Words, Phrases & Languages
The combination "ough" can be pronounced in nine different ways.
The following sentence contains them all: "A rough-coated,
dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of
Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and
The verb "cleave" is the only English word with two synonyms
which are antonyms of each other: adhere and separate.
Giddy" is from the AngloSaxon word "gyddig" means "Possessed by
The only 15 letter word that can be spelled without repeating a
letter is uncopyrightable.
To "testify" was based on men in the Roman court swearing to a
statement made by swearing on their testicles.
The letters KGB stand for Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti.
A "tyromancer" is "one who tells fortunes while watching cheese
Facetious and abstemious contain all the vowels in the correct
order, as does arsenious, meaning "containing arsenic."
The word "Checkmate" in chess comes from the Persian phrase "Shah
Mat," which means "the king is dead".
Pinocchio is Italian for "pine head."
Eskimoes have hundreds of words for ice but none for hello.
The Q is the only letter that does not appear in the names of
the 50 states.
The longest word in the English language, according to the Oxford
English Dictionary, is:
The only other word with the same amount of letters is:
It's an infection of the lungs.
Hydroxydesoxycorticosterone and hydroxydeoxycorticosterones are
the largest anagrams.
The Baby Ruth candy bar was actually named after Grover
Cleveland's baby daughter, Ruth.
There is no word in the English language that rhymes with month,
orange, silver, and purple.
Los Angeles's full name is "El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina
de los Angeles de Porciuncula"-and can be abbreviated to 3.63%
of its size: "L.A."
Clans of long ago that wanted to get rid of their unwanted
people without killing them use to burn their houses down -
hence the expression "to get fired."
Canada is an Indian word meaning "Big Village".
The most common name in the world is Mohammed.
The national anthem of Greece has 158 verses. No one in Greece
has memorized all 158 verses.
The word "samba" means "to rub navels together."
The phrase "rule of thumb" is derived from an old English law
which stated that you couldn't beat your wife with anything wider
than your thumb.
The Sanskrit word for "war" means "desire for more cows."
The word 'pound' is abbreviated 'lb.' after the constellation
'Libra' because it means 'pound' in Latin, and also 'scales'. The
abbreviation for the British Pound Sterling comes from the same
source: it is an 'L' for Libra/Lb. with a stroke through it to
indicate abbreviation. Same goes for the Italian lira which uses
the same abbreviation ('lira'coming from 'libra'). So British
currency (before it went metric) was always quoted as
"pounds/shillings/pence", abbreviated "L/s/d"
The symbol on the "pound" key (#) is called an octothorpe.
"Kemo Sabe" means "soggy shrub" in Navajo.
After English, the most widely used languages on the Internet are
German, Japanese, French, Spanish, Swedish, Italian, Portuguese,
Dutch, Norwegian, Finnish, Czech, Danish, Russian, and Malay.
The saying "it's so cold out there it could freeze the balls off
a brass monkey" came from when they had old cannons like ones
used in the Civil War. The cannonballs were stacked in a pyramid
formation, called a brass monkey. When it got extremely cold
outside they would crack and break off... Thus the saying.
There are only four words in the English language which end in
"-dous": tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous.
"I am." is the shortest complete sentence in the English
language. Some say that the sentence "I do" is the longest.
If you read or listen to all the words in all four stanzas of
"The Star Spangled Banner," you'll find that there are three
words missing. The Words "United States" and the word "America"
are never mentioned in the song. The U.S. Congress didn't make
the song the official anthem of the U.S. until 1931 - 117 years
after it was written.
The city of San Juan used to be known as Puerto Rico (which
means "rich port" in Spanish), while the island of Puerto Rico
was originally named San Juan.
The term "the whole 9 yards" came from WWII fighter pilots in the
South Pacific. When arming their airplanes on the ground, the .50
caliber machine gun ammo belts measured exactly 27 feet, before
being loaded into the fuselage. If the pilots fired all their
ammo at a target, it got "the whole 9 yards."
Pierre, South Dakota is the only example of a state and capital
in the U.S. that don t share any letters.
More capital cities begin with B than any other letter: Berlin,
Bern, Bonn, Bucharest, Budapest, Buenos Aires, Brasilia, Baghdad,
Bratislava, Brussels, Belgrade, Bogota and of course Belfast.
The term, "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye" is
from Ancient Rome. The only rule during wrestling matches was,
"No eye gouging." Everything else was allowed, but the only way
to be disqualified was to poke someone's eye out.
Stewardesses and reverberated are the two longest words (12
letters each) that can be typed using only the left hand.
The longest word that can be typed using only the right hand is
"Copenhagen" means "Merchants Harbor".
