How I started programming: well there was some Basic, Pascal and PHP, but I started getting serious only after encountering and trying to understand Haskell, while doing grad school for an unrelated subject. Haskell challenged me, somehow. It looked like nothing I have seen before. And playing with it had that feeling of figuring out a puzzle.
How I found Haskell: going through the list of languages that Kate or some such editor supported highlighting for. Yeah, I know.. In alphabetic order.
F# was not on the radar then, but OCaml was. I looked at it (among with Python, Ruby, you name it). I remember thinking a couple of things:
1. Syntax looks so painful
2. How do I use these command-line tools?? (it is better these days with ocalmbuild)
3. It has objects - must be another PHP-like disaster of a language
4. Given 1-3, no point in learning it
Huge mistake. OCaml is a gem. But you can see how a beginner might miss the point.
So for all good languages out there - I guess syntax does not matter that much, but great documentation does. If the syntax is strange, but the documentation explains why the language is worth learning nonetheless, a beginner might stick with it.