Word Traveler: English language trivia

This feature is for all word lovers as well as those studying for the SAT and seeking to learn new vocabulary.

Here is some trivia you may not know about English:

  • "A" ranks third in frequency for printed English behind "E" and "T." Seventy percent of all English words are made with 10 letters: A, D, E, H, I, N, O, R, S, T.
  • Almost all of the hundred most common words in our modern vocabulary come from Old English and three are from Old Norse (their, them, they). At least half of the words in any sample of modern English writing will be of Anglo-Saxon origin: man, wife, child, brother, sister, live, fight, love, drink, sleep, eat, house, etc. - as well as: and, at, but, for, in, on, to.
  • Between 1500-1650, about 10,000-12,000 English words were coined, of which about half still exist.
  • Capital letters that look the same in lowercase are: C, O, P, S, U, V, W, X, Z.
  • English is the only language that has books of synonyms like Roget's thesaurus.
  • English speakers can recognize a word in 200 milliseconds or less from its onset, i.e. approximately one-fifth of a second from its beginning (usually well before the whole word has been heard).
  • If you speak English, you know parts of at least a hundred different languages.
  • In English, only J, O, V, and Y cannot be silent.
  • It has been said that just 43 words account for fully half of all the words in common use and that just nine account for fully one-quarter of all the words in almost any sample of written English: and, be, have, it, of, the, to, will, you.
  • Our extraordinarily complex language is built on forty-four distinctive sounds that combine into hundreds and thousands of meaningful word elements.
  • Some words with the most senses in dictionaries are: cast, cut, draw, point, run, serve, set, strike, take, through.

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