Isn’t it odd …

  • … that the opposite of just is unjust, but the opposite of justice is injustice?
  • … that you can be uncouth, unkempt and dishevelled, but you cannot be *couth, *kempt or *shelleved. These words just do not exist. Incidentally, the three words belong to the same semantic field, but surely this must be a coincidence?
  • … that, while in English it is indefinable, in German it is undefinierbar, but that while in English it is unacceptable in German it is inakzeptabel?
  • … that words which refer to something which is near tend to have a ‘clear’ vowel (this, these), whereas words which refer to something which is far tend to have a ‘dark’ vowel (that, those)? If you think this is coincidence, what about French ci and la or Spanish aquí and allá? And did you notice nearand far? This is very odd, and difficult to explain, as it seems to break with the principle of arbitrariness in language.
  • … that when in English you warn somebody not to do something you do what you do in German when you warn somebody to do something? “They were warned not to climb the mountain in such bad weather – Sie wurden davor gewarnt, bei dem schlechten Wetter auf den Berg zu klettern.”
  • … that in German we use a personal pronoun in the imperative with the non-familiar form (“Kommen Sie!”), but not with the familiar form (“Komm!”)?
  • … that, although you can say “I live in that house”, “I live in the basement”, “I live in Kendal” and “I live in Bulgaria”, when you say I live in it, the house and the basement can be meant, but Kendal and Bulgaria cannot? (Sampson, 1980: 84)
  • … that The White House in Spanish is called La Casa Blanca?
  • … that the utterance “I am not here now”, which is absurd in any normal context, is perfectly logical when said on a telephone answering machine? (Yule: 13)
  • … that, although the English word dandelion is derived from French dent-de-lion, (cf. German Löwenzahn and Spanish diente de león), in French it is not called dent-de-lion, but pissenlit?
  • … that the stem of French déjeuner and Spanish desayunar, jeuner and ayunar, mean ‘fast’ in the sense of ‘not eat’, i.e. when you have your déjeuner or your desayuno, you finish the period of not eating, you break your fasting. Now it is only a small step to realise what you do when in English you have break-fast. Bet you never realised this? Incidentally, déjeuner and desayuno refer to different meals, something which can lead to some nice intercultural misunderstanding.
  • … that we spell Galerie but gallery, Komittee but committee, Kalender but calendar, Pavillon but pavilion, brillant but brilliant?
  • … that while a baker is a person, a cooker is not, and a printer sometimes is and sometimes isn’t?
  • … that it is “Maße und Gewichte” but “weights and measures” and “Pfeil und Bogen” but “bow and arrow”?
  • … that catgut (in German Katgut!), a thin strong twisted cord, is made from part of the stomach of animals, but not that of cats? In a novel I recently read, Hurry on Down, the protagonist frequently mentions catgut. Actually, he uses the sentence „I’ve brought the catgut” to confuse others or to justify his presence in places where he has no calling to be.
  • … that, if you reverse the order of the sounds of dog on a tape recorder, you do not get god? Sounds will always change their shape according to where they occur. (Burridge, 2004: 19)
  • … that we drink from glasses made of plastic and through straws made of paper? It is not always the words that shift, sometimes they stay still and it is the world that shifts instead. (Burridge, 2004: 76)
  • … we continue to “dial numbers” on our push-button phones? (Burridge, 2004: 78)
  • … that although the plural of life is lives, the plural of “still life” is “still lifes”? (Burridge, 2004: 45)
  • … that the word cleave means the opposite of itself? One meaning of cleave is ‘stick together’, the other ‘split apart’. The reason is that the two meanings originally go back to two different words which subsequently merged. However, the meaning of ‘stick together’ may now be on the way out. (Burridge, 2004: 74)
  • … that, whereas in English something can be either harmless or harmful, in German something can be harmlos but not *harmvoll?
  • … that, although we have the contracted form aren’t (for you and we and they) and the contracted form isn’t (for he and she and it), there is no contracted form for am + not, at least not in Standard English. In non-standard varieties of English, there is, of course, the form ain’t (which can be used for I as well as for he, she and it). This form appeared around the same time as the other contractions and was then perfectly respectable, but for some reason or another, fell from grace, perhaps because of its frequency. (Burridge, 2004: 102)
  • … that in Britain you have the Labour Party, in Australia the Labor Party, and in New Zealand the Labour Party? (Burridge, 2004: 108)
  • … that although generally foreign loanwords are thought to be used by people who want to impress other people, the computer mavens in German do just the opposite? They avoid the foreign loanword and use the German word, and, instead of saying computer like the rest of us, say Rechner.
  • … that the Past Tense of speak is spoke, not *speaked, but the Past Tense of leak is leaked, not *loke, while the Past Tense of seek is neither *seeked nor *soke, but sought?
  • … that strong verbs are weak and weak verbs are strong when it comes to surviving? Strong forms as hove or clomb have given way to weak forms as heaved or climbed, and many of the remaining strong verbs seem to be undergoing the same process (Burridge 2004: 129-30)
  • … that we know intuitively that a mickle is smaller than a muckle if we do not know the meaning of the words? (Burridge 2004: 145)
  • … that female names tend to be longer than male names and that the vast majority of male names are stressed on the first syllable? (Burridge 2004: 187-8)
  • … that language has evolved as the main means by which humans communicate but that each of us can communicate with no more than a fraction of our species because there is a multitude of languages? (Matthews 2003: 37)
  • … that we speak of “dry wine” (Aren’t all liquids ‘wet’?) and “white wine” (although it is rather greenish)?
  • … that we say “the sun sets” although we know it doesn’t?
  • … that children, under certain circumstances, learn their second language faster than their first? Take, for example, a five-year-old girl from New York going to Tokyo with her parents and playing with Japanese children. She may well learn the language in a year! (Steinberg 2001: 178)
  • … that assimilation can be progressive or regressive but that examples of the former are found far less frequently? (Roach 2001: 54)
  • … that the two /s/-sounds in seesaw have very different lip shapes? You can easily observe this effect in a mirror.  (Roach 2001: 56)
  • … that when the first American talking films were shown in Britain in the 1930s, the distributors had to consider putting subtitles on the films because most members of a British audience had virtually no experience of listening to an American accent? (Roach 2001: 64)
  • … that (as far as we know) there is nothing in the human body which exists exclusively for making or recognizing speech sounds. We would still need our lungs, our tongues, our ears, etc. even if they were not required for speech. (Roach 2001: 11)
  • … that whispering just does not seem to be used in tone languages? In tone languages, i.e. languages in which pitch is used to distinguish words, an essential part of the meaning gets lost, and communication becomes almost impossible. However, the reverse is also true: If you remove the words and just keep the melody, a considerable amount of intelligibility is preserved. This is the secret of the talking drums in Africa. (Roach 2001: 82)
  • … that vowels, which are voiced by definition, lose their voice when you whisper? (Roach 2001: 88)
  • … that we can understand the sounds we produce at all, although the frequencies we produce depend on the shape and size of our vocal tracts and vary across men and women, young and old, tall and small?  (Roach 2001: 88)
  • … that  all languages are equally easy – or difficult – for those who acquire them as children? (Widdowson 1996: 84)
  • … that women tend to speak in a way that is closer to the prestige standard than men do? Nobody is quite sure why this is so. Most other beliefs about men’s and women’s language have not been confirmed by research. It is not true, for example, that women speak more than men. Almost all research has demonstrated the opposite, that men talk more than women. (Aitchison 1992: 116-7)
  • … that sounds are learnt by children across languages in a relatively fixed order? Voiceless stops are usually learnt before voiced stops, front vowels are learnt before back vowels, etc. This last tendency is confirmed by the presence of front vowels in words such as mama, nana, papa, baba, tata, dada as common forms for ‘mother’ and ‘father’ in child language (Roach 2001: 92)
  • … that everyone knows what a word is, what a sentence is, what a language is – except the linguists?
  • … that English has no specific word for a male dog, although it has one, bitch, for a female dog, that is has a word for a cow and a bull but no superordinate word for both of them, and that it has a word, palm, for the underside of the hand but not for the topside? (Steinberg 2001: 259)
  • … that a baker is someone who bakes and a keeper is someone who keeps but a cooker is not someone who cooks? At the same time, a printer may or may not be someone who prints and a cleaner may or may not be someone who cleans. To make matters worse you have the creeper meaning ‘plant’ and the breaker meaning ‘wave’. (Widdowson 1996: 56)
  • … that although sentences like ‘The man opened the door’ or ‘John kissed Mary’ are prototypical English sentences, they are unlikely to occur in actual speech? (Widdowson 1996: 74)
  • … that there is a higher proportion of males who are natural left-handers than females? In the USA estimates indicate that more than twice as many males as females are likely to be left-handed. (Steinberg 2001: 315)
  • … that almost all humans have a left-right-preference, but other animals, including primates such as chimpanzees, do not? (Steinberg 2001: 315)
  • … that writing was invented in Mesopotamia and then, independently, in China and then, again independently, in Central America? (Jucker 2000: 69)
  • … that several features of modern American English not present in modern British English still correspond to the language of seventeenth-century England? The American pronunciation of the vowel in dance and path is a case in point, and so is the American pronunciation of the vowel in not. (Jucker 2000: 61-2)
  • … that in connected speech we tend to insert a sound between two consonants where originally there was none and in the same environment drop one where there was one originally? Thus, the phoneme /t/ is sometimes inserted in prince and dropped in prints. (Davis 2004: 139)
  • … that all the four vowels of catastrophe are different from those of catastrophic? This, although it looks chaotic, is in fact quite regular and due to the changes caused by shifting stress in English. (Davis 2004: 66)
  • … that an Englishman calls a huntsman’s coat pink although it is red? (Sampson 1980: 86)
  • … that there is no word in German which rhymes with Mensch?
  • … that the front of the tongue is farther back than the blade of the tongue? (Davis 2004: 11)
  • … that the distinctions which children generally learn last are also the distinctions which are absent in some adult languages and the sounds which children learn first are also the sounds which are present in all languages? No languages fail to distinguish /p/ from /d/ and all children learn this distinction, i.e. that between labial and alveolar stops, before they learn the distinction between alveolar and velar stops such as /t/ and /k/ (and thus go through a stage where cat sounds like tat); the opposition between /r/ and /l/ is one of the last to be learnt and is absent from languages such as Japanese; the distinction between front rounded vowels such as /y/ and /ø/ (as in German Tüte and Flöte) from other vowels comes later than the distinction between these other vowels, and this distinction is absent from languages such as English. (Sampson 1980: 123)
  • … that there is a /t/ in German namentlich, ordentlich, eigentlich? (Davis 2004: 141)
  • … that wild is pronounced with but wilderness without and wind with but long-winded without a diphthong?
