Yes, we all speak English (if you’re reading this, then it’s a self-fulfilling statement). But how often do you question where the words came from that you’re using or how unique they might be compared to other words? What am I getting at, you might be wondering. Well, I think that’s fairly obvious from the title of this post.
Here are fifteen uniquely interesting facts about English words for your reading pleasure. If you have your own interesting facts, by all means, please share!
1. What came first, the orange or orange?
There was no word for the color orange in English until about 450 years ago (yes, the fruit came first).
2. Wonder why they shortened it…
In the 17th century, magpies were nicknamed pie-maggots.
3. People with long arms don’t have this important body part
The part of your back that you can’t quite reach to scratch is called the acnestis. It’s derived from the Greek word for “cheese-grater.”
4. More sacred than the Bible
To “testify” was based on men in the Roman court swearing to a statement… by swearing on their testicles.
5. An explosive performance
To explode originally meant “to jeer a performer off the stage.”
6. I bet Kanye will tell you he could do it
No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver or purple.
7. Rock no longer beats scissors
A scissor was originally a type of Roman gladiator thought to have been armed either with a pair of swords or blades, or with a single dual-bladed dagger.
8. I like this better
Scarecrows were once known as hobidy-boobies.
9. Just use a cup
The bowl formed by cupping your hands together is called a gowpen.
10. Unless you’re not a good typist
‘Stewardesses’ is the longest word that is typed with only the left hand
11. Internet forums are rife with these
A zoilist is an unfair or unnecessarily harsh critic, or someone who particularly enjoys finding fault in things.
12. You ought to know this
The combination “ough” can be pronounced in nine different ways. The following sentence contains them all: “A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed.”
13. Back when women wrote about manly things
The earliest known reference to baseball in English comes from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey (1798).
14. Get your stopwatches out
In medieval Europe, a moment was precisely 1/40th of an hour, or 90 seconds.
15. Impress your friends with your wealth of knowledge on candle-based trivia.
The burnt or used part of a candlewick is called the snaste.