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4 Mind-Blowing Things You Never Knew About the English Language

Are you a word nerd who thinks they’ve heard it all? You’ll love these amazing facts about the English language.

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English language facts: the origins of the abbreviation "Mrs."Photo: ShutterStock

1. It turns out there’s a reason for the “R” in “Mrs.”

Mrs.” wasn’t always the abbreviation used for a married woman. Centuries ago it stood for “mistress,” which at the time meant the woman of the household. But the abbreviation stuck, even as the title for married women changed to a word without an R in it: “missus.”

For more fun word facts check out, 10 Amazing Words We No Longer Use (But Should)!

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English language facts: The proposed "pure English"Photo: ShutterStock

2. Someone tried to make the English language sound… Englisher

In the 1800s, William Barnes, a poet and minister, tested an unusual question: What would the English language look like if it were stripped of all Greek and Latin root words? This new language, Barnes thought, would make more sense to speakers who lacked a classical education. For example, instead of using the word photograph (from the Greek words meaning “light” and “writing”), we would say “sunprint.” Some of the entries in Barnes’s proposed “pure English” dictionary make perfect sense. Others produce chuckles and need some translating:

  • “ayesome” = affirmative
  • “folkdom” = democracy
  • “inwit” = conscience
  • “muchness” = quantity
  • “naysome” = negative
  • “overthwartings” = opposites
  • “suchness” = quality
  • “sundersome” = divisible
  • “thwartsome” = contrary
  • “unfrienden” = alienate
  • “word-book” = dictionary
  • “wortlore” = botany
  • “year-day” = anniversary

Here’s the Linguistic Reason the Plural of “Moose” Isn’t “Meese”!

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English language facts: Origins of the word "chowhound"Photo: ShutterStock

3. These six words are actually 100 years old

They sounded new when we first heard them, but the earliest cited uses of these words in the English language all date back to the early 20th century:

  • “Chowhound”
  • “Cootie”
  • “Gaga”
  • “Lounge lizard”
  • “Pep pill”
  • “OMG” (yes, as an
 abbreviation)

For more interesting word facts from Reader’s Digest, check out 9 Great Words You Never Knew Were Gaelic!

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"Whatever" is the most hated word in the English language Photo: Shutterstock

4. The most hated word in the English language will make you say, “whatever”

In 2016, “whatever” was voted the most annoying word in English in a poll by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion for the eighth year running. Thirty-eight per cent of those surveyed reported that “whatever annoys them more than any other conversational word or phrase, with 20 per cent loathing “no offense, but,” 14 per cent despising “ya know, right?” and “I can’t even,” and 8 per cent saying they can’t take any more of the word “huge.”

For a fascinating read on how the English language varies within Canada itself, check out The Story Behind The Distinct Language of Newfoundland.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada