Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Interesting Facts About "English"

Tonight I received a poem from my sister on face book. We like to write silly things to each other all the time. As I was writing her back, I need a word to rhyme with "fever", and googled it. Well, I found my word (cleaver), but also found this interesting website that I thought I would share. I just copied and pasted it, so please excuse the lack of neatness. I'm still sick and don't really care to put a lot of work into it.



Interesting Facts



The oldest words in the English language are around 14,000 years old, originating in a pre-Indo-European language group called Nostratic ("our language") by experts. Words from this language group that survive in modern English include apple (apal), bad (bad), gold (gol), and tin (tin). (source)

The word arctic is derived from the ancient Greek word for bear, arktos. The reason is that constellation Ursa Major, the Great Bear, lies in the northern sky. [ The Universe | English Words ] (source)

In Old English, the word with meant "against". This meaning is still preserved in phrases such as "to fight with". (source)

No English words rhyme fully with orange, silver, or month (there are, however, some partial rhymes, or pararhymes, for these words, such as salver for silver and lozenge for orange). (source)

The longest English word that contains neither A, E, I, O, nor U is rhythms. (source)

In English, the days of the week are named after the Saxon gods (except for Saturday, which is named after the Roman god of agriculture). Sunday is named after the sun, Monday after the moon, Tuesday after Tiw, Wednesday after Woden, Thursday after Thor, Friday after Frige, and Saturday after Saturn. [ Calendars | English Words ] (source)

The word boycott comes from Charles C. Boycott. He was hired by an Irish earl to collect high rents from tenant farmers who completely ignored him. (source)


The word "mile" comes from the Roman milia, "thousands". The Romans measured distances in paces, which were about five feet. So, milia passum, 1,000 paces or about 5,000 feet, was the length of a mile. [ The Roman Empire | English Words | Numbers and Measurement ] (source)

Part of a Roman soldier's pay was called salarium argentium, "salt money", which was used to buy the then-precious commodity, and so pay today is called a "salary". (source)

The word typewriter is one of the longest that can be typed using only the top row of a standard QWERTY keyboard. Others are perpetuity, proprietor, and repertoire and, if you include obscure words, the longest is rupturewort. The longest word that can be typed using only the home row is alfalfas. No words can be typed using only the bottom row, because that row contains no vowels. (source)

The longest words that can be typed on a standard QWERTY keyboard using only the left hand are twelve letters long. There are six such words: aftereffects, desegregated, desegregates, reverberated, reverberates, and stewardesses. (source)

The word slave comes from Slav, the name of a group of Eastern European peoples. In antiquity, Germanic tribes captured Slavs and sold them to the Romans as slaves. The Latin word for slave, addict, has become the English word for someone dependent on something harmful. [ Slavery | English Words ] (source)

"Journal" does not have any letters in common with the Latin word from which it is derived: dies, "day." Intermediate steps in the word's development include the Latin diurnus, the Italian giorno, and the French jour. (source)

The quark, a building block of the proton, got its name from James Joyce's Finnegans Wake, from the line "Three quarks for Muster Mark! Sure he hasn't got much of a bark". [ English Words | Books and Literature | Physics ] (source)


The word "uptown" was in use before the word "downtown" was. Both words were originally used to describe parts of Manhattan. [ Place Names | English Words ] (source)

A group of magpies is called a tiding, one of ravens an unkindness, one of turtledoves a pitying, one of starlings a murmuration, one of swans a lamentation, one of ponies a string, one of rattlesnakes a rhumba, one of crows a murder, one of cobras a quiver, one of foxes a skulk, one of emus a mob, one of elks a gang, one of cats a clowder, one of flamingoes a pat, and one of bears a sleuth. Groups of geese are named in a peculiar manner; when they are on the ground they are called a "gaggle", but in the air they are called a "skein". [ Animals | English Words ] (source)


Viking ships were steered by rudders on the right side, which the Vikings called styrbord, Old Norse for "steer side", from which the English word "starboard" comes. The Vikings docked their ships on the left side, which they called the ladebord, the "loading side". This eventually became the English "larboard", which sounded so much like "starboard" that it caused problems. Eventually, the British Admiralty ordered that the left side be known as the "port" side. [ Vikings | English Words ] (source)

The word "daisy" comes from the Old English "daeges eage", meaning "the eye of the day", as it reminded people of the sun.

Many European advances during the Middle Ages were made possible by the Moorish occupation of Spain. The most important was the use of Arabic numerals. The Moors also brought other discoveries to Europe, which is reflected by the fact that words such as "algebra", "lute", and "magazine" are of Arabic origin. The Moors also introduced to Europe the game of chess. [ The Middle Ages | English Words | Numbers and Measurement ]

The verb "cleave" has two opposite meanings. It can mean to adhere or to separate.


The words "beef" and "cow" come from the same Indo-European root.

A billion in America is different from a billion in Great Britain. An American billion is a thousand million (1,000,000,000), but a British billion is a million million (1,000,000,000,000). Most of the other names for large numbers are also different between the U.S. and the U.K. The American names are now finding increasing usage in Great Britain, however. [ Mathematics and Mathematicians | English Words ] (source)

Until the seventeenth century the word "upset" meant to set up (i.e. erect) something. Now it means the opposite: "to capsize". (source)

According to the third edition of The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, there are 20 valid words containing no vowels. [ Sports and Games | English Words ] (source)

"Dreamt" is the only English word ending in "mt". (source)

The word "dunce", meaning a dull-witted or ignorant person, comes from the name of John Duns Scotus (1265-1308), one of the greatest minds of his time. Scotus, born in Scotland, wrote treatises on grammar, logic, metaphysics, and theology. He was educated at Cambridge and Oxford and pursued his master's degree in theology at the University of Paris where, in 1303, he became embroiled in one of the most heated disputes of the day. France's King Philip IV had moved to tax the Church in order to finance his war with England; in response, Pope Boniface VIII threatened to excommunicate him. For supporting the pope, Duns Scotus was banished from France. He later assumed a university professorship in Cologne. The term "dunce" was coined two centuries later by people who disagreed with Scotus' teachings and his defence of the papacy. To them, any of his followers (a "Duns man" or "Dunce") was dull-witted, "incapable of scholarship and stupid". (source)

The word "kindergarten" comes from the German for "children's garden". Friedrich Froebel, who coined the term, originally was planning to use the term "Kleinkinderbeschäftigungsanstalt" instead. (source)
The first use of the word "robot" to describe advanced humanlike machines was in 1920, in R.U.R., an early science fiction play. It comes from the Czech word robota, meaning "compulsory labour". (source)

The word "tragedy" is derived from two Greek words meaning "goat song".

The word "abracadabra" originated in Roman times as part of a prayer to the god Abraxas.

The largest number in the English language that with a word naming it is a googolplex, which is 1010^100, which would be written as 1 followed by 10100 zeroes. [ English Words | Numbers and Measurement ]

One of the possible etymologies for the word "lackey" is from the Arabic al-qadi, meaning "the judge".

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