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 Gods".

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:


its plural.

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

incredibly quiet.


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.

Egg on:

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 ..."

Curry Favor:

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.