Amazing Facts

English Language

1. English is mainly a mix of Old High German, Old Norse, and Anglo-Norman. We only started speaking recognizable Modern English in the 14th Century.

2. 1 billion (i.e. 100 crores) people speak English. That’s 1 in every 7 on earth.

3. Nigeria has more English speakers than the United Kingdom.

4. A new English word is created every 98 minutes.

5. And the dictionary grows by about 4,000 words a year.

6. Most English grammar and spelling follow the standardized rules set out in Dr Johnson’s Dictionary , which was published in 1755. A page from Dr Johnson’s Dictionary

7. English words I,we,two and threeare among the most ancient, from thousands of years.

8. The pronoun Iis related to the Dutchword ik= I, and Germanword ich= I, and originated in an Indo-Europeanroot shared by Latinegoand Greekegō.

9. The word bridecomes from an old Proto-Germanic word meaning ‘to cook’.

10. The longest common English word without vowels is rhythms.

11. The word mortgagecomes from an Old French word which means ‘death contract’[From mort(from Latin mortuus)= ‘dead’+ gage= ‘contract’] (9)

12. The past tense of dareis ‘durst’.

13. The dot above the letters ‘i’ and ‘j’ is called a superscript dot.

14. There are more English words beginning with the letter ‘s’than with any other letter.

15. There are 24 different dialects of English in the United States.

16. Until the 19th century the English word for actors was ‘hypocrites.’ It originates in the Greekword hupocritēsmeaning ‘actor’. Hupocritēs again came from the combination of two Greekwords hupo‘under’, and krinein‘decide’,‘judge’.

17. The shortest sentence in English is go. And the second shortest sentence is ‘I am.’

18. LOLorlolis nothing but the acronym of ‘laugh out loud’.

19. LOLwas formally recognized in 2011’s update of the Oxford English Dictionary.

20. The day after tomorrow is called ‘overmorrow’. It originated in the Germanword übermorgenwhich means “the day after tomorrow”.

21. The word overcame from the German word überwhich again came from an Indo-Europeanroot. It is also the base of Latinsuper- ‘above’,‘beyond’and Greekhuper>hyper-‘over’, beyond’.

22. The word morrow originated in the German word morgenmeaning ‘morning’.

23. Shitis one of the oldest words in English, and used to mean “cattle diarrhoea”. [The word has its roots in Germanicand Scandinavianlanguages, and we’ve been saying it since at least 1086.]

24. Janus word: A word that can mean the opposite of itself is called a Janus word.The word is also called contranym,contronym, orauto-antonym. The English word is derived from the combination of a Latinand a Greekword. Contrain Latinmeans ‘against’ and nymcame from Greekonumameaning ‘a name’.

Januswords are named for the Roman god of beginnings and transitions, Janus, who is customarily pictured as having two faces.

Examples of some Janus words, or Contranyms:

i. bound : moving towards.E.g. This train isbound for Delhi.
bound : tied up, restrained from movement. E.g.Strike-bound travellers face long delays.

ii. buckle : to hold together. E.g. She buckled her belt.
buckle : to collapse, fall apart. E.g.When your knees or legs buckle or when you buckle at the knees, your knees become weak and you start to fall.

iii. citation :award for good behavior. E.g. Nimo is awardeda citation for bravery.
citation :penalty for bad behavior. E.g.The judge issued a contempt citation against the woman for violating a previous court order.

iv. cleave : to cut apart. E.g. She cleaves his skull (in two) with an axe.
cleave : to seal together. E.g.Her tongue cleaves to the roof of her mouth.

Note : Cleave can be cleaved into two “homographs,” words with different origins that end up spelled the same. “Cleave,” meaning ‘to cling to or adhere,’ comes from an Old English word that took the forms cleofian, clifian, or clīfan. “Cleave,” with the contrary meaning ‘to split or sever (something), ‘ as you might do with a cleaver, comes from a different Old English word, clēofan. The past participle has taken various forms: “cloven,” which survives in the phrase “cloven hoof,” “cleft,” as in “a cleft palate” or “cleaved.”

v. clip :attach to. E.g. Clip the pages together.
clip :cut off from. E.g. The gardener is clipping a hedge.

vi. cut :to remove. E.g. This scene was cut from the final version of the movie.
cut :to mix. E.g. He cuts illegal drugs such as heroin with other substances.

vii. dress :to add a covering. E.g.I dressed the chicken by putting a little jacket on it.
dress :to remove a covering. E.g.I dressed the chicken by removing its feathers.

viii. dust :remove dust. E.g.Could you dust the sitting room?
dust :apply dust. E.g.Dust the cake with sugar.

ix. fast :moving rapidly. E.g.He ran as fast as he could.
fast :fixed in position. E.g.He made the boat fast.

