most cases, zero means nothing. I have gone snowboarding zero times. I own zero motorcycles. However, in math, a zero isn’t always nothing; it can actually be quite important. There’s a big difference between $100 and $1000, and all because of that extra zero.