  • … that “Can you tell me the time?”, although a question by its form, cannot only be used as a request and not as a question, but is generally used as a request and not as a question? (Lyons 1981: 166)
  • … that /h/ rarely occurs in English except at the beginning of a morpheme? (Lyons 1981: 225)
  • … that the brick-and-barbed-wire structure which divides Belfast into two religious-ethnic groups is called the Peace Line? (Aitchison 2001: 74)
  • … that for a long time no English loan-word containing <th> was imported into German? This was probably no coincidence but the result of the difficulty of pronouncing any such words. The first word which made it into German on a grand scale was thriller. (von Polenz 1978: 143)
  • … that the bird which is referred to as robin in Britain, Erithacus rubecula, is not the same bird as the bird which is referred to as robin in America, Turdus migratorius, a bird related to the thrush? (Bauer 2002: 44)
  • … that you can say “I believed he was guilty” as well as “I suspected he was guilty” and that you can say “I believed him guilty” but not *I suspected him guilty?  (Bauer 2002: 53)
  • … that there are sounds in all languages which are connected with meaning but which can only be heard in one particular word, usually an exclamation? A sound of this kind in English is the so-called dental click which is used to express disapproval, e.g. of a child’s behaviour. It is usually uttered twice and in novels often represented as tut-tut. (Davis 2004: 48)
  • … that whereas in Britain you distinguish between practise (verb) and practice (noun) and license(verb) and licence (noun), in America both are spelt practice in one case but license in the other? (Bauer 2002: 65)
  • … that there do not seem to be any English words beginning with /jaI/ or /j&#65533;I/although /j/ occurs freely in front of all other vowels, both monophthongs and diphthongs? This seems to be an accidental gap in the system. (Davis 2004: 111)
  • … that the first American English grammar, written by Lindley Murray in 1795, was written in England? (Bauer 2002: 98)
  • … to realize that English only had seven million native speakers in the 16th century, and very few non-native speakers? Dutch was seen as a more useful language to learn than English. (Bauer 2002: 13)
  • … that, when we are together, we are rarely silent? (Matthews 2003: 2)
  • … that Saussure is famous for a Course in General Linguistics that he never actually wrote? (Matthews 2003: 85)
  • … that balm and bomb, which are clearly distinguished in British English, sound the same in American English, whereas gnaw and nor, which are clearly distinguished in American English, sound the same in British English? (cf. Trudgill/Hannah 4 2002: 37)
  • … Russian has a word, angushtizaid, for someone with six fingers, that Indonesian has word, latah, for the uncontrollable habit of saying embarrassing things, that German has word, Zechpreller, for somebody who leaves without paying, that Tulu Indian has a word, karelu, for the mark left on the skin by wearing anything tight, and Japanese has a word, bakku-shan, for a woman who looks as though she might be pretty from behind but isn’t when seen form the front? (Jacot de Boinot 2005) I wonder if there is also a language which has a word for someone who spends half an hour in a queue without getting their purse out. And I wonder what gender the word will be.
  • … that Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher of medieval Spain, originally wrote his main treatise in Hebrew letters though the language of the text was Arabic? (Störig 1992: 247). This must be like writing something in German using the Cyrillic alphabet.
  • … that the manifest influence of the United States on British English is restricted almost entirely to vocabulary and appears to have no effect on the pronunciation of even the most susceptible group, such as teenagers? Even radio disc-jockeys and pop singers only put on American accents when singing or disc-jockeying. (cf. Hudson 2 1996: 43)
  • … that hardly any English speaker would ever use “Bloody!” as an exclamation? Speakers know thatbloody can only be used as an adjective, and we stick to the rules of grammar even at the precise moment when we break the rules of communication by swearing! (cf. Hudson 2 1996: 12)
  • … that British English (but not in American English) has an /f/ in lieutenant which is not present in the spelling, while American English (but not British English) has an /r/ in colonel which is not present in the spelling?
  • … that, at least in Standard English, you cannot say “I aren’t your friend?” but you can say “Aren’t I your friend?” (cf. Hudson 2 1996: 232)
  • … that (in British English) humour is spelt with <ou>, humorous with <o> but humourless with <ou>?
  • … that England is called England and not Saxonland? The Angles were – most probably – no more numerous than the Saxons and did not have more military success. Why the country did not end up being called Saxonland remains something of a puzzle. (Crystal 2005: 27)
  • … that the Anglo-Saxons did not end up speaking Gaelic? They were in the minority and could have been expected to adopt the language of the country. This is just what happened in Normandy, where the Scandinavian conquerors ended up speaking French. And if they did not adopt their language, why did they not adopt more words Celtic? This is what you would expect to happen when invaders impose their language, and this is what happened to English in South Africa, which has thousands of loanwords from Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and other African languages. Why it did not happen with Old English remains something of a puzzle. (Crystal 2005: 29)
  • … that ‘the last Old English text’ (c. 1190), a copy of old English gospels, is younger than ‘the first Middle English text’ (c. 1150), the translation of a Latin sermon? There is no clear break between Old English and Middle English but mainly continuity, with gradual transitions and frequent overlaps (Crystal 2005: 107).
  • … that the monks of Worcester in the Middle Ages requested William of Malmesbury to have a text from Old English translated into Latin – they found Latin easier to understand (Crystal 2005: 114).
  • … that William I. shortly after the conquest promulgated a charter using English as the language of the document? He himself would not have understood it – a chronicler tells us he later tried to learn English and failed – and official documents at the time were, of course, published in Latin. Perhaps this is as sign of the hidden strength of English against all appearances, which might explain why English survived at all (Crystal 2005: 121-2).
  • … that in the Middle Ages Latin was taught through the medium of French in England? It was presumably also pronounced and certainly sometimes spelt the French way (Crystal 2005: 155).
  • … that more than a hundred French words came into English in 1300 and none in 1301? The answer is that we can only rely on written documents (and only those documents which survived) and that many loanwords may have been around some time before they were first recorded in writing. An additional problem is the often unsure dating of documents (Crystal 2005: 154).
  • … that the word discovering consists of a French prefix and an English suffix sandwiching a French word, and that the word unknowable consists of an English prefix and a French suffix sandwiching an English word (Crystal 2005: 149)? After all, German forms such as downloaden or gemanagt may not be so exceptional as they may seem.
  • … that English, following the arrival of the Anglo-Normans in the Middle Ages, made so little progress in Ireland that the statutes of Kilkenny had to insist that ‘every Englishman use the English language’? French and Latin were the norms in administration, and, as the language of the people, English was losing ground to French and Irish (Crystal 2005: 202).
  • … that English was rising in prestige in Scotland much earlier than in England? In England, French was in vogue for the sake of fashion but also found its way into business and politics. In Scotland, English became fashionable after the Norman conquest of England, when the English-speaking noblemen fled to Scotland and were welcomed by the Scottish King Malcolm III, who spoke English. English was fostered by the refugees escaping from the Normans but also by immigrants from Scandinavia and Holland, who spoke a Germanic language (Crystal 2005: 138 + 203). English became a lingua franca in Scotland long before it became a lingua franca in the whole of Europe and beyond, and English became strong because of the French!
  • … how in popular opinion, the vocabulary of Shakespeare is overrated and that of the Sun underrated? Absurd claims are made of Shakespeare having invented a quarter of the words of the language, or the Sun using no more than a total of 500 words. Actually, this is nowhere near the truth. An estimate of 6,000 words for every issue of the Sun and an estimate of 2,000 words contributed to English by Shakespeare (accessible, assassination, acutely and accommodation being amongst them) is probably much nearer the truth. It is still an impressive figure, and also a very high percentage within his overall vocabulary of about 20,000 words. Probably no one comes near him in that respect. The one who most closely follows Shakespeare in terms of inventiveness is his contemporary, Thomas Nashe, who contributed such modern-sounding words as seminary , plausibility and chatmate . Another myth concerning Shakespeare is the size of his overall vocabulary in comparison to a present day adult’s vocabulary. One study using a secretary, a university lecturer and a businesswoman as testees found out that their active vocabulary was somewhere between 31,000 and 63,000, quite impressive figures, higher than Shakespeare’s, or at least higher than the number of words Shakespeare used in his plays (cf. Crystal 2005: 315-28).
  • … that the jurisdiction of the local mining court for the lead mines in Wirksworth (Derbyshire) in the 17th century was written in rhyme? The author, the magistrate Edward Manlove, wanted to help illiterate miners to remember them (Crystal 2005: 357).
  • … that Keats, in the 19 th century, was heavily censured for making thoughts rhyme with sorts andthorns rhyme with fawns ? People thought that the /r/ in thorns and sorts ought to be pronounced and that therefore this was not a perfect rhyme. (Crystal 2005: 467)
  • … that the BBC, which had until then maintained a policy of accent purity, in the early part of the Second World War contracted a man with a Northern accent, Wilfred Pickles, to read the news on the grounds that this ‘might not so easily be copied by the Germans’? This decision turned out to be quite popular but also caused a storm of protest. People complained that they were unable to believe the news read in such an accent. Pickles in the end gave up and continued with other broadcasting work up North. (Crystal 2005: 473)
  • … that the Romantics, although they claimed to select ‘language really used by men’, did not use any local dialect at all? Everyone speaks Standard English, and everyone, including the ordinary shepherd, speaks with an elegant command of sentence structure and a large vocabulary. Nevertheless, although they did not portray living dialects accurately, they at least drew the attention of the literary world in England to the fact that dialects exist (Crystal 2005: 487-8).
  • … that British and American pronunciation are (often) the same when the spelling is different and different when the spelling is the same? Examples of the former are gray/grey , axe/ax , fulfilment/fulfillment, examples of the latter are advertisementleisure, novel. Words such ashonour/honor or colour/color show both processes at once.
  • … that a boxing ring is square, and that one sinks very slowly in quicksand? (Parody 2004: 15)
  • … that when the stars are out they can be seen but when the lights are out they can’t? (Parody 2004: 21)
  • … that overtones and undertones are the same thing but overlook and oversee opposite things? (Parody 2004: 21+27)
  • … that there is no ham in a hamburger, no egg in an eggplant, no dog (presumably) in a hot dog, neither apple nor pine in a pineapple, and that sweetbread contains no bread and isn’t sweet? (Parody 2004: 15)
  • … that the time of day when the traffic is slowest is called rush hour? (Parody 2004: 27)
  • … that there is no ‘proper’ English word for Achtelfinale, and no ‘proper’ German word for onside?
  • … that, in football, a manager (English) is not the same as a Manager (German)?
