English: Fun Facts

englishENGLISH is a fascinating language. Its history and growth, its little secrets, and its idiosyncrasies all make up an interesting structure people love to love.

It is the language with the richest and widest-ranging vocabulary. The Oxford English Dictionary numbers over 500,000 words and when regional and technical vocabulary sets are also considered, English vocabulary can boast of over a million distinct words. Did you know these facts;

  • English is the most widely spoken language on Earth. About 375 million people have
  • English as their mother tongue while about 750 million speak English as a second language.
  • English syllable has a vowel, but not necessarily a consonant.
  • The consonant with the most English words using it as the initial letter is the letter S.
  • One in four people is capable of speaking English with a satisfactory competence level.
  • Wherever you might be in the world there’s a 25% chance you will find someone you can easily communicate in English with!english3
  • The letter cluster “ough” has many different English pronunciations. Can you pronounce these correctly? Dough, rough, plough, thoughtful, slough, through, coughed.
  • There are only four widely used English words ending in -dous: hazardous, tremendous, horrendous, and stupendous. Technical and less commonly-used words exist, however, such as apodous and phyllocladous.
  • The world of the Internet is primarily built and conducted in English. It’s the language most Internet users use online.
  • Half the scientific publications and journals are in English which makes it easier for English speaking professionals to access the latest research.
  • If you’re spelling out number words in English, you will have to spell a number above 99 to use a word that’s spelled with an ‘a’!
  • There’s a reason why English is notorious for its pronunciation, and it’s aptly illustrated by this sentence: I deserted my dessert in the middle of the desert.
  • Eggplants have no eggs and hamburgers contain no ham, and if you’ve ever tasted pineapple, it tastes nothing like either pine or apple! However, English is a creative and illustrative language.
  • Shakespeare often invented words in order to capture the concepts he wished to describe. He came up with these words, among others: compromise, champion, lackluster, gust and dwindle.
  • The English language is officially getting larger by about 4,000 words each year, based on the amount of words officially added to dictionaries annually. All the more reason to help children improve their English skills with software like Ultimate Vocabulary.
  • The most common letter in English is “e”.
  • The most common vowel in English is “e”, followed by “a”.
  • The most common consonant in English is “r”, followed by “t”.
  • Every syllable in English must have a vowel (sound). Not all syllables have consonants.
  • Only two English words in current use end in “-gry”. They are “angry” and “hungry”.
  • The word “bookkeeper” (along with its associate “bookkeeping”) is the only unhyphenatedimages
  • English word with three consecutive double letters. Other such words, like “sweet-toothed”, require a hyphen to be readily readable.
  • The word “triskaidekaphobia” means “extreme fear of the number 13”. This superstition is related to “paraskevidekatriaphobia”, which means “fear of Friday the 13th”.
  • More English words begin with the letter “s” than with any other letter.
  • A preposition is always followed by a noun (ie noun, proper noun, pronoun, noun group, gerund).
  • The word “uncopyrightable” is the longest English word in normal use that contains no letter more than once.
  • A sentence that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet is called a “pangram”.
  • The following sentence contains all 26 letters of the alphabet: “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” This sentence is often used to test typewriters or keyboards.
  • The only word in English that ends with the letters “-mt” is “dreamt” (which is a variant spelling of “dreamed”) – as well of course as “undreamt” 🙂
  • A word formed by joining together parts of existing words is called a “blend” (or, less commonly, a “portmanteau word”). Many new words enter the English language in this way. Examples are “brunch” (breakfast + lunch); “motel” (motorcar + hotel); and “guesstimate” (guess + estimate). Note that blends are not the same as compounds or compound nouns, which form when two whole words join together, for example: website, blackboard, darkroom.
  • The word “alphabet” comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha, bēta.
  • The dot over the letter “i” and the letter “j” is called a “superscript dot”.
  • In normal usage, the # symbol has several names, for example: hash, pound sign, number sign.
  • In English, the @ symbol is usually called “the at sign” or “the at symbol”.
  • If we place a comma before the word “and” at the end of a list, this is known as an “Oxford comma” or a “serial comma”. For example: “I drink coffee, tea, and wine.”
  • Some words exist only in plural form, for example: glasses (spectacles), binoculars, scissors, shears, tongs, gallows, trousers, jeans, pants, pyjamas (but note that clothing words often become singular when we use them as modifiers, as in “trouser pocket”).
  • The shortest complete sentence in English is the following. “I am.”
  • The word “Checkmate” in chess comes from the Persian phrase “Shah Mat” meaning “the king is helpless”.i-before-e
  • We pronounce the combination “ough” in 9 different ways, as in the following sentence which 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.”
  • The longest English word without a true vowel (a, e, i, o or u) is “rhythm”.
  • The only planet not named after a god is our own, Earth. The others are, in order from the Sun, Mercury, Venus, [Earth,] Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune.
  • There are only 4 English words in common use ending in “-dous”: hazardous, horrendous, stupendous, and tremendous.
  • We can find 10 words in the 7-letter word “therein” without rearranging any of its letters: the, there, he, in, rein, her, here, ere, therein, herein.
  • The “QWERTY keyboard” gains its name from the fact that its first 6 letter keys are Q, W, E, R, T and Y. On early typewriters the keys were arranged in such a way as to minimize the clashing of the mechanical rods that carried the letters.
  • The following sentence contains seven identical words in a row and still makes sense. “It is true for all that that that that that that that refers to is not the same that that that that refers to.” (= It is true for all that, that that “that” which that “that” refers to is not the same “that” which that “that” refers to)
  • “Crutch words” are words we turn to when we need to fill in time when thinking, and they’re not the best aspect of English vocabulary. These words include basically, seriously, honestly, actually and the most-loathed of all, like. Improve your communication by minimising these words in your everyday conversations! Aenglish1