English In All Its Quirky Glory: Fun Facts
The English language is as fascinating as it is infuriating with its rules and regulations, odd spellings and colourful words. It contains plenty of loanwords from other languages and is a product of a wide range of Germanic languages and the influence of many others. All that makes for some really interesting and quirky facts that you may not even know about. Here is a look at some fun facts about the language we speak, listen to read and write every day.
The longest word
Even if you haven’t watched the movie Mary Poppins, you’re likely familiar with the word “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” It’s part of a song that claims the word is atrocious and if you say it loud enough, you’ll always sound precocious. Well, that seemingly made up word for the movie eventually made it into the dictionary and it means “fantastic.” But while it’s pretty long, it actually isn’t the longest word at all! That honour belongs to “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanokoniosis”, which is a type of lung disease caused by inhaling ash and dust. I’ll spare you the counting: there are 45 letters in it. On the flipside, “I” is the shortest (and oldest) English word.
“So then, I was like, ‘How could you like to that to her?’ and he was totally like, “I’m really sorry!’ It was, like honestly, the worst.” No, this isn’t a part of a script from Clueless, but it is a great example of something called a crutch word. These are words we tend to use that add absolutely no meaning or value to a sentence. The obvious crutch word here is “like”. There are many others including some you may use such as “actually”, “honestly” and “basically”.
Let’s Talk Letters
It likely isn’t very surprising to learn that “E” is the most commonly used letter in the English language. As many as one in eight of all the letters written in English is “E”. Speaking of vowels such as “E”, the word “Queueing” is the only English word with five consecutive vowels in a row. But when it comes to the start of words, more English words begin with the consonant “S” than any other letter in the alphabet.
Sound It Out
There are many ways to spell the “ee” sound. For example, this sentence contains seven different spellings of it: “He believed Caesar could see people seizing the seas.” Speaking of sounds, did you know you can pronounce “ough” in English in nine different ways? Here’s a sentence that contains all of them: “A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed.”
At Centennial College’s General Arts and Science – English for Academic Purposes program, students may not learn about the word “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” but they do learn, in a supportive college environment, to develop effective academic communication skills in the key areas of reading, writing, listening and speaking. These Arts and Science students also have access to handy tools such as the library and tutors.
Written by: Izabela Szydlo