Wednesday, July 12, 2006

"Word" up!

Gertrude Stein once famously said, "A word is a word is a word." This is as true today as it ever was. Although linguists and anthropomorphists disagree about why humans ever talk to each other and which language is the "best," the simple fact is that we all use words every day that we live on this planet, Earth. So take a moment to increase your word power by checking out these Very Little Known Facts!

  • Famed linguist Norm Chomsky discovered that all languages can be broken down into approximately 80 phonemes, or "letters." He received the Noble Prize for Semiotics in 1968, but the award was rescinded when he was accused of Communist tendencies.

  • HOW DO YOU SAY "WHERE'S THE BATHROOM?" Everybody knows that there are over 400 words for "snow" in Aleutian, the Inuit Eskimo language. But did you realize that in Russian there are over 1,000 synonyms for "despair?"

  • Computers can understand dolphin language, but humans cannot.

  • MY WORD! It is a violation of British Common Law for any member of the royal family to speak a language other than English or Latin.

  • The word "horsepower" originally referred to the amount of energy released by burning the carcass of one dead horse, the primary source of fuel for early American steamboats.

  • "Lotto" is simply an industry term for "lottery."

  • NOW THAT'S A LOT OF IBI! Groups of animals can have odd names in the English language. A group of lions or tigers is called a pride. A group of crows is called a flock. Four or more lambs form a quartet. Flies congeal in swarms, cows socialize in herds, and dogs congregate in packs. The plural of ibex is ibi, and a group of ibi is referred to as a confederacy.*

*BONUS FACT: Under duress, a confederacy of ibi will huddle together at night in a confused jumble of limbs and tails for defensive purposes. Occasionally, if some ibi have been injured and their wounds mash against each other in the huddled confederacy, their injuries will actually heal together to fuse the individual beasts into a hideous conglomerate of ibex flesh and scar tissue known as an Ibex King.


Tasha said...

Dear Fact Men,

Where can I find a double-decker bus (in the United States)?

Anonymous said...

Word Up on the word facts

Jon Black and Britt Bergman said...

Dear Tasha,

Thanks for your comment! But it appears you have answered your own question. You can indeed find a double-decker bus in the United States, as well as in many other countries. Thanks again for your comment!

Jon Black and Britt Bergman said...

Dear Anonymous,

Thanks for your comment! The phrase "Word to your mother" was originally based on the "your mama" jokes popular in the Nineteen Eighties amongst wise-cracking teenagers and the like. Did you know the original "your mama" joke was at the expense of Mama Cass from the Mamas and the Papas? Mama Cass later died tragically from obesity. Thanks for your comment!

Jason Hartley said...

I thought that Mama Cass died because she choked on a veggie turducken sandwich. Thanks for clearing that up for me!

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