  • … that a goldfish is a fish and a house party is a party but a hunchback is neither a hunch nor a back and a turnkey is neither a turn nor a key? (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 28)
  • … that you can drink heavily and smoke heavily but not eat heavily? (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 67)
  • … that somebody can be said to drink heavily or be a heavy drinker but that you cannot say * the drinker is heavy, at least not in the relevant sense? (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 66-7)
  • … that although you can say can’t and couldn’t and mustn’t and shouldn’t, you cannot – can’t – saymayn’t? (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 131)
  • … that news is singular and people is plural and that police is plural and United States is singular? (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 142)
  • … that exoteric, which means ‘understood by everyone’, is a word understood by almost no one?
  • … that we say the White House but not * the Buckingham Palace? (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 162)
  • … that priestess is not equivalent to priest, although prioress is to prior and countess is to count? (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 261)
  • … that men use non-standard forms (for example, fightin’ for fighting ) more frequently than women and believe they use them even more frequently than they actually do, whereas women use them less frequently and believe they use them even less frequently than they actually do? (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 272)
  • … that pass has /Q/in American English but /A ù/ in British English, while traffic has /Q/ in both and father has /A ù/ in both? The general rule seems to be that there is a difference whenever <a> is followed by <s>, <f> or <th> or by <m> + consonant or <n> + consonant: grass , after , rather , example , dance . But it does not quite work out that way. Although about 300 words fulfil this condition, only about 100 are pronounced differently, the remaining ones being identical: gather, traffic, Atlantic, trample, etc. (Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 341)
  • … that British English has <ou> in neighbour and saviourhonour and valoursavour and flavour,colour and behaviour, it has <o> in anchor and donoranterior and posteriormanor and professor, and <ou> in labour and colourful but <o> in laborious and coloration? (Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 344-5)
  • … that American English, while it has burned, dreamed, dwelled, kneeled, leaned, learned, spelled, spilled and spoiled where British English has burnt, dreamt, dwelt, knelt, leant, learnt, spelt, spilt, andspoilt, does not have *meaned? (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 349)
  • … that all the season words can be used with or without the definite article (e.g. in summer or in the summer), American English fall cannot? You can say in the fall but not * in fall. (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 355)
  • … that there are Native Americans whose English shows interference from an American Indian language although they are monolingual speakers of English? (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 378)
  • … that Black English perhaps does not at all derive from Black people – and ultimately from Africa – but from white slave owners and slave drivers – and ultimately from Britain and Ireland? (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 381)
  • … that in Black English the Past Tense marker {D} is generally absent (so looked becomes look andapplied becomes apply), i.e. the Past Tense is not marked at all, but that this does not happen with irregular verbs (so catch becomes caught ), where the Past Tense is consistently marked? (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 382)
  • … that in Black English, third person singular {S} is usually dropped but plural {S} is not? The speakers seem to feel intuitively that the plural marker carries more meaning than the verb marker. (cf. Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 382).
  • … that the Africa vernacular English, in spite of the multitudinous mother tongues of its speakers, is audibly recognizable as distinct from, for example, Asian English? (Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 424).
  • … that, in Singapore, the vernacular languages predominate on radio and TV except for the news, which is generally in English? (Gramley/Pätzold 1992: 452).
  • … that the English word for a sauce made from the juice which comes from meat as it cooks is gravy although it comes from grané? Where did the <v> come from? The explanation is simple: it is a mistake. Because of the writing style of medieval manuscripts, <n> and <u> were often confused, and <u> and <v> were often used interchangeably. (cf. Flavell & Flavell 3 2005: 116)
  • … that the word paper, although it derives from papyrus, does not mean ‘papyrus’? It does not refer to the ‘paper’ made from papyrus but to the ‘paper’ made from flax and hemp (cf. Flavell & Flavell 3 2005: 140).
  • … that in British English the first <e> of interesting is usually omitted in pronunciation but the first <t> is pronounced, while in American English the first <t> is usually omitted but the first <e> is often ‘recovered’ instead?
  • … that Chinese speakers are able to remember telephone numbers better than English speakers? This is explained by the fact that in general shorter words are remembered more easily than longer words, so that Chinese speakers, with shorter digits, have a larger memory span than English speakers, who in turn have a larger better memory spans than speakers of other languages with longer digits. (Cook 3 2001: 84)
  • … that a native speaker of English can answer the question ‘Is the word blish English?’ almost instantaneously? We seem to be able to work through many thousands of words in a few moments. The human mind is extraordinarily efficient at organising the storage of words and their connections. (Cook 3 2001: 94)
  • … as French-speaking children in Switzerland who learn German at school, and that is High German rather than Swiss German, can in a sense speak with Germans better than with their own fellow nationals? (Cook 3 2001: 162)
  • … in Vancouver there are more bilinguals with Chinese alongside English than French, despite English and French being the official languages? (Cook 3 2001: 162)
  • … that Swahili, the official language of Tanzania, is the native language of only about 10 per cent of the population? (Cook 3 2001: 162)
  • … that anti-British graffiti in Belfast is written in English, not Irish? (Cook 3 2001: 164)
  • … that the publishers of a modern textbook took exception to the phrase “Good book that”, although it is very common in English? The title of the book is incidentally Realistic English. (Cook 3 2001: 208)
  • … that the word bra, a clipped form of brassière, although it looks French and is French, is not used in French? The French equivalent is soutien-gorge – except in Canada, where it is indeed brassière. (Flavell & Flavell 3 2005: 274)
  • … that some speakers perceive fluorescent tennis balls as green, others as yellow? (Erickson/Gymnich2006: 37)
  • … that in Canadian English, the diphthong in wife is not the same as the diphthong in wives and the diphthong in house is not the same as the diphthong in houses? The explanation is this: there is a tendency in contemporary Canadian English to centralise the diphthongs /A I/ and /A U/, but this tendency is only to be found in front of voiceless consonants, not in front of voiced consonants. Thus we get the standard pronunciation of wives and houses, but the typically Canadian form in wife andhouse, /w « I f/ and /h « U s/ . (Erickson & Gymnich 2006: 106-7)
  • … how cleverly the German loanword kaput is used in Swahili? It is used in nusu kaput, which, nusu being the Swahili word for ‘half’, means ‘narcosis’! (Limbach 2007: 41)
  • … that in English, to say that you leave without saying good-bye, you say “take French leave” but in French you say “filer à l’anglaise”, and that condoms are “French letters” in English but “capotes anglaises” in French?
  • … that Godot is the title hero of a play, Waiting for Godot, in which he never appears? He has become deservedly famous, but he was not the first. The proverbial Mrs Grundy is a character in Thomas Morton’s play Speed the Plough, first produced in 1800. The other characters constantly wonder what she will think or say, as she takes a very narrow, moral view of things. She is somehow to be feared. Thus she made it into the English language: “What will Mrs Grundy say?” (Flavell & Flavell 3 2000: 105)
  • … that no language seems to use ingressive air stream regularly to produce specific sounds? All our specific sounds are egressive, i.e. with the air flowing outwards. We generally take this for granted although it is possible to produce sounds with the air flowing inwards. You can use it as a method of disguising your voice: if you breathe in and speak at the same time, your pitch gets higher! (McMahon 2002: 25)
  • … that it is knife/knives, leaf/leaves but stove/stoves, hive/hives and roof/roofs and chief/chiefs? There is no reasonable phonetic or phonological explanation for this. It just is like this. (McMahon 2002: 61)
  • … that electricelectricity and electrician all have <c> in writing but /k/, /s/ and /©/ in pronunciation? (McMahon 2002: 62)
  • … that the Past Tense of teach is taught, but the Past Tense of preach is not *praught and the Present Tense of caught isn’t *ceach? (McMahon 2002: 90)
  • … that in Arabic every syllable must start with a consonant, whereas in Hawaiian no consonant is allowed at the end of a syllable? In technical terms, syllables must have an onset in Arabic and must not have a coda in Hawaiian. How do Arabic and Hawaiian then deal with loanwords from other languages which do not ‘fit’? They simply assimilate them. In Arabic, a glottal stop is introduced at the beginning of the syllable, in Hawaiian, either the final consonant is deleted or an additional vowel is attached. If Arabic insists on an onset and Hawaiian does not allow a coda, there are, inversely, no languages which do not allow an onset and no languages which insist on a coda. So a syllable can start with a consonant but need not end in a consonant in all languages. Thus, words like be, tea, two, know, ma, etc. represent the ‘ideal’ universal syllable. (McMahon 2002: 106)
  • … that round can not only be an adjective (a round table), it can also be a noun (the next round), a verb (her eyes rounded), an adverb (go round in circles) and a preposition (round the corner)? Actually, many of the simple English words, more than we tend to think, can belong to more than one word class (love, show, drop, book, house, sweet, free, etc.), and sometimes also more sophisticated words can convert into another category: manifest can be a noun, a verb, and an adjective.
  • …that in Swedish, the definite article is attached to the end of a word but the indefinite article precedes the word? Thus, the word for car is bil, and, while the car is bilena car is en bil.
  • …that, in Turkish, you cannot respond good-bye if someone says good-bye? There are two words, depending on who is leaving and who is staying behind. If your interlocutor says allahaɩsmarladɩk, you respond güle güle, not allahaɩsmarladɩk. This is not the case when you greet someone. The answer togüanydɩn, `good morning´, is günaydɩn.
  • … that, in Swedish, there are words, including ‘real words’ such as nouns, which consist of one letter (and one sound) only? Thus, island is ö in Swedish and river is å. The word ö incidentally, is part of the geographical term Faroe. Thus Faroe Islands is, strictly speaking, redundant. It contains the word island twice.
  • …that, although most of us would claim not to be superstitious, few of us would call our ship Titanic?  (Crystal 2007: 130)
  • … that the word bloody, which caused a storm of protests when first heard on the English stage (in Shaw’s Pygmalion in 1914), was used by Prince Charles in a public statement 75 years later and had been used by Swift (in one of his letters to Stella) 200 years earlier? (Crystal 2007: 131)
  • … that the word sideburns, which is an eponym, i.e. a word derived from a person’s name, goes back to a US Civil War general whose name was not Sideburn but Burnside? (Crystal 2007: 73)
  • … that abbreviation is such a long word?
  • …that a Meerkatze is not a Katze nor is a meerkatcat, and  that a Meerkatze (a monkey) is not the same as a meerkat (a rodent)?