x. hardly : to almost no degree; barely at all; almost not. E.g.I could hardly hear the speaker.
hardly : with severity; harshly. E.g."The winter months would deal hardly with many of these poor folk" (William Black).

xi. left :remaining. E.g.Only two copies of these book are left.
left :having gone. E.g.His wife has left him for another man.

xii. literally :in a literal way; exactly, word for word. E.g. The word ‘planet’ literally means ‘wandering body’.
literally :figuratively, i.e. not word for word. E.g.The situation was especially grim in England where industrialism was literally swallowing the country's youth.

xiii. oversight :watchful control. E.g.The committee has oversight of finance and general policy.
oversight :something not noticed. E.g.I didn’t mean to leave her name off the list; it was an oversight.

25. A sentence that contains all 26 letters of the alphabet is called a pangram. It originates inGreekpan = ‘every’ + gramma = ‘letter’. The examples are given below:

Some Well-Known Pangrams

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.(35 letters)

This is undoubtedly the best known pangram. It contains all 26 letters of the English alphabet (as it must do in order to be a pangram) and is 35 letters long. That means that is not particularly economical with 9 surplus letters.

A keen eye will spot that the word the occurs twice, and so one of them can be considered to be composed entirely of surplus letters. Removal of either the renders the sentence less grammatically correct which is undesirable. However, either of them may be exchanged for the much shorter indefinite article, a, thus saving on 2 letters:

The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog.(33 letters) This is 33 letters in length. Pangramists have long sought the Perfect Pangrams – a 26-letter sentence containing every letter of the alphabet exactly once – with some meaningless sentences as given below:

i. Mr. Jock, TV quiz PhD, bags few lynx. (26 letters)

ii. Cwm fjord-bank glyphs vext quiz. (26 letters)

iii. Blowzy night-frumps vex’d Jack Q. (26 letters)

iv. Squdgy fez, blank jimpcrwthvox! (26 letters)

v. TV quiz drag nymphs blew JFK cox. (26 letters)

vi. Q-keltvug dwarf combs jynx phiz. (26 letters)

26. A word or phrase that reads the same backwards as forwards is called a palindrome. E.g.madam,nurses run, or Malayalam. The word comes into English from the Greekwork palindromosmeaning running back again. [fromGreekpalin‘again’+ dromo-(from Greekdramein‘to run’)].

Some Well-Known Palindromes in sentences:

Don’t bother about punctuation marks.

1. Eva, Can I Stab Bats In A Cave? (8 words, 22 letters)

2. Madam In Eden, I’m Adam (5 words, 17 letters)

3. Mr. Owl Ate My Metal Worm (6 words, 19 letters)

4. A Santa Lived As a Devil At NASA (8 words, 25 letters)

5. Dammit, I’m Mad! (3 words, 11 letters)

6. Was It A Rat I Saw? (6 words, 13 letters)

7. Do Geese See God? (4 words, 13 letters)

8. Never Odd Or Even (4 words, 14 letters)

9. Doc, Note: I Dissent. A Fast Never Prevents A Fatness. I Diet On Cod. (14 words, 52 letters)

10. Won’t I Panic In A Pit Now? (8 words, 19 letters)

English Literature

Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon

1. Did you know that some people think Shakespeare never existed?

According to one longstanding theory the literary masterpieces attributed to Shakespeare were actually written by Edward De Vere, Earl of Oxford.

2. Shakespeare’s father was accounted for a number of jobs and to your great surprise, he was once paid to taste liquor.

Shakespeare, the great dramatist of sixteenth century, was born in a farming family. His father was a tenant farmer who moved to Stratford-upon-Avon in the year 1551 and started fiddling with a number of professions. Sometimes by selling wool and leather goods or sometimes by trading with corn and malt, John Shakespeare began earning his livelihood before he was finally appointed as an official liquor taster in some reputed pub in the city. However, after he married Mary Arden, the daughter of an eminent countryman, his life seemed to witness a number of positive events. Within a few years, he started his career as a moneylender and became responsible for a plethora of municipal positions. He was quite famous as the Mayor of Stratford. In the year 1570, he started running out of money, although the reasons are still vague.

3. Shakespeare was tied in wedlock with a woman who was eight years older than him.

He was in his eighteen when got married with Anne Hathaway, a farmer’s daughter. The marriage of them was pronounced at church. Anne was three months pregnant at that time and this is probably the main reason why this marriage was quickly arranged keeping it a secret to all. After six months of the wedding, they were blessed with a baby daughter named Susanna followed by twins Judith and Hamnet. Nevertheless, most of the aspects in their story are still in dark. They were often separated from each other; still, she has been mentioned as his “second-best bed” in his will.

