9 interesting facts about the English language
The English language is a fascinating language, with its own unique quirks and history. Part of our storytelling process is learning about your heritage and history, and we take great pleasure from hearing about the individual experiences that made you the person you are today.
In our previous blog, we covered the history of the Welsh language, and how it has evolved over time into what is now referred to as ‘modern Welsh’. You can read all about this in our previous blog here.
In this blog, we have compiled nine interesting facts about the English language that even the most fluent English speakers may not know. Get ready to impress your colleagues or friends with the following bits of trivia!
Did you know?
- The Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary contains as many as 600,000 words, but the average native English speaker may only know up to 40,000 of these.
- English is the official language of 67 countries.
- Around 1.5 billion people speak English worldwide, and of that total, 400,000,000 speak it as a first language.
- Due to varying meanings of the word buffalo and the fact that Buffalo is the name of a city in the U.S. state of New York, the sentence "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" is grammatically correct.
- 11% of the entire English language is just the letter E.
- Month, orange, silver, and purple do not rhyme with any other word.
- The word with the highest number of definitions is ‘set’.
- The first English dictionary was written in 1755.
- The most common adjective used in English is “good”.
What are the oldest English words?
A 2009 study by Reading University found that some modern words can date back as far as 10,000 years. The process involved using an IBM supercomputer to analyse the whole family of Indo-European languages, of which English is part of. During this analysis, the rate at which languages evolve is reconstructed in addition to predicting how the rate that languages may change in the future.
The study showed that among the oldest words are 'I', 'we', and 'who' as well as the numbers '1', '2' and '3’. These were not just the oldest English words, but in fact, were the oldest across all Indo-European languages.
What are the newest English words?
New words are added to the English Dictionary annually, including things that have typically emerged within society or have recent cultural significance. For example, two of the newest additions are ‘metaverse’ and ‘crowdfunding’.
Metaverse – a word synonymously linked to Facebook, as it has been mostly promoted and used by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in the last few months. Metaverse describes a virtual reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.
Crowdfunding - getting funding (e.g. for a new business) by asking for contributions from a large number of people, especially from the online community. Sites like GoFundMe and Kickstarter can be said to have accelerated the use and knowledge of crowdfunding, and its popularity has solidified its use within our society.
The spread of new words is also now accelerated through the use of social media, and the increase in modern abbreviations, sayings and meanings are likely to become more prominent in the future.
Here at My Story Told, we help individuals preserve their life stories in detailed form by using the written word. Your story told in your own words will be handed down to generations to come, creating a family treasure that will both preserve your legacy and offer a unique insight into what life was like during your lifetime.