  • … that Edward I’s tombstone inscription was in Latin but his pamphlet against the French King in English, that the barons who rebelled against Henry III wrote to the king in Latin but to the shires in English, that William I’s coronation ceremony was in English and Latin although the King spoke French (and later tried to learn English but gave up), that Wycliffe who inspired two translations of the Bible into English (for which he was eventually burnt at the stake) wrote his argument for an English translation in Latin? (Bragg 2004)
  • … that Dr Johnson criticised Shakespeare for using the word knife in Macbeth? He called it “a tradesman’s word, an instrument used by butchers and crooks”, and therefore apparently did not think it adequate for a literary work. (Bragg 2004: 228)
  • … that the Times of India, written in English, has treble the sales of the British Times? (Bragg 2004: 264)
  • … that Keats was criticised for making fought rhyme with sort or morn rhyme with dawn?  These rhymes were thought to be “atrocities” and “fatal to the success of verse”. They were known as “Cockney Rhymes”. It was decreed that /r/ should be sounded in all contexts. Most people did not, however, do this, then as now, do this, at least in Britain. Nevertheless, Keats was urged to make sure that his rhymes would “chime to an educated ear” and ridiculed for his “fauns and thorns”. (Bragg 2004: 235)
  • … that Addison, when defending English against French influence, arguing that “there are several persons whose Business it is to watch over our Laws, our Liberties, our Commerce” and “to prohibit any French Phrases from becoming Current in this Kingdom” used himself French loanwords such as liberties or current (and many others in other parts of the pamphlet, amongst them language)?  (Bragg 2004: 208)
  • … that the title page of The Life of Mr John Dennis, the Renowned Critick, of 1734, does not only not display the  author’s name but positively asserts that the book was “not written by Mr Curll”, a rare example of negative anonymity. (Quinion 2009: 298-9)
  • … that fractions of the ¾ kind are called vulgar fractions? There is nothing vulgar about them, at least not in the modern sense. However, vulgar originally meant nothing other than ‘ordinary’, ‘normal’ (a sense which is also reflected in the word Vulgate for the Latin Bible, written at a time when Latin was still the common language). What was vulgar about the fractions was that they were the ones the common people used, as opposed to the new-fangled decimal system, which used 0,75 instead of ¾. (Quinion 2009: 341-2)
  • … that woebegone means ‘sad’, ‘woeful’ and not what it seems to mean, very much the opposite. To the modern ear, it sounds as if woe had gone, had disappeared, but the verb which the word is based on, bego, which has now largely disappeared, did not mean ‘disappear’ but ‘surround’, ‘beset’, so woebegone means ‘grief has beset me’, ‘being full of woe’. (Quinion 2009: 349-50)
  • … that cock-up, which sounds quite vulgar in American English, is a very mild vulgarism in British English these days, if it is one at all. It comes from one of the many meanings of cock, ‘bend at an angle’, as it is also found in cocked hat.  (Quinion 2009: 66-7)
  • … that babies are believed to be brought by the stork? Not if you look at the history of the word. In Middle High German, storch had the basic meaning of ‘stick’, specifically referring to fishing rods. Later it came to be used for the male appendage. Once the word had acquired its multiple meanings, it leant itself to punning, which then gave rise to the folklore involving the animal in delivering children.  (Crystal 1995: 136)
  • … that the catchphrase Elementary, my dear Watson never appears in any of the books by Conan Doyle (though it does appear in a film)? Similarly, Me Tarzan, you Jane never appears in this form in any of the Tarzan films. (Crystal 1995: 179)
  • … that, although other American catch phrases are next to unknown in Britain, the 64-dollar question (later the 64-thousand dollar question) is easily understood in Britain and used without any replacement of the word dollar? (Crystal 1995: 179)
  • … that, according to one study, 70 per cent of black Americans prefer to be called black to being called Afro-American? (Crystal 1995: 177)
  • … that the word bloody (as a swearword) became quite a social issue in Britain but never gained popularity in America, while it became so common in Australia that it lost its pejorative associations? It had ceased to be regarded as swearing there at a time when in Britain it was still excised from theatre plays and people were fined for using it in public? (Crystal 1995: 173)
  • … that you can say commoner or cleverer but not *properer or *eagerer?  (Crystal 1995: 199)
  • … that you can say plane and planes and craft and crafts and aircraft but not *aircrafts? (Crystal 1995: 203)
  • … that one can use the Past Tense to talk about the present? Think of sentences like Did you want to leave? (Crystal 1995: 224)
  • … that /z/ actually sounds quite different at the beginning and at the end of a word? The sound at the beginning of zoo is much more vibrant than the sound at the end of ooze. It would sound quite unnatural if we gave it full vibration. (Crystal 1995: 242)
  • … that High Rising Terminal (HRT),  i.e. the use of rising intonation where you would normally expect falling intonation (Where are you from? – Ireland?), has been observed to occur much more frequently in women than in men, in younger people than in older people, in working class people than in middle class people and in ethnic minorities than in members of the majority group, according to a study in New Zealand? HRT has been interpreted as an (unconscious) expression of insecurity, lack of confidence, subservience. An alternative interpretation says that HRT is used as a natural and widespread feature of conversation. Actually, it does not seem to occur frequently in situations of uncertainty. (Crystal 1995: 249)
  • … that punctuation is far less rule-governed that spelling? Two authors might punctuate the same text in very different ways although they might agree on the spelling in every detail. Also the attitude towards punctuation may vary. Some authors (e.g. Dickens) were very concerned about their punctuation and took great pains to revise it, other (e.g. Wordsworth) left it to the editors. (Crystal 1995: 278)
  • … that Good morning can only be used once between any pair of people but that this does not apply to Good night? If you say Good night on leaving the office and then come back because you have forgotten something, it is perfectly acceptable to say Good night again when leaving for the second time. But you do not say Good morning again at five past nine if you have said Good morning to the same person five minutes earlier. (Crystal 1995: 286)
  • … that you can use Good morning, Good afternoon and Good night at practically any time of the day jokingly or ironically but not Good eveningGood evening seems to be restricted to the evening, but Good morning can be said in the afternoon when somebody arrives very late (or Good afternoon in the morning), Good night can be said at practically any time of the say when someone seems to be falling asleep. (Crystal 1995: 286)
  • … that Good night can be used only on leaving, not on entering a room? This is not the case with Good morning, Good afternoon or Good evening, which we can use when we arrive or depart. (Crystal 1995: 286)
  • … that there does not seem to be clear borderline between monologues and dialogue or between writing and speaking (although we all somehow ‘know’ what a monologue and what dialogue is and what writing and what speaking is)? Is writing a diary a monologue? Or do we address ourselves? Or a potential future reader? Or a hypothetical reader?  Does that make it a dialogue? There are lots of communicative situations which are somehow ‘odd’ and do not fit into neat patterns: people talking to themselves, people talking to their flowers or their cars, leaving a message on a telephone answering machine, dentists talking to their patients with the listener’s mouth full of medical equipment, adults talking to babies (and mothers talking to babies in their womb, speaking to someone else through an interpreter, a couple commenting on what a loud-voiced person in a restaurant is saying, taking notes during a lecture, taking notes for a lecture to be delivered,  practising a speech before giving it, broadcasting the weather forecast, filling in or writing questionnaires, making sotto voce comments (real one and those that are intended to be heard), finishing off other people’s sentences, speaking with the help of the teleprompter (conveying the illusion of direct speech to the viewer), making an interview to be published, making shopping lists, co-authoring a sitcom script (or a term paper), heckling in parliament, delivering a speech on TV, making a transcript of a spoken dialogues, writing a dialogue for a novel or a textbook, waiting for someone to respond in a séance, speaking into the darkness to someone one hopes is not there, chanting We are the champions in a football stadium, etc. The list seems endless. But it is these unclear cases which are the most interesting ones. (Crystal 1995: 291-7)
  • … that foreign learners’ mistakes sometimes concur with features of native speakers’ language in non-standard varieties of English? Thus, Irish speakers are likely to replace the Present Perfect by the Present Simple in sentences such as She’s dead these ten years. This is also a feature of German learners of English: *The word whisky is used since the 17th century.
  • … that sometimes it is not so easy to tell what someone’s mother-tongue is? A case in point is children who are brought up bilingually. They can be said to have two mother-tongues, although usually one is rather stronger than the other, generally the one which is spoken in the country the child is raised in. But what if the child is raised in a third country, like the son of a British-Columbian couple brought up in Germany? And then there are the extraterritorials, people, often writers, who, for some reason or another, are driven to other countries and assimilate new languages so much that it is hard to say what their mother-tongue is (in the sense of the language they feel most at home in).  Well-known cases include Nabokov, Beckett, Conrad. Actually, fluent literary bilingualism was quite common in Europe for many centuries, people being equally at home in, for example, Latin and French.
  • … that most of us, when speaking to a telephone answering machine, find it rather difficult to end the message but not to begin the message? (Crystal 1995: 393)
  • … that it is quite common for children playing sports to give a play-by-play account of what they are doing as if they were sports reporters commenting their game? One study found out that these episodes last from 6 to 22 minutes. The language is not exactly that used by adults but it comes close to it. Here is one extract: “Hoyle serves it! Ben Graham cannot get it … over the net and it is twelve eight. Hoyle’s lead now.” It is also surprising that nobody teaches the children to do it. They have achieved this solely by listening. (Crystal 1995: 386)
  • … that the Present Simple is used in football commentary, not the Present Progressive? (Crystal 1995: 387).
