21 Delightful Facts About The English Language

Word nerds assemble!

1. The first letters of the months separating June and December spell ‘JASON’.

July, August, September, October, November.

2. “Shit” is one of our oldest words, and used to mean “cattle diarrhoea”.

Universal / reddit.com

The word has its roots in Germanic and Scandinavian languages, and we’ve been saying it since at least 1086. Skidbrooke in Lincolnshire and Sherbourn Lane in London were both originally named for being “shit streams”.

3. The chess term “checkmate” comes from a 14th century Arabic phrase, “shah mat”, which means “the king is helpless”.

Flickr: striatic / Creative Commons

4. Earth is the only planet in our solar system that’s not named after a god.

Flickr: 11304375@N07 / Creative Commons

The others are Mars, Venus, Uranus, Jupiter, Mercury, Saturn and Neptune (Pluto RIP).

5. English is the official language of the skies, and all pilots, regardless of their country of origin, identify themselves in English on international flights.

Dreamworks / j-g-l.tumblr.com

6. English is the third most commonly spoken language in the world (the first and second are Mandarin Chinese and Spanish).

7. More English words begin with the letter “S” than any other letter of the alphabet.

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8. “Typewriter” is one of the longest common words you can type on the top row of a typewriter.

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The others include “proprietor”, “repertoire”, and “perpetuity”.

9. English is mainly a mix of Old High German, Old Norse, and Anglo-Norman. We only started speaking recognisable Modern English in the 14th Century.

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10. The past tense of “dare” is “durst”.

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11. The closest languages to English are Dutch and West Flemish.

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12. “I” is the oldest word in the English language.

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13. The game of marbles gave us the phrase “knuckle down” (placing your knuckles on the floor lined up a better shot).

14. “Juke” as in “jukebox” may be derived from a West African word for “disorderly” or a Scots word for “dance”. No one really knows.


15. The dot above the letters “i” and “j” is called a superscript dot.

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16. “Almost” is one of the longest English words to have all its letters in alphabetical order.

17. Approximately one new word is added to the English language every two hours.

Flickr: jvk / Creative Commons

18. And the dictionary grows by about 4,000 words a year.

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19. Most English grammar and spelling follow the standardised rules set out in Dr Johnson’s Dictionary, which was published in 1755.

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20. Only two modern English words end in “-gry”: “angry” and “hungry”.

21. Many people believe that the word “testify” originated in Roman times, when men swore on their testicles. Unfortunately this is not true.

Flickr: whizchickenonabun / Creative Commons

So sad.

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