The Real Reason There’s an “R” in “Mrs”

...And more mind-blowing facts about the English language.

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English language facts - reason there's an R in Mrs
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Quirky English language facts most people don’t know

The reason there’s an “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.”

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English language facts - dictionary definition
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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 why the plural of moose isn’t meese.

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These contemporary-sounding 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!)

Test your knowledge of Canadian slang terms.

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Most hated word in the English language - Whatever
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The most hated word in the English language

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

Now that you know these fascinating English language facts, put your vocabulary to the test with our Word Power quiz.

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada

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