  • … that the Globe Theatre, which burnt down in 1613 but was quickly rebuilt, was then demolished the Puritans? (Crystal 1995: 62)
  • … that Dr. Johnson ran out of space in the end when he was writing his famous dictionary and had to leave out about half of the quotations he had collected? This caused a certain unbalance of treatment, with words at the beginning of the alphabet being more generously treated than those at the end. (Crystal 1995: 75)
  • … that John Walker, when he laid down some pronunciation rules in his Pronouncing Dictionary of English in 1774, insisted that /r/ should never be silent? He condemned the custom which he had observed in London to make words like lard sound like laad. (Crystal 1995: 77)
  • … that you can paper your flat but you cannot paper your audience? The noun paper has three basic meanings, ‘newspaper’, ‘wallpaper’ and ‘academic paper’ but the verb paper only relates to the second. (Crystal 1995: 129)
  • … that Indira Ganhi, Indian Prime Minister, wrote a letter to her Minister of Education complaining of the falling standards of English in India? She had attended an international meeting at which she had been unable to understand the talk of an Indian delegate. (Crystal 1995: 113)
  • … that Henry Sweet, the phonetician, predicted that within one century, i.e. in 1977, England, America and Australia would be speaking mutually unintelligible languages? (Crystal 1995: 112)
  • … that the Phonetic Journal in 1873 predicted, with the greatest possible precision, that by the year 2,000 English would have 1,837,286,153 mother-tongue speakers? The figure was way off the mark. It calculated about six times as many speakers as there actually were in 2,000. (Crystal 1995: 112)
  • … that the kind of English which developed in East Africa is quite different from the English found in West Africa? This is partly due to the fact that numbers of British emigrants settled in this area and produced a class of African-born whites, something which never happened in the environmentally less hospitable West African territories.  (Crystal 1995: 102-3)
  • … that, in 1989, officials in Osaka, the largest city of the Kinki district in Japan, announced that the word Kinki was no longer to be used and was to be replaced by Kansai. The new Kinki Research Complex became, for example, the Kansai Research Complex. The reason which was adduced was that kinky in English had unpleasant connotations and meant ‘odd’ or ‘unusual’ (Crystal 1995: 114)
  • … that Scots Gaelic once repressed but then championed by the Scottish National Party, is now an official language of the Scottish Parliament though few members can actually speak it? (Cook: 2003: 24)
  • … that in the Grammar-Translation method the process of learning the language was deliberately dissociated from its eventual use? It was hoped that, at least for some students, one would lead to the other, but the ends were quite different from the means. Consequently, there was no emphasis on fluent speech, because it was believed that it was better to get things right slowly than say them fast and effectively, but incorrectly.  (Cook 2003: 33)
  • … that, according to a survey in London primary schools, a total of 350 home languages are used by London schoolchildren?  (Cook 2003: 24)
  • …that Adam, in Genesis, is asked by God to give a name to the animals but that Adam, at the same time, can already speak? The language itself is not created by him, but, so to speak, God-given. In a way, it is even odd that God uses language. After all, there was nobody to speak to before. On the other hand, a God without language is difficult to envisage. (Janson 2011: 9-10)
  • … that the first languages that were written, Egyptian and Sumerian, do not differ in their general characteristics from today’s languages? (Janson 2011: 11)
  • … that, in colloquial English, you can say I’m gonna think about it but not I’m gonna Basingstoke? It seems that going to as a form of reference to the future has developed a life of its own, independent of the original verb going. (Deutscher 2005: 11)
  • … that people with French surnames such as de Vere or Sinclair are more likely to go to university than the overall population and live three years longer on average? It seems incredible that the descendants of the Norman and French aristocracy which ruled England for a large part of the Middle Ages should enjoy these privileges to this day. And indeed it is not quite true. It is not the name which makes the social status but the social status makes the name. In other words: people of the upper crust have disproportionately taken on French-sounding names. Whereas the overall number of bearers of other names has increased by 80% since 1880, the number of de Veres has risen by 400%! (BBC 4: 1 August 2011)
  • that, although you may be extremely competent in a language, if somebody were to ask you to show your competence by saying something in that language you would in all likelihood be at a loss to say something? (Widdowson 2007: 19)
  • … that, although amazing, astonishing and surprising are synonyms, it is only the last of these which usually appears in the phrase It is not … that …, whereas the others do not? They are constructions which, though perfectly possible, are not usually attested in English texts. (Widdowson 2007: 80)
  • … that please is not exactly a very polite word? Children are told to say please when they make a request, but adults use please far less than one might assume, and when they do, it often has the effect of making the request sound less polite and more peremptory. Compare Could you take my bags up? and Could you take my bags up, please? (Holmes ³2008: 280)
  • … that students having studied Classical Arabic and having come to master it may not be able to make themselves understood in countries where Arabic is spoken? Classical Arabic may trigger respect and admiration but is so far distanced from the different varieties of spoken Arabic that it they are mutually almost incomprehensible. And anyway it would sound rather ridiculous to order one’s meal in Classical Arabic. It would be a bit like asking for a steak at the butcher’s using Shakespearean English. (Holmes ³2008: 29)
  • … that many people code-switch but do not realise they do and, when being made aware of it, condemn it? Among Mexican Americans, for example, the derogatory term Tex Mex is used to describe the code-switching between Spanish and English. (Holmes ³2008: 46)
  • … that Mandarin Chinese has a single cover term for fruit and nuts, whereas English has no such term? (Holmes ³2008: 339)
  • … that English has the word shorten, but does not have the word longen? (Holmes ³2008: 90)
  • … that swallow has positive connotations when it is used for the bird but not when it is used as a verb? There is nothing intrinsically beautiful or correct about any particular word. (Holmes ³2008: 405)
  • … that appétit and midi are feminine in Canada but masculine in France, and automobile and oreille masculine in Canada but feminine in France? (Holmes ³2008: 130)
  • … that it is single parents in England, solo parents in New Zealand and sole parents in Australia? (Holmes ³2008: 128)
  • … that determiner deletion is quite different in British quality newspapers and British tabloids: 5% in The Times, 10% in The Guardian, 12% in The Telegraph but 73% in The Mail, 79% in The Express, 80% in The Mirror, 89% in The Sun. The patterning of linguistic features reflects the structure of the intended audience. (Holmes ³2008: 265)
  • … characters who use AAVE in successful Disneyfilms such as The Jungle Book or The Lion King often represent animals rather than humans? (Holmes ³2008: 414)
  • … that, in an experiment, the testees rated the intelligence of one and the same speaker differently, depending on which accent she used? The testees, who did not realise that they heard her twice – matched guise technique – rated her intelligence higher when she spoke with her working class accent than when she was identifiable as a West Indian. (Holmes ³2008: 411)
  • … that a Japanese speaker was surprised why people commented so much on her feedback during conversations and then, when listening to herself on the tape, was surprised to find out how much feedback she actually provided – so much so that she could sometimes hardly understand what the interviewer was saying. (Holmes ³2008: 383)
  • … that Maori words like tangi, ‘weep’, which are almost identical to Samoan tagi, are nevertheless spelt differently? The reason is that early missionaries were often good linguists and, in the case of Samoan, used one letter only to represent one sound, unlike English, which uses the digraph <ng>. (Holmes ³2008: 113)
  • … that most Scandinavian words entered English vocabulary only after the Viking rule came to an end? After a gap of about 100 years, considerable numbers of Scandinavian borrowings can be found. It is difficult to explain this phenomenon. One hypothesis says that Anglo-Saxon speakers adopted Scandinavian loanwords in the Danelaw, where there were many Scandinavian settlers (and where there must have been bilingual speakers). However, the Viking rule did not last long enough for the Scandinavian words to become the rule, and in the other areas, outside the Danelaw, the words had negative connotations, the words being the words of the invaders. But when the Vikings had left, the negative connotations disappeared and the previously borrowed words fully entered the area of the former Danelaw and then spread to the other parts of England. (Hoffmann, Sebastian: “Lexical Change”, in: Culpeper et al. 2009: 289-90)
  • that English be includes forms like is and am and be, all seemingly unrelated in form? The reason for this is that they all originally were forms of different verbs: beon gave rise to be and been, wesan gave rise to was and were, and a third verb, which shares the same Indo-European root as the Latin esser, is responsible for am and is. (Little 2008: 69
  • … that one cannot say I ain’t a swimming lesson tomorrow? Though ain’t can be the negative form of both be and have, it can only replace have when it functions as an auxiliary verb, not when it functions as a lexical verb. (Watson, Kevin: “Regional Variation in English Accents and Dialects”, in: Culpeper et al. 2009: 346-7)
  • … that dropping post-vocalic /r/, which is now the norm in much of the English spoken in England, was heavily criticised by prescriptive grammarians in the 18th and 19th centuries? Amongst the critics was John Walkwer, author of an influential pronunciation dictionary. (Nagy & Irwin 2010: 243-4)
  • … that it is come > came, become > became but not welcome > welcame?
  • … that the first sentence of Finnegan’s Wake starts in the middle? What is more, it is also the end of the sentence with which the novel conludes! (Schwarz 1994: 18)
  • … that Latin and Arabic spread to a vast area as a result of the conquests of the Romans and the Arabs, but that this did not happen with the languages of the Huns (V) and the Mongols (XIII)? Perhaps this is the case, because the Huns and the Mongols did not have schools and a strong state. (Janson 2011: 44)
  • … that Dante, when he wrote in what we would today call Latin did not refer to it as Latin but as grammatica? When he used what we would today call Italian, he did not call it Italian but latino. One can assume that he was not thinking of the two varieties as two different languages but rather as different varieties of one and the same language. Latin was a common form of writing used above the different dialects. (Janson 2011: 148-50)
  • … that even when we speak we usually make reference to written texts? We comment on text messages that we have sent each other, we talk about what the newspapers say, we make reference to the (written) recipe that we have discovered somewhere when we talk about the food we are having, our business meetings are based on written agendas, we discuss the conditions of the contract with our landlord if something is in need of repair, we tell the driver to slow down because we have read a traffic sign, we celebrate birthdays because we have received a written invitation or we thank somebody for a birthday card we have received. Most interactions, in a modern society, are literacy events, they are mediated by texts. (cf. Barton 2009: 482-3)
  • … that in many parts of the Western world people hold an egalitarian dogma according to which people regard almost everyone else as being of the same class, despite differences in income, upbringing, interests and occupation? There is only a weak discourse of class in these countries, above all in the Scandinavian countries. In Canada, the situation is similar. In the US, the main cleavage is felt to be race and not class, no doubt reflecting the fact that African Americans and other minority ethnic groups are overrepresented among the less privileged. In Britain, by contrast, a survey found that 36% of adults considered themselves middle class, while 46% considered themselves as working class, reflecting a relatively polarised view. (Kerswill, Paul: “Language and Social Class”, in: Culpeper 2009: 363-4)
  • … that IM peaks in winter evenings, when meeting outside is less fun than in summer? (Papen, Uta: “New Technologies: Literacies in Cyberspace”, in: Culpeper 2009: 490)
  • … that Jamaican Creole (also called Patois), although it has a simplified pronoun system (as compared with Standard English) and uses wi for we, us and our, does make a distinction between you singular and you plural? The singular form is yu, the plural form, unu, is probably of African origin. (Sebba, Mark: “Pidgins and Creolo Englishes”, in: Culpeper 2009: 401)
  • … that in Tok Pisin, a New Guinea Pidgin, a word which is rude in English, like pispis and kok, can be both rude and neutral? Such words can be used in a medical article, though they could also be used in ‘crude talk’. This shows the reduced stylistic range many pidgins have, though there are indications that Tok Pisin has recently expanded its stylistic range. (Sebba, Mark: “Pidgins and Creolo Englishes”, in: Culpeper 2009: 397)
  • … that political speeches are usually identified (by both the audience and the media) with the person who performs them, the politician or the celebrity, although they are usually not written by them? They are, in the majority of cases, written by spin-doctors. (Wodak, Ruth: “Language and Politics”, in: Culpeper 2009: 576)
  • … that, although <g> is present in both singer and finger, there is no /g/ in singer in RP but there is in the North of England, while there is is /g/ in finger in both varieties? (Watson, Kevin: “Phonetics”, in: Culpeper 2009: 14)
  • … that you can easily smile and say sheep but not really smile and say soup? The reason for this is that the vowel in soup is rounded, the vowel in sheep is not. (Watson, Kevin: “Phonetics”, in: Culpeper 2009: 26)
  • … that monosyllabic words with a short vowel always end in a consonant? This is not the case with monosyllabic words with long consonants. So you have bee, but you only have the short vowel in words like bit. (Watson, Kevin: “Phonetics”, in: Culpeper 2009: 26.
