Some Interesting Questions about the English Language

English is the second most spoken language after Mandarin, with over 840 million people speaking it as a primary or second language. It is the official language of 67 countries and 27 non-sovereign entities, including Hong Kong and Puerto Rico.

The English language is both fascinating and popular, and it has its own history and peculiarities. Instead of focusing just on grammar and other theoretical components, remember to enjoy the more enjoyable aspects of it.

Today we have come up with few weird words and phrases in the English language and the story behind their formation.

1. What is the most common word in the English language?

It is “the” by a big lead. “The” like many of the rest of the words in the following list, are articles, which are used with nouns to limit or define that noun.  They are not much of a word on their own, but imagine how difficult it would be to write even one sentence without some of the following words. They are listed in order (reading down) with the most common at the beginning:

THEOFANDATO
INISYOUTHATIT
HEFORWASONARE
ASWITHHISTHEYAT
BETHISFROMIHAVE
ORBYONEHADNOT
BUTWHATALLWEREWHEN
WETHERECANANYOUR
WHICHTHEIRSAIDIFDO
WILLEACHABOUTHOWUP
OUTTHEMTHENSHEMANY
SOMESOTHESEWOULDOTHER
INTOHASMOREHERTWO
LIKEHIMSEETIMECOULD
NOMAKETHANFIRSTBEEN
ITSWHONOWPEOPLEMOST
MYMADEKNOWOVERDID
DOWNONLYWAYFINDUSE
MAYWATERLONGLITTLEVERY
AFTERWORDSCALLEDJUSTWHERE

In 1939 Ernest Vincent Wright wrote a book called Gadsby: A story of over 50,000 words without using the letter ‘E’. He tied down the ‘e’ key on his typewriter and went for it. Here is the first paragraph of his book:

If youth, throughout all history, had had a champion to stand up for it; to show a doubting world that a child can think; and, possibly, do it practically, you wouldn’t constantly run across  folks today who claim that “a child don’t know anything.” A child’s brain starts functioning a birth; and has, amongst its many infant convolutions, thousands of dormant atoms, into which God has put a mystic possibility for noticing an adult’s act, and figuring out its purport.

How weird is that!

2. Where did the term “OK” come from?

This has to be one of the most basic but frequently used idioms. Unfortunately, its past isn’t as straightforward. OK is unmistakably American, and it is not an abbreviation for Okay. OK was a witty abbreviation for “oll korrect,” which is a witty way of saying “all OK.” (If you were there in 1839, this would have been a hilarious joke.) It was fashionable back then to spell things incorrectly in a funny way.

OK was a typical shorthand at the time, because people also used acronyms like PDQ for “pretty darned quick,” similar to how we now use LOL for “laugh out loud,” BTW for “by the way,” and FYI for “for your information.” The most of the stupid acronyms have vanished, but OK has remained, and it still stands for all correct.

3. What do you call the plastic things on the end of shoelace?

They’re known as aglets. The word acus is derived from the Latin word acus, which signifies a decorative pin or needle. You get the impression that aglets were far more intriguing in the fourteenth century than the shards of plastic or metal that we find on our shoelaces today. If the tip is beautiful, it is called an aglet; a more utilitarian point is called a tag.

The eyelet is the hole that lace is threaded through (led by the aglet). Actually, the phrase aglet can refer to any decorative pins or studs on your clothing, although we don’t use it for either of these things very often.

4. Who came up with the question mark and the exclamation mark?

Is it possible to find both? as well as It is widely used throughout the world, including in China (from 1912) and Japan (1868). In Spanish, however, both marks are reversed and used at the start of a phrase, as in this

¿Que pasa? as well as ! Hola.

The comical tiny squiggle over a dot to signify a question wasn’t invented by anyone in particular. Here’s how it happened: In Latin, questio meant “to seek,” and it was later used to refer to a question. It appeared at the start of a statement that posed a question. Because seven characters is a lot of space to devote to that function, it was eventually cut to Qo, until the scribes (remember, there were no typewriters or computers back then) decided to make it even smaller by putting a Q over a tiny o.

This evolved into a battle over a dot over time, eventually extending to the end of the sentence as well.

Questio – Qo—Q–?

What about using an exclamation point? the same concept The Latin Io stood for “joy interjection,” and the I was placed over the o until it reached a dot:!

! has a lot going for it for a single character! It’s extremely expressive! It can convey a wide range of emotions and mental states, including surprise, awe, scorn, disgust, remorse, and ridiculousness. However, use it cautiously, as using it too often can significantly reduce the impact!

5. What is the dot over the letter i called?

Here’s a quick response to a quick query. It’s a tittle or an i-dot, which is a superscript dot. Some people refer to the dot as a jot.

6. What are the two-letter words you are allowed to use in Scrabble?

Memorize these, and Scrabble insiders say you can increase your score by 30-40 points a game:

The 96 Two- Letter Words Allowed in Scrabble are

AaAbAdAeAgAhAi
AlAmAnArAsAtAw
AxAyBaBeBiBoBy
DeDoEdEfEhElEm
EnErEsEtExFaGo
HaHeHiHmHoIdIf
InIsItJoKaLaLi
LoMaMeMiMmMoMu
MyNaNeNoNuOdOe
OfOhOmOnOpOrOs
OwOxOyPaPePiRe
ShSiSoTaTiToUh
UmUnUpUsUtWeWo
XiXuYaYeyo  

Some of their definitions are quite scientific or exotic, but they are real words.

7. What does the expression “raining cats and dogs” mean?

It’s “raining cats and dogs,” which implies it’s pouring buckets of water. In fact, the rain and wind can make it sound like a cat and dog battle. Since 1708, this phrase has been used. Apparently, back then, humorists and cartoonists showed cats and dogs falling from the sky, with pitchforks and shovels thrown in for good measure. There are additional terms that conjure up vivid imagery in the same way.

Raining blue blazes, raining cat poles, raining blue thunderbolts, raining bullfrogs or raining heifer yearlings.

Various ideas have been proposed in response to this odd saying. Here’s one example: few cities had waste pickup a few hundred years ago. Instead, garbage, including the bodies of dogs and cats, was simply thrown into the streets, where it piled up in a gutter.

A kennel was the name given to the heap. A particularly heavy downpour would uproot the kennel’s dead cats and dogs and sweep them down the street, resulting in “raining cat and dogs.” It’s disgusting… yet it’s also fascinating.

If you don’t believe that hypothesis, there’s another one based on Nordic mythology.

Cats who are often said to have unusual powers (witness witches and black cats) were also thought to have great influence on the weather. Also the dog and the wolf are both symbols of wind. The rumble of dog growls can sound like rain and thunder. In old pictures wind was sometimes depicted as the head of a dog or wolf, out of whose mouth came blasts of wind. Both animals were attendants of Odin-the Norse storm god. So back to the phrase “raining cats and dogs”. The cat could be taken as a symbol of downpouring rain, and the dog of the strong wind that comes with a rainstorm. Even today when English sailors see an unusually frisky cat, they say “The cat has a gale of wind in her sail”.

It can’t really rain cats and dogs, but over the past two hundred years, there have been recorded cases of raining frogs, fish, stones, grain, seeds, salamanders, worms, straw, lizards, mussles, hazelnuts, leaves and green slime.

“The English language is a work in progress Have fun with it”

-Jonathan Culver