18 Surprising And Odd Things You Never Knew About The English Language

What even is this crazy tongue we speak? posted on

1. First off, the Oxford English Corpus currently contains over 2 billion words.

OH MY GOD SO MANY.

2. The average person, though, is likely to know only about 50,000 of them.

New Line Cinema / Via giphy.com

3. That might be because the ten most common lemmas (base forms of a word) in English make up 25% of all words used.

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Those lemmas are the, be, to, of, and, a, in, that, have, and I.

Seriously, just try to write a paragraph that doesn’t contain any form of those words.

4. Words have lifespans that can range from fewer than 1,000 years up to 20,000 years.

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A word like “throw” is expected to have a lifespan of about 1,000 years, while words like “I” and “who” are likely to reach the 20,000 year mark.

5. It is estimated that a new word is created every 98 minutes.

So maybe “plobnrg” will be an actual word by the time you’ve finished reading this.

6. “You” is the 18th most common word in English, while “me” only clocks in at number 50.

I guess English speakers are just really selfless people. Or something.

7. There are over 50 countries around the world that use English as an official language, including Ghana, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

Miramax Films / Via rebloggy.com

That’s around 1/4 of all countries in the world.

8. The dot above a lowercase “i” or “j” is called a “tittle.”

AKA the greatest word in the English language.*

*this claim is technically unsubstantiated, but come on.

9. The longest word in English with all its letters in alphabetical order is “aegilops.”

“Aegilops” is a genus of plants in the grass family Poaceae. The more you know.

10. According to researchers at Reading University, the oldest known word in English is “who,” dating back more than 20,000 years.

BBC / Via giphy.com

Followed by “two,” “three,” and “I.”

11. The longest one syllable word is the ten-letter “scraunched,” found in a 1620 translation of Don Quixote.

Screeched, scratched, and a few more nine-letter words are tied for the title among more commonly used terms.

12. The longest word containing no repeating letters, including every vowel, is “uncopyrightable,” at 15 letters.

If you don’t require the word to have one of every vowel, “dermatoglyphics,” meaning “the study of skin markings,” is also 15 letters long.

13. Although most people believe the word “orange” to have no perfect rhyme, it actually does - “sporange.”

NBC / uproxx.com

NBC / uproxx.com

 

An extremely rare term, “sporange” is a botanical term referring to part of a fern.

14. The only English term ending in -mt is “dreamt,” a spelling of “dreamed” commonly used in British English.

There are two terms if you count its negative, “undreamt.”

15. There are nine words in English that contain two “u”s in a row.

The best of which, natch, is “muumuu.”

16. In 1934, Webster’s released a dictionary accidentally containing a made-up word - “dord” - that wasn’t caught until 1939.

And it actually remained in Webster’s dictionaries until 1947. So…good work fixing that mistake, guys.

17. Author Ernest Vincent Wright once wrote an entire novel - just over 50,000 words - without using the letter “e.” AT ALL.

I can’t even write one sentence without the letter “e.”

And perhaps most importantly:

18. Lexicographer Paul Dickson entered the Guinness Book of World Records by collecting 2,964 synonyms for the word “drunk,” the most synonyms collected for any one term.

Because, above all else, the English language has its priorities straight.

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