  • … that drop /h/ at the beginning of words like hathillhouse, realise the indefinite article when it precedes theses words as an? So you would get an at, an ill, an ouse. (Katamba, Francis: “Segmental Phonology”, in: Culpeper 2009: 43)
  • … that sound combinations which are not allowed in isolated wordsin English, like /pt/, /tm/, /gt/, etc. do occur in connected speech? They are often the result of elision: /pteIt«U/, /tmAùt«U/, /tsk«Uld/, /krekt/ = potatoe, tomatoe, it’s cold, correct. (Katamba, Francis: “Phonology: Beyond the segment”, in: Culpeper 2009: 66)
  • .. that be, the most common of all verbs, is a far from typical verb? (Leech, Geoffrey: “Grammar: Word (and Phrases)”, in: Culpeper 2009: 128)
  • … that pronouns are more common in speech and nouns more common in written language? A reason for this is that writing tends to convey a lot of densely packed information, while conversation is less dense, and relies a lot on shared context. Leech, Geoffrey: “Grammar: Word (and Phrases)”, in: Culpeper 2009: 127)
  • … that -er in singer signals that the word is a noun but not in larger (which is an adjective) or in linger (which is a noun)? Leech, Geoffrey: “Grammar: Word (and Phrases)”, in: Culpeper 2009: 118)
  • … that, when you have a random look at words listed in a dictionary, most of those words are likely to be lexical words (nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs), but that, when you have a random look at words on a page, most of them are likely to be grammatical and not lexical words? Leech, Geoffrey: “Grammar: Word (and Phrases)”, in: Culpeper 2009: 112)
  • … that, altough violin and fiddle are synonmys, it would be strange for anyone to say “I am going to a fiddle concerto”? (Sieiwerska, Anna: “Semantics”, in: Culpeper 2009: 198)
  • … how, in discussions of teaching, the tail often wags the dog? The focus is on assessment and evaluation, and this has a wash-back effect on teaching and learning. (Roz, Ivanič: “Languages and Literacies in Education”, in: Culpeper, Jonathan, 2009: 641)
  • … how resistent to change teachers’ classroom behaviour is? There have been experiment where teachers have consciously tried to avoid the stereotypical interaction structure – Initiation, Response, Feedback, also known as IRF – exploring ways of facilitating learning which do not resort to it. In spite of this, the structure appears to be extraorinarily prevalent, as do the assumptions of teaching and learning which underlie it.  (Roz, Ivanič: “Languages and Literacies in Education”, in: Culpeper 2009: 634-5)
  • … that adults treat children as full communication partners even at a stage when the children are not yet able to communicate fully? For example, mothers often talk to small babies who cannot talk or respond in any way.  They react to the child’s random movements and vocalisations as if they had deliberately communicated something. Mothers may impose meaning on whatever noise or motion the baby has produced. This form of caregiver speech is a form of scaffolding. Clearly, at this stage, the mother does all the work, As the child learns language, the mother has to do less and less scaffolding. It is by this process of participating in interactions that they are not capable of coping with on their own that a child becomes capable of managing such interactions on their own. Language within the mind is a later phenomenon. It is a process of internalizing the originally external language skills. (Hardie, Andrew: “Language Acquisition”, in: Culpeper 2009: 619)
  • … that the exact form of the implementation of the Production phase in PPP (Presentation – Practice – Production) was rarely discussed? After a well-planned Presentation phase and an equally well-planned Practice phase, students were allowed to “produce” the structure freely in group or pair activities if there was time left. The Production phase was not a central part of language teaching technology. (Bygate, Martin: “TESOL and linguistics”, in: Culpeper 2009: 647)
  • … that the question as to what learners can actually learn from carrying out a communicative task has not been dealt with by many researchers. Neither has the second, closely related question: how can this be used by the teacher?  (Bygate, Martin: “TESOL and linguistics”, in: Culpeper 2009: 651)
  • … that Old English was not more heavily influenced by the languages spoken in Britain before the Anglo-Saxon invaders arrived in the fifth century? The clue may be in the word wealh, ‘foreigners’ (today conserved in the word Welsh), which the Anglo-Saxons used for the Britons who lived there at the time. Formerly, it was believed that the Anglo-Saxons drove the Britons away from the more fertile lands of the east but archeological evidence has shown that many Britons lived alongside the Anglo-Saxons. This is reinforced by the second meaning of the word wealh, ’servant’, ‘slave’. The Anglo-Saxons seem to have the Britons their slaves and viewed them as inferior. Therefore, they are unlikely to have learnt their language.  (Beal, Joan: “A national language”, in: Seargeant 2012: 52)
  • … that all bishops of Durham (as is evidenced by a plaque in Durham Cathedral) from Aldhum to Aethelwine had Anglo-Saxon names whereas only five years after the Norman conquest a bishop with the typically French name William is installed? Throughout the rest of the eleventh and twelth centuries, all the bishops have likewise French names. (Beal, Joan: “A national language”, in: Seargeant 2012: 62)
  • … that English has William, and not Guillaume, although the name was introduced by the French? The reason for this is that it was not Parisian French but Norman French. For the same reason, English has castles whereas French has chteaux. (Beal, Joan: “A national language”, in: Seargeant 2012: 64)
  • … that the London-based variety of English only caught on after the decline of French in England. If it had not been for the Norman invasion, in all likelihood West Saxon would have become the norm. It had emerged as the candidate for the selection of a standard variety. We would speak a different verion of English today. (Beal, Joan: “A national language”, in: Seargeant 2012: 68-69)
  • … that modern such could be spelt suche, sich, sych, seche, swich, sweche in documents in Early Modern English? In the Chancery documents, however, only such and suche are found. The Chancery documents made the first step in the process of standardisation by reducing the number of variants. (Beal, Joan: “A national language”, in: Seargeant 2012: 70)
  • … that English infinitives like contribute or distribute are not derived from the Latin infinitive? The ending -e was added to the stem of the particple, contribut and distribut. (Beal, Joan: “A national language”, in: Seargeant 2012: 76-7)
  • … that the loss of postvocalic /r/ (now considered the norm in England), was rejected when it first came to people’s attention? John Walker, in his Critical Pronouncing Dictionary (1791) implied that it was a London innovation and not recommended. Likewise, he objected to what is now the normal pronunciation of basket, arguing that the first vowel should be short and that the long vowel was “bordering on vulgarity”. (Beal, Joan: “A national language”, in: Seargeant 2012: 79)
  • … that, although (according to the Ethnologue) 268 languages are spoken in Cameroon, the majority of which are indigenous languages, the country’s official languages are English and French, both of which have a colonial legacy. The relationship Cameroonians have with each other is primarily structured around these two languages, with a sharp demarcation between the Anglophone and the Francophone population. This results in a rather unusual situation for postcolonial countries, because many people’s identity is a product of their affiliation to one of the colonial languages rather than to traditional ethnis allignments. (Leith, Dick, Seargeant, Philip: “A colonial language”, in: Seargeant 2012: 129)
  • … that English, and not French, is mostly bound up with the anti-colonial struggle in Africa? It was in the British colonies that Africans led the struggle for independence. One explanation is that Africans there felt a solidarity with the black ex-slaves in the USA. The movement called pan-Negroism emerged, based on what was seen as shared ethnic identity. Its language was English. And English was also the language of the movement known as pan-Africanism, which evolved from it. Another explanation is that Africans in the French colonies, at least in theory, were considered citizens of France itself and so viewed French with affection. It has also been argued that the very characteristics of English as a hybrid languages was responsible but this argument ignores the fact that all languages are, to some extent, hybrid languages. (Leith, Dick, Seargeant, Philip: “A colonial language”, in: Seargeant 2012: 127)
  • … that learning English was not necessarily encouraged by Britain in its colonies? There was a fear that pupils who acquired English would be unwilling to earn their livelihood by manual labour. Children were taught to read and write and count in their own languages. Education was free and without compulsion. This was done to make people believe that the government had their welfare at heart and remove feelings of dislike towards the “white man”. English, however, was seen as a dangerous weapon, an unsafe thing, too much of which would lead to discontented class of people not ready to abide by the colonial system. (Pennycook, Alastair: “ELT and colonialism”, in: Cummins 2006: 13-24)
  • … that the Goh Chok Tong, the Prime Minister of Singapore, devoted several minutes of a speech to the nation talking about Phua Chu Kang (PCK), the leading character of a television sitcom who is known for his rapid, fluent use of Singlish? The Prime Minister objected to the use of Singlish in the programme and urged the television company to do something about it. They actually agreed to enrol PCK in some basic English classes to improve his standard English. That a head of government should try to influence a television sitcom is probably unprecedented in the history of language planning. (Crystal, David: “A global language”, in: Seargeant 2012: 169-70)
  • … how little people are aware of how they speak? In an experiment, one respondent claimed that the dialect had not words for ‘playing truant’, apparently unaware that she herself had used the word stop away, while two other speakers who said they never used her for she and then went on to do so. (Smith, Jennifer: “English and Englishes”, in: Seargeant 2012: 203)
  • that some varieties of Welsh English are rhotic, others non-rhotic? The varieties spoken in the rural, densely bilingual areas of the north are rhotic, the metropolitan, highly anglicised areas are non-rhotic. The shift to English in the twentieth century was more dramatic in the south, with lots of immigration from England to the industrial centres like Cardiff. The north is more influenced by Welsh. This is also reflected in the forms used to express habitual action. Along with He goes to the cinema every week, which is found in all parts of Wales, He do go to the cinema every week is found  in the north, He’s going to the cinema every week in the south. The northern form can be connected to the influence of Welsh, the southern form to dialects of the English Midlands.  (Smith, Jennifer: “English and Englishes”, in: Seargeant 2012: 209-10)
  • … that, altough variation between accents may be maintained or even be growing , vocabulary is becoming more uniform: people know fewer traditional dialect words, and the words become restricted to narrower functions. Thus, in the Black Country, younger speakers increasingly use the widely accepted UK form stream for a small river, while older speakers maintain the dialectal brook. Younger speakers still use this word, but generally only for one specific stream near where they live or for a particularly small stream. (Asprey, Esther: “Black Country English and Black Country identity – a case study” in: Seargeant 2012: 235-7)
  • … that sounds which are unusual in the world’s languages and which are acquired later by children are avoided in pidgins and creoles? Thus, in Bislama, a variety spoken in Vanuatu, an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, you get finis for finish and lanis for lunch. In addition, the preferred syllable structure tends to be CV, a consonant followed by a vowel. This may be the result of deletion of the first vowel sound, turning American into Merican, the insertion of a vowel between consonants (i.e. epenthesis), so that six becomes sikis or consonant cluster reduction, turning bandage into banis. (Smith, Jennifer: “English and Englishes”, in: Seargeant 2012: 226)
  • … that in the contemporary world there are many people who frequently use English (on the internet) but seldom speak it? In addition, there are many speakers who use English for limited purposes but do not have sufficient proficiency to be seen by themselves as “speakers” of English. They are still users of English. (McCormick, Kay: “English and other languages”, in: Seargeant 2012: 246)
  • … that Rip Slyme, a Japanese rap group, incorporate the English of American rap subculture in their lyrics but that this does not actually sound much like the English of the American rap artists it imitates? Language here is used more symbolically than mimetically. (McCormick, Kay: “English and other languages”, in: Seargeant 2012: 247)
