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From redundant expressions to weird word origins, we count 50 strange and interesting facts about the English language!
‘Shit’ is one of the oldest and most versatile words in the English language, with roots in Germanic and Scandinavian languages and a recorded history dating back at least as far as 1086. It originally meant ‘cattle diarrhoea’.
A ‘pangram’ is a sentence that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet. The following sentence is the most famous example: ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.’ It is often used to test typewriters or keyboards.
An ‘Oxford’ or ‘serial’ comma is a one that is placed immediately before a coordinating conjunction at the end of a list. Coordinating conjunctions include ‘and’, ‘or’, or ‘nor’.
‘Shivviness’ is an old Yorkshire word for the uncomfortable feeling of wearing new underwear. ‘Shiv’ is an old word for thick, coarse wool or linen.
Approximately one new word is added to the English language every two hours. At this rate, the dictionary grows by about 4,000 words a year.
The proper name for cutting your own hair is self-tonsorialism. ‘Tonsorialist’ is an old-world word that encompasses several professions, including barber.
The longest Modern English word without a true vowel (a, e, i, o or u) is ‘rhythms’. There are thought to be several longer archaic words, like the obsolete 17th Century words ‘symphysy’ and ‘twyndyllyngs’.
An autological word is one that describes itself — like unhyphenated or short. The shortest complete sentence in English is the following. ‘I am.’
‘Gadzookery’, also called ‘tushery’, is the deliberate use of old-fashioned language in modern writing. It comes from the exclamation ‘gadzooks’, which some suggest is an alteration of ‘God’s hooks’, the nails of Christ’s crucifixion.
When weather turns bad, an ‘ombrifuge’ is anything or anywhere that provides shelter from rain. If the weather ‘flenches’ it means it’s failed to improve even though it looked like it would.