English is weird. There is no denying it. As one of the most fluid languages in terms of its continued evolution over time, it has historically been quite a difficult language to learn. And yet, it is considered the world’s universal language. Below are 10 fun facts you may not have known about English:
- Kids who have ever looked up the longest word in English have probably found antidisestablishmentarianism - clocking in at 28 letters. This word refers to being against the dismantling of the church, and it is often cited as one of the longest English words. Even longer, although less likely to be encountered in conversation or writing outside of specific scientific contexts, is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, which, at 45 letters, names a lung disease.
- The first word in the English dictionary is “a”, the indefinite singular article. The first animal to appear in the dictionary (based on the alphabetical order of words) is aardvark. (In Scrabble, aa is probably your best bet when you are trying to get rid of vowels and score the least number of points. Aa is a kind of lava). To learn about the highest Scrabble score ever recorded, click here.
- The last word in the Oxford English Dictionary as of 2017 is zyzzyva (a breed of tropical weevil).
- The shortest word to include all five vowels (a, e, i, o, and u) is euonia, which derives from ancient Greek for “beautiful thinking” (according to the New Oxford American Dictionary).
- Two of the more oft-used words in English that contain all vowels (including “y”) in alphabetical order are facetiously (as in a manner of speaking that is not meant to be taken seriously) and abstemiously (resisting the temptation of food and drink), although more obscure examples exist.
- The longest word with only one vowel in English is strengths.
- The word with the most definitions right now is set, although run is expected to overtake it in the next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (to be released in 2037).
- A pangram is a sentence that contains every letter of the alphabet, the most well-known of which in English is “the quick, brown fox jumped over the lazy dog.”
- The word used most often in English is the definite article “the”. And “you” is more common than “I”.
- New words and meanings are added to the OED every three months. Its most recent update from June 2019 officially added the words bae and yeesh to the dictionary.
Cambridge Coaching tutor Alison, has always loved reading and writing; at Brown University, she studied Comparative Literature and Italian Studies. While studying abroad for a year at the University of Bologna in Italy, she tutored English as a Second Language to Italian children, and that experience clarified her desire to pursue teaching. Alison graduated magna cum laude with honors for her senior thesis about children in adult literature who grow up too quickly; she remained at Brown for a fifth year to complete a Master of Arts in Teaching Secondary English program.
After returning to Italy to teach English for a year at a prestigious classical Italian high school in Bergamo, Alison is happy to be back close to home, teaching high school English in Acton (at her own high school rival!). She also teaches a community education ESL class for adults. With extensive writing and editing experience, she has worked with children as well as adults in ESL and English reading comprehension and writing, including for college admissions essays and SAT and AP exams. Alison also enjoys working with students on their ISEE and SSAT exams for middle school and high school admissions. She also created and contributed regular posts to a grammar blog. What she loves most about teaching is the opportunity to be surprised by the insight borne of her students’ questions and comments.
Are you an English lover? Looking to brush up on English? Or needing help in a current English class? Take a look at some other insightful and helpful blog posts below!