  • … that English has been made the official language even in multilingual countries which never  belonged to the British Empire? This is the case, for example, with Rwanda, Madagascar and Namibia. (McCormick, Kay: “English and other languages”, in: Seargeant 2012: 255)
  • … that Pakistan, after a few years, gave up its attempt to introduce Urdu as the sole medium of instruction at schools? The move was made after the military coup led by General Zia-ul-Haq in 1977. By 1987, it had become clear that the policy had been implanted too hastily and without adequate planning. In subsequent governments, English was promoted again as the means of instruction. The government had underestimated the problems involved in such as change. Today, both English and Urdu are Pakistan’s official language, with Urdu being also the national language. Little attention is paid to other indigenous languages. (McCormick, Kay: “English and other languages”, in: Seargeant 2012: 253-4)
  • … that the vowel of write is actually not the same as the vowel of ride? The onset (i.e. the beginning) of the diphthong is more centralised, i.e. higher in write than in ride. This is due to the linguistic environment, in this case the sound that comes after the diphthong. Voiceless consonants affect the preceding sound in this way. That is why wife and twice are more centralised than time or file. Similarly, the diphthong of shout and house is more centralised than that of found and owl. (Meyerhoff, Miriam, Strycharz, Anna: “”Variation and change in English”, in: Seargeant 2012: 294-5)
  • … that you can say Up the hill she looked but not Up the word she looked and that you can say She looked the word up but not She looked the hill up? (Aarons 2012: 206)
  • … that the word teodiscus, the Latin form of deutsch, when first used (in 786), did not refer to German but to English? The word deutsch, derived from Þeudo, ‘people’, could refer to almost anything that was not classical Latin. It was any form of language used by ‘the people’.  (Casemir & Fischer 2013: 12-13)
  • … that German ander, fünf, Mund, uns all include /n/ but their English equivalents other, five, mouth, us do not? This is apparently the linguistic legacy which the Ingvaeones left on English, Germanic tribes in the coastal region of the North Sea. They dropped nasals in front of –s, -th, -f. This is also the reason why English has tooth, though the Proto-Germanic word was *tanth (cf. dente, dent). It also explains the apparent irregularity goose # gander. The original form of gander was ganra (close to German Gans), so the /n/ was not dropped because it was not followed by –s, -th, or –f. This also explains the absence of /n/ is Süden. Here, /n/ was deleted because this is the Low German form. If the original High German form had become the norm, the equivalent of south would be Sund. (O’Brien 2012: 18-21; Casemir/Fischer 2013: 247)
  • … that there is (or there was at the time of the publication of John Train’s Remarkabilia in 1984) an undertaker called Mr Bones in Glasgow, a venereal disease counsellor called Mr Clapp in California, a singing teacher called Ms Screech in British Columbia, a pathologist called Dr Deadman in Ontario or a dentist called Dr Fang in Massachusetts? There is also a Father O’Pray in a church in New York City, a tax collector called Cardiac Arrest da Silva in Brazil, a lady called Constant Agony in New York and a man called Iccolo Miccolo who plays the piccolo with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra. (Crystal 1998:121)
  • … that the word gallop was found to be as frequent in the language of five-year-olds as hear and hold, and fart as frequent as bath and clock and God and Guinness? (Crystal 1998: 202)
  • … that there are only a dozen or so words in English which end in –ingetwinge, fringe, singe hinge winge, cringe, dinge) and that these typically express a notion of smallness or inferiority? (Crystal 1998: 29)
  • … that African American English deletes forms be in the Present Tense but not in the Past Tense (“He be doing it since we was teenagers and he still doing it”) and that it shares this feature with Arabic, Hungarian, Russian and Swahili? (Rickford and Rickford 2000: 115-116)
  • … that if one shifts the stress of attack to the first syllable, the first is hardly recognisable? (Bybee 2015: 62)
  • … that in some languages stress regularly falls on one particular syllable? It is the last syllable in French or Turkish, the first in Czech or Finnish and the penultimate in Swahili or Quechua. This feature is called demarcative stress. (Bybee 2015: 60)
  • … that French has a /t/ in parle-t-il, although it belongs neither to the verb nor to the pronoun? The explanation seems to be that it is a remnant of the old 3rd person suffix which eventually was deleted. (Bybee 2015: 80)
  • … that there is wife and wives but not chief and *chieves and that there is wives but not wive’s? (Bybee 2015: 76)
  • … that He drinks decaf indicates that he drinks habitually (in contrast to He’s drinking decaf) but He drank decaf is not? It could be either habitual or it could mean that he did it just once, like yesterday. The absence of a marker is meaningful in the Present Tense but not in the Past Tense. (Bybee 2015: 103)
  • … that the form kinder is singular in Modern Dutch but was plural in Middle Dutch? The modern plural is kinderen. What happened is that the plural noun was taken as a single unit and not as a stem plus an affix. Therefore another affix was added to mark the plural. This was aided by the fact that -er was only one of several ways of marking the plural and less productive than -en. From an etymological point of view, kinderen has therefore two plurals! This is also the case with eieren (‘eggs’), bladeren (‘leaves’), raderen (‘wheels’) and others. These nouns all refer to items which tend to be referred to in the plural. An English word which has two plurals is children, which contains both the -er plural and the -en plural. (Bybee 2015: 104-105)
  • … that you can say a little while or a long while but not *a boring while? Originally, while was a noun with full functions, but then it turned into a conjunction and lost some of its functions as a noun. As a nound, it is now only used in a limited fashion in fixed phrases. (Bybee 2015: 131)
  • .. that U is all that is left of the ancient Dutch polite form of address, Uwe Edelheid, ‘your grace’? (Bybee 2015: 151)
  • … that the most popular of all television magazines in Britain is called The Radio Times? The magazine was first published before the advent of TV and has never felt compelled to change its title. (O’Driscoll 2/2009: 53)
  • … that Japanese has borrowed English strike as sutoraiko and printer as purintaa? The oddness disappears when one considers certain features of the borrowing language: Japanese does not have consonant clusters and, except for /n/, no final consonants. Similarly, Finnish has kahvi, borrowed from Swedish kaffe, because it has no intervocalic /f/. (Bybee 2015: 193)
  • … that we can form warmth from warm and length from long but not *coolth from cool or *wrongth from wrong? (Bybee 2015: 190)
  • … that reduplication seems to appear across languages? It is found in English or Spanish just as it is in Chinese or Swahili. It can serve a number of diffetent functions: it can express plurality like Chinese renren, ‘everyone’ (from ren, ‘person), iteration like Swahili pigapiga, ‘strike repeatedly’, or intensity like Thai diidii, ‘extremely good’. (Bybee 2015: 190)
  • … that, while both Spanish and English have borrowed Arabic qutn, English has borrowed it without the article, Spanish with the article: cotton vs. algodón. (Bybee 2015: 194)
  • … that skrupulös is unscrupulous in English?
  • … that Spanish pierna, ‘leg’ stems from Latin perna, ‘ham’? Modern Spanish has introduced a new word for ‘ham’, jamón. (Bybee 2015: 199)
  • … that, although cause, when followed by a noun phrase, almost always denotes something negative, this is not the case when case when it takes a verbal complement or when it is a noun? So we have cause an accident, cause damage, cause cancer but cause people to migrate and a cause for celebration. In Early Modern English, cause was still largely neutral, no matter what the construction was. (Bybee 2015: 201)
  • … that dirt and dirty are generally used in quite different contexts? Whereas dirt has rather concrete meanings, dirty is often used figuratively as in dirty lies or dirty jokes or dirty little secret. (Bybee 2015: 206)
  • … that inaudible, impatient and immortal are used more frequently that audible, patient or mortal? (Bybee 2015: 204)
  • … that Proto-Indoeuropean had a words for ‘cow’, ‘sheep’ and ‘goat’ but not for ‘chicken’? Such findings give us an idea about life at the time the language was spoken. (Bybee 2015: 230)
  • … that the word assimilation itself contains an instance of assimilation? It is based on Latin ad and similare, with the last sound of ad having become similar (in this case identical) with the first sound of similare. (Kopf 2014: 145)
  • … that itself, in Irish English, means something completely different from itself in English English? It can be quite puzzling: “Did you sleep itself?”. It can be glossed as ‘even’, ‘so’, at all’. Apparently, this is due to Irish fein, which can mean both ‘self’ and ‘only, ‘even’. Even odder, this double meaning of itself seems to have its parallel in Indian English!  (Walshe 2009: 89)
  • …that the /n/ of solemn is mute but the /n/ of solemnity is not? Similarly, the /n/ of hymn and hymnal and the /n/ of damn and damnation. This is quite systematic. Needless to say, the speaker is not aware of these subtleties. In the same way, variation in non-standard language tends to be systematic. In AAE, the final consonant in mask, adopt and bold is dropped, but the final consonant in paint and jump is not. The reason for this is that the two consonants in the first words are identical with regards to voicing – either they are both voiced or both voiceless – whereas in the latter words they are not. This is known as voicing generalization.  Its systematic nature goes even further: friendly and softness drop the last sound of the stem but acceptable ad expectable do not. The reason for this is that the suffix starts with a consonant in the first words but with a vowel in the latter words. (Kaplan 2016: 14-16)
  • … that in ASL (American Sign Language) signs related to emotions such as feel or love were originally produced on the left of the centre, where the heart is, but have since moved to the centre? Signers do not seem to depend on the iconic nature of these signs in order to communicate. (Kapan 2016: 43)
  • … that in ASL negation, which in other languages must occur sequentially, can occur simultaneously? The headshake conveys negation at the same time as the utterance occurs. This is also feasible in spoken languages which are tone languages such as Chiquihuitlán Mazatec, a language spoken in Oaxaca in Mexico. The verbs do not have their own suffix for negation, but are distinguished by their tone pattern to convey whether something is negated or not. (Kaplan 2016: 38)
  • … that, when the Abbé de l’Epée, a pioneering eighteenth-century educator, who had learned the sign language of the deaf community in Paris, tried to modify the language making it closer to spoken French, his students obliged him by using the new system in the classroom but stuck to the old system outside the classroom? The new system just seemed unnatural to them. (Kaplan 2016: 34)
  • … that parents do not seem to systematically and explicitly correct their children’s grammatical mistakes? They focus more on meaning than on form. This was the finding of the original study by Brown and Hanlon, and all later studies have confirmed this. (Kaplan 2016: 104)
  • … that, although men in general have deeper voices than women (because they are taller), the difference is larger in some societies than in others? Apparently, even differences that are physiologically based, are not immune to social influences. (Kaplan 2016: 156)
  • … that the skill of writing, which we now take for granted, in the old days was greeted with suspicion in many quarters? Plato, for example, worried that the written word was incapable of the kind of back-and-forth communication characteristic of face-to-face communication, and believed that those who relied on writing would not properly exercise their memories. (Kaplan 2016: 191)
  • … that the spelling of nite for night involes the addition of a letter besides the suppression of two? There is no final <e> in night. Writers who write nite actually show that they are aware of the fact that a final <e> in English indicates something about the quality of the preceding vowel. Otherwise they could have spelt nit. Thus, even in the process of “breaking” the rules, people who use such abbreviations actually observe the rules. (Kaplan 2016: 199)
  • … that bilinguals, in certain situations, may remember a conversation but not in which language it was conducted? (Kaplan 2016: 242)
  • … that, in a learned article on the history of the four-letter words, which appeared in American Journal in 1934, the words themselves never occur at all? We read about “the most disreputable of all English words … universally known by speakers of English designating the sex act.” From then on the word is referred to as “our word”. (Lynch 2009: 141)
  • … that there is a stress shift from parent to parental but none from happy to happiness? It seems that, as a general tendency, stress shift is more likely to happen in imported words.
