So You Think You Know Language?

11 Apr

  • 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).
  • The word arctic is derived from the ancient Greek word for bear, arktos. The reason is that the constellation of Ursa Major, the Great Bear, lies in the northern sky.
  • In Old English, the word with meant “against”. This meaning is still preserved in phrases such as “to fight with”.
  • No English words rhyme fully with orangesilver, or month (there are, however, some partial rhymes, or pararhymes, for these words, such as salver for silver and lozenge for orange).
  • The longest English word that contains neither A, E, I, O, nor U is rhythms.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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”.
  • The word typewriter is one of the longest that can be typed using only the top row of a standard QWERTY keyboard. Others are perpetuityproprietor, and repertoire and, if you include obscure words, the longest isrupturewort. 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.
  • 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: aftereffectsdesegregateddesegregatesreverberatedreverberates, and stewardesses.
  • 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.
  • Prior to 1974, a billion in the United States of America was different from a billion in Great Britain. An American or short scale billion was a thousand million (1,000,000,000), but a British or long scale billion was a million million (1,000,000,000,000).
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • ETYMOLOGIES
    • eon
    • 1640s, from L. aeon, from Gk. aion “age, vital force, lifetime,” from PIE base *aiw- “vital force, life, long life, eternity” (cf. Skt. ayu “life,” Avestan ayu “age,” L. aevum “space of time, eternity,” Goth. aiws “age, eternity,” O.N. ævi “lifetime,” Ger. ewig “everlasting,” O.E. a “ever, always”).
    • earring
    • O.E. earhring, from ear + hring (see ring (n.)). Now including any sort of ornament in the ear; the pendants were originally ear-drops (1720).
    • “The two groups which had formerly a near monopoly on male earrings were Gypsies and sailors. Both has the usual traditions about eyesight [see ear (1)], but it was also said that sailors’ earrings would save them from drowning, while others argued that should a sailor be drowned and washed up on some foreign shore, his gold earrings would pay for a proper Christian burial.” [“Dictionary of English Folklore”]
    • seraph
    • 1667, first used by Milton (probably on analogy of cherub/cherubim), singular back-formation from O.E.seraphim (pl.), from L.L. seraphim, from Gk. seraphim, from Heb. seraphim (only in Isa. vi), pl. of *saraph(which does not occur in the Bible), probably lit. “the burning one,” from saraph “it burned.” Seraphs were traditionally regarded as burning or flaming angels, though the word seems to have some etymological sense of “flying,” perhaps from confusion with the root of Ar. sharafa “be lofty.” Some scholars identify it with a word found in other passages interpreted as “fiery flying serpent.”

      serum

      • 1672, “watery animal fluid,” from L. serum “watery fluid, whey,” from PIE base *ser-/*sor- “to run, flow” (cf. Gk.oros “whey;” Skt. sarah “flowing,” sarit “brook, river”). First applied 1893 to blood serum used in medical treatments.

      INTELLIGENT INTELLIGENCES

      1. “The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.”—Anonymous
      2. Albert Einstein’s last words will never be known. He spoke them in German, a language that the attending nurse didn’t speak and so couldn’t recall what was said.
      3. Only 1% of the population has a “genius” IQ, one of 140 or higher.
      4. Up to half of all North Americans with a genius IQ (140 or higher) never graduate high school.
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        4 Responses to “So You Think You Know Language?”

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        2. LitPattIcet May 15, 2010 at 4:30 AM #

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        3. Avatarati April 12, 2010 at 11:40 AM #

          Interesting post. I actually searched all over for a rhyme to silver after reading this…sure enough – no rhymes lol.

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