4. Sources say that Shakespeare’s parents were uneducated.

Although there is no true evidence for this fact, but, still it’s heard that John and Mary Shakespeare never saw the light of education. Neither they could read nor could they write. People of their status were often illiterate in the Elizabethan era. People also say that the municipal duties which he was responsible for often needed minimum literacy. But, due to the lack of this light, John Shakespeare used to just leave a mark while signing any important documentation. On the contrary, William Shakespeare was known to go in Stratford’s local grammar school from where she got the basic knowledge about English literature. Moreover, he not only mastered the reading and writing skill in English, but also adapted the Latin language very well. Quite interestingly, William who was often known as the father of English Literature had children who could hardly scribble their signature!

5. What did Shakespeare actually do between 1585 and 1592?

Although a number of biographers wrote several historical accounts on this legendary character, quite surprisingly, the phase between 1585 and 1592 is still unknown to many historians. 1585 was the year when his twins got baptised and 1592 was when he was utterly criticised by Robert Greene as an ‘upstart crow’. Still, there are many chroniclers, according to whom Shakespeare already got a huge amount of fame for his London stage acts by then. But, still there is a big question mark among the literature lovers about what the future literature Guru exactly did all throughout those seven years? Biographers have their own individual opinions. While some state he worked as a trainer in school, some happen to believe that he studied Law at that time. Again, some authentic sources say that he ran away from his hometown after he was caught pilfering deer from some prominent estate.

6. The plays of Shakespeare are the true origin of a number of familiar terms.

There is no such writer in English Literature who influenced the language like William Shakespeare. Quite surprisingly, there are many terms in our daily conversation that took their birth from those plays. The examples will startle you for sure!

“lackluster” (As You Like It)

“fashionable” (Troilus and Cressida)

“eyeball” (Midsummer Night’s Dream)

“sanctimonious” (Measure for Measure)

Also, there are few expressions of recent days which have got their derivation from his plays. Some of them include:

“one fell swoop”(Macbeth)

“foregone conclusion” (Othello)

“wild goose chase” (Romeo and Juliet)

“in a pickle” (The Tempest)

Even with the running stride of time, many of his characters like Jessica, Miranda, Beatrice, Viola, Olivia, Cordelia, Juliet etc. have now become common names of today.

7. Didn’t you ever misspell Shakespeare’s name once in your lifetime?

You probably did! A greater percentage of students never spell his name correctly. Sources have this information that the name ‘Shakespeare” can be spelt in eighty different ways. Also, there are many who happen to abbreviate his name like “WillmShakspere” and “WillmShakp”. Nevertheless, if you want to know the exact origin of the name, it’s worth mentioning that it is derived from the archaic English words “schakken” (to flaunt) and “speer” (spear) which means a challenging person.

8. Shakespeare’s epitaph reads like this:

William Shakespeare passed away at the age of fifty two. This was, however, not considered as an early death, since in that era the average life expectancy was expected between thirty five to forty five years. Still, the main reason behind his demise had never come into light. There are certain sources stating that he felt severely ill after heavy drinking with the contemporary dramatist and his fellow pal Ben Johnson. Shakespeare had his epitaph carved in a church in Stratford which reads: “Good friend, for Jesus’ sake forbeare, / To dig the dust enclosed here. Blessed be the man that spares these stones, / And cursed be he that moves my bones.”

9. Shakespeare’s hoop earring is not unknown to anyone!

The appearance of Shakespeare is probably best known as having a full beard, a thinning hairline, slackened off shirt-ties and most noticeably, a glossy gold hoop swinging from his left ear. In the Elizabethan era, earrings on men became quite famous and it was a common trend among all the people who were fond of the Bohemian lifestyle. The hallmark was supposedly instigated by sailors who happened to flaunt a single gold earring to compensate the funeral expenses, in case they drowned in the sea.

10. A wide variety of Starlings in North America owe Shakespeare a big Thanks for their existence!

To your great surprise, William Shakespeare’s most of the write-ups have around six hundred allusions of different types of birds including Starling, Doves, Swans, Turkeys and Sparrows. Starling, native to Western Asia and Europe, is best known for its unique singing and mimicry quality. In the year 1890, Eugene Schiffelin, an eminent personality from North America took the endeavour to release sixty Starlings in the Central Park of New York. Today, one hundred twenty five years later, you will find Starlings to be one of the most alluring species in the sky which might have gone to total extinction, if Shakespeare had not mentioned it in his legendary work. A great saviour indeed!

11. Some believe that the works of Shakespeare was a complete hoax!

How can a municipal employee who had never seen the tint of college education could become the most powerful writer in the world’s history? The reason is quite simple! It was his born talent that had made him a legend in front of the whole world.