  • … that whilst, which has an air of antiquity about it, is actually newer than while? Whereas while made its first (recorded) appearance around the year 1000, whilst only came in 300 years later. Similarly, among is older than amongst and amid is older than amidst. (O’Conner 2010: 12-13)
  • … that English travellers who visited the American colonies were surprised how good the English of the colonizers was? A British customs official, William Eddis, was “totally at a loss to explain why the “strange intermixture” of people in the colonies had not corrupted the language. He was not the only one. (O’Conner 2010: 14)
  • … that the British finally discarded the Anglo-Saxon word fall, which had been around since Alfred the Great’s time, in favor of the French import autumn, whereas the Americans stuck to fall? Originally, both varieties had both words. Similarly, apartment was the common word on both sides of the Atlantic until flat made its appearance in Britain in the 1820s. (O’Conner 2010: 9)
  • … that in the 18th century grammarians attempted to stamp out the form wrote? They considered writ or writt to be the only correct forms. (O’Conner 2010: 43)
  • … that in the post-war period even the Journal of the American Medical Association accepted adverts for cigarettes? People did not object to this but sometimes objected to the grammar in the advertising jingles. (O’Conner 2010: 35)
  • … that Miss Much learned to quickly edit is not the same as Miss Much learned quickly to edit whereas Miss Much learned to edit quickly can mean either? (O’Conner 2010: 20)
  • … that Dryden, having decided that a preposition at the end of a sentence was wrong went back over his own writings and relocated the preposition? (O’Conner 2010: 21)
  • … that, although bitch is a perfectly normal word denoting a female dog, most people, with the exception of dog breeders, are rather reluctant to use it? In its origin, bitch did not have any negative connotations. In this regard, it was preceded by dog. When bitch then came to be used as an insult, it was used, not for women, but for men. The OED has an entry in which a man is referred to as ” schrewed byche.” (O’Conner 2010: 87-89)
  • … that clipped forms of first names often replace /r/ by /l/? Consider Dolly (from Dorothy), Sally (from Sarah), Hal (from Harry) and Mol (from Mary or Martha). Is there system in the madness? (O’Conner 2010: 161)
  • … that I could’t care less means the same as I could care less? (O’Conner 2010: 175)
  • … that we cannot hear the difference between accompany and a company? They are pronounced alike, and we cannot hear, though we can see, whether there is a word boundary or not.  (Gutknecht 62003: 79)
  • … that what in English is called connoisseur in French is called connaisseur? (Clarke 2010: 268)
  • … that English, in sentences like It is raining, needs a rather meaningless over subject, it? Other languages, like Chinese (Xia yu, ‘Down rain’) or Spanish (Está lloviendo, ‘Is raining’), rather more logically, have nothing here. (Saville-Troike 32017: 51).
  • … that children as young as three years of age, when learning a foreign language, softly repeat the new language forms to themselves, drill themselves with self-created patttern practices, translate L2 forms to L1, rehearse what they are going to say before speaking and play games based on the new language? (Saville-Troike 32017: 98).
  • … that “simpliflication” of sentence structure in communication with foreigners may actually impair comprehension to the extent that it reduces redundancy? (Saville-Troike 32017: 114)
  • … that the first six letters of ambidextrous come from the first half of the alphabet and the six last letters from the second half of the alphabet? Incidentally, ambidextrous originally referred to a person who was deceitful and duplicitous, one of the few cases where it is the right side, not left that has negative connotations. (Jones 2016: )
  • … that engl. travel and fr. travail sound quite similar? It is no coincidence. They are cognates. Apparently, travelling was considered hard work in the old days. (Garg 2007: 5-6)
  • … that easel sounds a bit like Esel? It is no coincidence. English borrowed the word from Dutch, from ezel, and used the word to design the artist’s frame to support a canvas. The Dutch apparently thought it looked like a donkey. (Garg 2007: 6)
  • … that we have a word to postpone a meeting but not one to bring it forward? Actually, there is such a word, prepone, and it is listed in many dictionaries including the OED, but in the English-speaking world it never caught on – except in India. (Garg 2007: 11)
  • … that though stoic and epicure seem to be at almost opposite ends of the scale now at one time they were not far apart? The big idea of both schools of thought which gave rise to the words was to reduce wants and be free from passion. (Garg 2007: 22)
  • … that leech was once not the word for the worm but for the physician who used it? Since leeching was the preferred method of treatment in the past, the word gradually came to be used for the animals and not for the physicians. (Garg 2007: 70)
  • … that down your alley and up your alley mean the same thing? (Garg 2007: 94)
  • … that a light year is a unit of distance not of time? (Garg 2007: 102)
  • … that lat. focus and engl. fire are not related but lat. pecus and engl. fee are? It helps to know that fee originally referred to ‘cattle’ (and later to the money to be paid for cattle).  It is noteworthy that lat. /f/ does not usually correspond to  engl /f/, due to the First Consonant Shift. As a matter of fact, engl fire derives from Greek pyr through Latin pyra.  (Baglioni 2016: 35-36)
  • … that in England there is a range of hills called the Sussex Downs? Here down is used in the old sense of ‘hill’, which is where the adverb comes from. (Forsyth 2016: 26)
  • … that the Persian word naan, ‘bread’, is related to our word naked? The ancient Persians used to cook their meat by burying it in hot ashes, but they baked their bread without covering it, naked so to speak. (Forsyth 2016: 33)
  • … that the guines pig is called guinea pig although it is neither from Guinea nor a pig? (Forsyth 2016: 39)
  • … that alcohol should come from Arabic, a language which is intimately connected with the religion of Islam, a teetotal religion? The explanation is simple: originally alcohol did not necessarily refer to the alcohol we know today but to the pure essence of something in general. As a matter of fact, the pure essence al-kuhul meant first is a kind of make-up. This is why some women (and men) still use kohl to line their eyes today. (Forsyth 2016: 106-107)
  • … that we have gormless, reckless, feckless, ruthless but no gorm, reck, feck and ruth? All these words originally existed but died out. The communicative need to say that something was not the case seems to have prevailed. Incidentally, feck derived, by way of clipping, from effect. (Forsyth 2016: 168-171)
  • … that neither cretin nor idiot were originally meant as an insult? The first was rather a compliment, the second a neutral medical term. (Forsyth 2016: 167)
  • … that average has historically something to do with shipwrecks? It goes back to Old French avarie, which meant ‘damage done to a ship’. Ships were often co-owned and when one was damaged and the bill for repairs came in each owner was expected to pay the average.  (Forsyth 2016: 176)
  • … that you can say Merry Christmas but not Merry New Year? As a matter of fact, one did say Merry New Year for a while, until Happy New Year took over.  (Crystal 2012: 25)
  • … that, while ale occurs fifteen times in Shakespeare, mead does not occur a single time? Mead, which had been the most prestigious drink in the Middle Ages had been replaced by wine as the drink of choice among the upper class, leaving mead, along with cider and ale, as the drink of the poor. Mead never fell from favour but quickly was relegated to second place after ale and cider. (Crystal 2012: 21-22)
  • … that some Anglo-Saxon noblemen gave their children Britsh names such as Cerdic and Cedd? A king of Wessex, according to the Anglo-Saxon chrnonicle, was actually called Cædwalla. How is that compatible with the almost complete absence of Celtic words from English? This remains one of the major riddles of the history of English. (Crystal 2012: 38)
  • … that arsehole and arse-licking are widely accepted as pretty rude but working one’s arse off and boring the arse off someone considerably less so? The impact is still lessened if the original arse is replaced by the (originally American) euphemism ass. People who never say arse in polite conversation will often not hesitate to say smart-ass. Further back, when the word first reached England, it was not a rude word at all and only referred to an animals rump. (Crystal 2012: 45-47)
  • … that horrowshow, in British English, means ‘good’, ‘splendid’. It was used by Anthony Burgess in Clockwork Orange as a phonetic rendering of the Russian word for ‘good’ and thus entered British slang. (Crystal 2012: 70)
  • … the name Valentine, in the Second World War, was given to a 16-ton heavy infantry tank? Its production was apparently given the go-ahead on 14 February 1938. (Crystal 2012: 78)
  • … that, except in jest, you cannot speak of the Regal Mail, the Regal Shakespeare Company or the Regal Albert Hall? On the other hand, it is Chivas Regal and not Chivas Royal and Buick Regal and not Buick Royal. Both royal and regal have found their places in English, as well as kingly (or queenly), the word which existed long before both the others enterede the language. (Crystal 2012: 80-82)
  • … that hornbooks, the typical children’s books with which they learnt the alphabet, did not use to contain a line for <j> until well into the 19th century? The reason was that <j> was considered a variant of <i>. (Crystal 2012: 102)
  • … that y’all (i.e. you all), which started out as a specific plural form of you is now also used to refer to a single addressee? People may find it “warmer” than you, a sign of familiarity, of friendliness.  (Crystal 2012: 189-191)
  • … that, though Americans are not likely to refer to a dollar as quid or Britons to refer to a pound as buck, grand is used on both sides of the Atlantic? It refers to $1,000 in the US, to £1,000 in the UK. It was abbreviated as G. But G in digital language is now being replaced by K (influenced by kilobyte), the abbreviation of choice for ‘thousand’  in the context of business (Crystal 2012: 224-225)
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