50 Fascinating Facts about Languages Around the World

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26Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla could speak eight languages: Serbo-Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, Hungarian, Italian, and even Latin.

27. “Sh*tstorm” has been adopted into the German language as a perfectly polite noun meaning an internet-born controversy.

28. The Korean alphabetic system, known as Hangul, was introduced by King Sejong in the 1440s to improve literacy. The difficulty of Chinese characters favored privileged aristocrats, whereas Sejong's phonetic alphabets allowed Koreans of all classes to learn how to read and write.

29. The Dothraki language was designed to sound like Arabic to the untrained ear, or a mix between Spanish and Arabic to anyone who knows Arabic.

30. The English word "much" and the Spanish word "mucho" are not related at all, despite having similar definitions. "Much" comes from Proto-Germanic "mikilaz", while "mucho" comes from the Latin world "multum". Their similar appearance is a complete coincidence.

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31Blond and blonde

Blond and blonde

Blond(e) is one of the few words left in English that is gendered. Blond is used to describe males, while Blonde is used to describe females.

32. “American” was the official language of Illinois from 1923 to 1969.

33. Tagalog is the 5th most spoken language in the United States, ranking higher than Vietnamese, Korean, German, Arabic and Russian. Tagalog is spoken by a quarter of the Philippine population.

34. Phrases like, "Long time no see," and "Chop chop" are grammatically incorrect and originate from Chinese immigrants. These phrases may have been coined by native speakers imitating these immigrants.

35. The gender-neutral "they" was used as the 3rd person singular in English until about 1800, when "he" and "she" became widespread to make English more like Latin.

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36Null and void

Null and void

The reason so many traditional legal terms come in pairs (aid and abet, null and void, part and parcel, will and testament) is that old English courts used English terms along with Latin or French terms to avoid confusion.

37. In old English, the possessive (eg. cat's) was marked by -es. This was shortened to -s, which is why there's an apostrophe (as it represents the missing 'e').

38. Eye's pupil got its name from Latin "Pupilla", which means little doll, because that's what you see when you look into someone's pupil, the little doll version of yourself.

39. The word Shampoo is derived from the Hindi word 'chāmpo' which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit root 'chapayati' meaning: "to press, knead and soothe".

40. The English language capitalizes the pronoun 'I' because it looks too small when it's in lowercase.

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41A Void

A Void

There's a 300-page book called 'A Void' that was written without ever using the letter "e". The original is in French, but there are over a dozen versions of it in different languages written by translators who also managed to compose it without ever using the most common letter of the alphabet.

42. The most complex character in the Chinese language takes 57 strokes to write. It is a noodle dish.

43. Expecto Patronum roughly translates to "I await a protector" in Latin.

44. Many English words used to be spelled phonetically (e.g. debt was 'det') until some scholars purposely added silent letters to make them look more like Greek or Latin words, sometimes erroneously.

45. Washoe the chimpanzee was the first non-human to use the American Sign Language. When Washoe's caretaker returned to work after a miscarriage, Washoe ignored her. The caretaker then signed "MY BABY DIED", to which Washoe replied "CRY", simulating a tear running down the caretaker's face.



Young children, especially twins, will often develop their own language that they can understand but is unintelligible to any adult observers.

47. There is a short German rhyme about procrastination that also rhymes when translated into English. "Morgen, morgen, nur nicht heute, sagen alle faulen leute." in English means "Later, later, not today, all the lazy people say."

48. Ye, as in "ye olde whatever", is pronounced 'the'. It comes from typesetters using y instead of the Old English letter þ which had a ‘th’ sound.

49. Paraguay is the only country in the South America where more people speak a native language than a colonial one (90% Guarani vs 87% Spanish).

50. The word ‘Saudade’ is a Portuguese word with no literal English translation. It means, ‘the empty sadness and longing for that which may never return that accompanies nostalgia.’

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