Skepticisms is the longest word that alternates hands when
Beelzebub, another name for the devil, is Hebrew for "Lord of the
Flies", and this is where the book's title comes from.
The term "devil's advocate" comes from the Roman Catholic church.
When deciding if someone should be sainted, a devil's advocate is
always appointed to give an alternative view.
First novel ever written on a typewriter was "Tom Sawyer."
Hawaiian alphabet has 12 letters.
Old and Famous Expressions & Sayings
There have been a great number of classic phrases we have all
heard in our liftimes and more often than not, had no idea what
the expressions meant nor where they came from. The following is
a short list of a few of those expressions. Some of them have,
at one time or another, been shrouded in controversy concerning
their origin. I don't gaurantee that any of them are based in
fact. This is the way I received them and if someone can show me
proof that my assessment of the saying is incorrect, I will
gladly change it. I'm also open to the origins of any other old
sayings to add here as well.
Cat got your tongue?:
This a very old expression. It got turned around at some point in
history. Technically, it should be "do you have a cat's tongue?"
because it is based on the simple assumption that cats are
There's nothing funny about a knock on the inside of the elbow
which hits the upper arm bone, the humerus, but it is the nerve
which crosses over the humerus
It's a cinch:
This expression which means, it's easy or no problem originates
from the American West. A cinch strap holds the saddle on a
horse. When the strap is properly cinched, there is no danger
of the rider coming unseated because of a loose saddle.
To egg someone on is to encourage a person to keep doing
something, usually something not quite nice. It has nothing to
do with eggs, but is a corruption of the word "edge."
Flash in the pan:
This is a classic dead metaphor. It means a spectacular beginning
that is quickly followed by failure. The allusion is to the
action of the old flint-lock rifles. Occasionally after being all
primed (loaded) to fire, the gun would misfire--there would be a
big flash of the gun-powder going off in the lock-pan, but the
projectile would not be shot.
Ax to grind:
A person who has a selfish reason for wanting something to be
done in a certain way or to a certain person is said to have an
ax to grind. Benjamin Franklin once told a story about how a man
came to him asking Ben to show him how the grindstone worked. He
handed Ben an ax he had brought with him, and then pretended not
to understand exactly how it worked until Ben had illustrated so
often, the man's ax was thoroughly sharpened!
This phrase has come to mean genuine, true friend, one who sticks
with you in good or bad times. If wool yarn is dyed before it is
woven into cloth, the dye will penetrate completely, and the
color will last, whereas if the cloth is woven before it is dyed,
it will only color the surface and, as the cloth becomes worn,
the color will disappear.
Fish or cut bait:
There is no place for an idle person on fishing boat, so if you
don't have something more useful to do even a child can cut bait
for the others. It's easy to see how this applies in other
This is derivation from a Greek expression meaning
"honey-mouth." It is used to describe a person who uses sweet,
honeyed words hypocritically in order to curry favor with those
more popular or more powerful.
At circuses and fairs during the 19th century a gimmick was a
hidden mechanical device used by magicians to aid them in the
performance of tricks. Nowadays a gimmick is any tricky method
of making a sales, or a business deal, often in the form of a
special inducement that is unusual. The word is often used in
reverse meaning by those who have exposed the trick that was
meant to take them in: "The gimmick is ..."
This phrase, which means to seek to ingratiate yourself with
someone by insincere flattery, or by doing small favors, is a
corruption of the original saying, which was to "curry Favel."
Favel was the name of a horse in a satirical 14th century French
play. The horse symbolized evil, and the characters in the play
curried him in order to soothe him and ward off trouble.
Give a Hoot:
Hoot is a corruption or sound-alike for the word "iota," which is
the smallest and therefore the least consequential letter in the
Greek alphabet. Learned people sometimes say, "I don't give one
Lock, Stock and Barrel:
Originally described the three parts of a musket. Lock (or
flintlock mechanism), stock (wooden base rested against the
shoulder) and barrel. If you had these three parts, you had the
whole thing or the whole gun -- lock, stock and barrel.
Mind your Ps & Qs
Uppercase and Lowercase letters:
When mechanical printing was accomplished (90+ years ago), the
printing press master was created by arranging individual letters
onto a plate and locking them into place. You'd have all the As
in one bin, all the Bs in another bin, etc. so you had 26 bins +
punctuation. There were 2 cases of bins of letters, one case
contained Capitals, the other didn't. The capital letters were
in the upper case, the others were in the lower case (bin). Since
the printing machines forced the letters to be arranged upside
down to the viewer, and since the letters were in mirror writing,
it was easy to confuse an upside-down, backwards p with an
upside-down, backwards q.