Thursday, June 05, 2008

Dsylexic Language Nerds, Untie!

Here are some of my favorite language facts, quirks and fun moments:

Think about it …
  • A guy on the street waved to me, then said “I’m sorry, I thought you were someone else.” “I said ‘I am.’ ” (Dmitri Martin)
  • In school, every period ends with a bell. Every sentence ends with a period. Every crime ends with a sentence. (Steven Wright)
  • I went to a general store. They wouldn't let me buy anything specifically. (Steven Wright)

Books are not light entertainment
  • The Main Library at Indiana University sinks over an inch every year because when it was built, engineers failed to take into account the weight of all the books that would occupy the building.
  • Isaac Asimov is the only author to have a book in every Dewey-decimal category.

Accident, or intentional?
  • The name of all the continents end with the same letter that they start with.
  • The Shakespeare code: It is believed that Shakespeare was 46 around the time that the King James Version of the Bible was written. In Psalms 46, the 46th word from the first word is shake and the 46th word from the last word is spear.
  • "Typewriter" is the longest word that can be made using the letters only one row of the keyboard. “Keyboard” uses all three rows. (First novel ever written on a typewriter: Tom Sawyer.)
  • Anagram: The United States of America = Attaineth its cause, freedom
  • Anagram: Raiders of the Lost Ark = Ford, the Real Star, is OK
  • The word "monosyllable" actually has five syllables in it

Sound it out
  • No English words rhyme fully with orange, silver, or month
  • The "ee" sound ( [i] ) has seven spellings, and the "ough" combination can be pronounced nine different ways. All spellings and pronunciations can be demonstrated in just two sentences:
  • "He believed Caesar could see people seizing the seas." "A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed."
  • Can you think of a word with six consonants in a row? There are none with more than six. Here’s one: “latchstring.” (Can’t think of another? There are two. Note: “lethologica” means not being able to remember the word you want.)
  • Which words not only contain all vowels, but have them in the correct order? Facetious, abstemious and arsenious (“containing arsenic.”)

Size doesn’t matter?
  • The only 15 letter word that can be spelled without repeating a letter is "uncopyrightable."
  • Two 45-letter words are the longest in the English language (Oxford English Dictionary). The first is “pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.” The second? “Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconioses,” its plural.
  • Is "I am" the shortest complete sentence in the English language? Nope. The shortest complete sentence in the English language is "Go."

Meaningful or not?
  • The word “nerd” was first coined by Dr. Seuss in “If I ran the Zoo.”
  • The word "time" is the most common noun in the English language. We need to slow down!
  • Anagram: Listen = Silent (Note: A cat has 32 muscles in each ear.)
  • Anagram: Eleven plus two = Twelve plus one (If that doesn’t surprise you, this will: 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321)
  • A walla-walla scene is one where extras pretend to be talking in the background -- when they say "walla-walla" it looks (and somewhat sounds) like they are actually talking.
  • Is there another word for Thesaurus? (Steven Wright)
  • Anagram: Dictionary = Indicatory

Broken English, or greater truth?
  • On the door of a Moscow hotel room: If this is your first visit to the USSR, you are welcome to it.
  • In a Belgrade hotel elevator: Please leave your values at the front desk.
  • In a Zurich hotel: Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.

I don’t think that means what you think it means
  • The verb "cleave" has two opposite meanings. It can mean to adhere or to separate.
  • Seemingly contradictory synonyms: flammable/inflammable; toxicant/intoxicant.
  • Until the seventeenth century the word "upset" meant to set up (i.e. erect) something. Now it means the opposite: "to capsize".
  • What is “Etaoin Shrdlu?” The twelve most common letters in English, in order of most frequently used to least frequently used.

Just for fun: Want to talk to someone who replies in anagrams made from what you've said? Me neither. But it's fun to see how conversations unfold at Sternest Meanings.

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