Dirt, Soil, English

English is difficult. I was working in the yard the other day. When finished I looked at my hands, arms, pants, etc., and said, “I’m dirty.” Why would I say that? When, at the end of a long work day, I don’t say, “I’m tirey.” I say, “I’m tired.” So, why wouldn’t I say, “I’m dirted” when dirty? And what about a dirty joke?

Dirt is a great word. I just sits there like an overweight, unjust king slouched on his throne. “I’m Dirt! You will obey me!” Dirt. It’s like a German name. “Mein name ist Dirt Schopenhauer!” (My apologies to Arthur Schopenhauer. That was the first German name that came into my skull.)

But what is dirt? When young I learned that it is the stuff of the ground. But then I heard someone mention that they dredged up some dirt on a certain politician. I suppose he got dirted.

Dirt is soil. Soil sounds so much better depending upon the context. For example: “The gardener reached down and buried her hands deeply into the rich soil knowing that in a few months nutritious vegetables would be the gifts that would arise from this blessed gold.” (Or something like that.)

Soil adds a sophistication to the equation. You’d never say, “…into the rich dirt…” Dirt could never be rich. Dirt is that uncle who is always drunk around noon, missing a number of important teeth, wearing a wife-beater, always with a beer in hand, gearing up to watch The Price is Right because he has no job. Soil is that other uncle who lives in a “flat” in the city and has season tickets to the symphony orchestra. Uncle Dirt drives a rusted out pickup truck. Uncle Soil doesn’t own a car. He calls a driver. Uncle Dirt yells, “Pull my finger!” whenever a pocket of gas makes its way into his large intestine and lets fly something ripe, something, well, dirty. Uncle Soil reportedly has never farted.

Wait. That brings up another problem. “I soiled myself,” said the man with a chagrined look on his face. One has never dirted himself.

So, just to make sure I did due diligence in my musings, I looked up dirt in a thesaurus. Here’s what was listed as synonyms for dirt: crap, filth, gravel, graveled, grease, grime, malicious gossip, poop, scandal, SOIL, (yes, that is there) stain, turd, and ungraded.

Synonyms for soil: begrime, bemire, colly, DIRT, DIRTY, filth, grease, grime, ground, land, and stain.

Clearly Uncle Soil is in a higher class with names like begrime and colly.

I digress. (I always digress.) Yes, English is difficult. We have three words for to, two, too. We have three words for their, there, they’re. There are unspoken implications for so many words that one can barely craft a sentence without serious ramifications.

In many respects I suppose that is what makes it fun. Therefore, I shall just plow ahead. (That’s a farmer reference regarding churning up the dirt…or the soil…or the ground…dang. Ground. Another one…)


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