#30 | 30 Interesting Facts about the English Language

30 interesting facts about the English language

This is a special episode to celebrate our 30th episode. I decided to dig into the English language and bring 30 interesting facts about the English language. Here we go:

  1. Over two billion people speak English, making it the largest language by number of speakers, and the third largest language by number of native speakers. Standard Chinese and Spanish are first and second, respectively. 
  2. English is not the official language of the United States. The country, in fact, does not have an official language. While some states have named English as the official language, the US central government has made no such declaration. English is, however, the most common language spoken nationwide.
  3. Of the ten most widely spoken languages, English is the only one that does not have a guiding institution to set language standards. That means that while experts like to dictate language rules, they do not have any official or decisive power. So what we know and teach as “official” is really just what we are taught in school and continue to use in everyday situations.
  4. The phrase “long time no see” is believed to be a literal translation of a Native American or Chinese phrase as it is not grammatically correct, but widely accepted as a fixed expression.
  5. “Go!” is the shortest grammatically correct sentence in English.
  6. Nearly 4,000 new words are added every year to the Oxford English Dictionary. Such fast growth is also largely the result of technology, which has led to several new words and new uses for old ones. Social media, too, is quickly spreading new words through the general public, which then leads to the words appearing in dictionaries.
  7. The most commonly used adjective is good.
  8. The longest English word without a true vowel is “rhythm”.
  9. The word “alphabet” comes from the first two letters of the Greek alphabet: alpha, bēta.
  10. More English words begin with the letter ‘S’ than any other letter of the alphabet.
  11. The letter ‘E’ is most commonly used in the English language; 1 out of 8 of all the letters written in English is ‘e’.
  12. The word ‘set’ has the highest number of definitions.
  13. ‘Pronunciation’ is the word which is most mispronounced in the English language!
  14. The oldest Old English word still used today that has the same direct meaning is ‘town’.
  15. English is the official language of the sky! It doesn’t matter which country they are from, all pilots speak in English on international flights.
  16. There was no word for the colour orange until about 450 years ago.
  17. Month, orange, silver, and purple do not rhyme with any other word.
  18. Some English words exist only in plural form. For example, jeans, glasses, pants, pajamas.
  19. The first English dictionary was written in 1755.
  20. A pangram is a sentence that uses every letter in the alphabet. For example, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”.
  21. Crutch words refer to the words that we use a lot, but that don’t add any value to the sentence, such as these words that are often used to begin a sentence: ‘actually’, ‘honestly’ and ‘basically’.
  22. It’s hard to believe, but if you wrote out every single number in order, you wouldn’t use the letter “b” until you reached the word “billion”. 
  23. Shakespeare invented or introduced over 17,000 words, by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words that had never been used before, adding prefixes and suffixes and creating original words. Lonely, elbow, luggage and fashionable are some examples of the words Shakespeare invented.
  24. The word ‘Goodbye’ originally comes from an Old English phrase meaning ‘god be with you’.
  25. Many English words have changed their meaning over time – for example, ‘awful’ used to mean ‘inspiring wonder’ and was a short version of ‘full of awe’, whereas ‘nice’ used to mean ‘silly’.
  26. English used to have 29 letters instead of the current 26.
  27. English has more words than most languages. There are currently about an estimated one million words in the English language.
  28. The average English speaker only knows between 20,000 and 30,000 words.
  29. The closest living language to English today is Frisian. Frisian is a language currently spoken in just three small areas of Germany and the Netherlands.
  30. The English language has been developing for more than 1,400 years. No wonder it’s such a weird (and fascinating!) language. Old English first came into use way back in the 5th Century AD. Back then, it was a mixture of German dialects with some very old Celtic words, as well as other words that came from Latin. Since then the language has come on a very long journey to evolve into the modern English you hear today!

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