English Language Oddities

The English language is always evolving, with new words being coined and old words falling into disuse. It is filled with anomalies, strange borrowings from other languages, and just plain old made up phrasings. Here are few words and facts about words in English that you might not know.

If you were to write out every number name in full (one, two, three, four…), you wouldn’t use a single letter B until you reached one billion.

The act of complaining in a high, whiny voice is known as peenge.

In the 17th century, magpies were nicknamed pie-maggots.

There was no word for the color orange in English until about 450 years ago.

A table napkin was known as a savernapron.

The part of a wall between two windows is called the interfenestration.

Schoolmaster is an anagram of “the classroom.”

To confuse or jumble your speech is to jargogle

To battologize means “to repeat a word so incessantly in conversation that it loses all meaning and impact.”

In Victorian slang, muffin-wallopers were old unmarried or widowed women who would meet up to gossip over tea and cakes.

A worm used as bait in fishing was once known as an anglewitch .

A zoilist is an unfair or unnecessarily harsh critic, or someone who particularly enjoys finding fault in things.

Sermocination is the proper name for posing a question and then immediately answering it yourself.

One who busies himself to no purpose was known as a fribble.

In 19th century English, a cover-slut was a long cloak or overcoat worn to hide a person’s untidy or dirty clothes underneath.

To enjoy oneself, or to revel, is to delicate.

In the 18th century, a clank-napper was a thief who specialized in stealing silverware.

Aquabob is an old name for an icicle.

The bowl formed by cupping your hands together is called a gowpen.

When you mimic the moves of others whether consciously or unconsciously, such as yawning, you are engaging in echopraxia.

In Tudor English, a gandermooner was a man who flirted with other women while his wife recovered from childbirth.

Porpoise literally means “pork-fish.”

A dumpster-diver was once known as a mungo.

Whipper-tooties are pointless misgivings or groundless excuses for not trying to do something.

The paddywhack mentioned in the nursery rhyme “This Old Man” is a Victorian slang word for a severe beating.


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