Echoes of the Past: 35 Interesting Facts About the History of Languages

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1Pasteurized milk

Pasteurized milk

The American Sign Language for “pasteurized milk” is the sign for “milk” while moving your hand past your eyes.


2. Marie Wilcox is the last fluent speaker of the ‘Wukchumni’ language. In an attempt to revive the dying language, she spent 7 years writing and recording a Wukchumni dictionary.


3. In English, multiple adjectives are supposed to be listed in the following order: Quantity, Opinion, Size, Age, Shape, Color, Origin, Material and Purpose.


4. "The Chaos" is a poem written by Gerard Nolst Trenité to show differences in pronunciation of English words which are spelled similarly. The poem only rhymes if you know how to pronounce them correctly.


5. Ablaut reduplication is an unwritten rule in the English language stating that "if there are three words then the vowel order must go I, A, O. If there are two words then the 1st is I and the 2nd is either A or O." It is the reason we say tick-tock, not tock-tick, ding-dong not dong-ding, etc.


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6Brain

Brain

American speech is punctuated with "uh" & "um", English speech with "er" & "erm", Japanese with "ā", "anō", & "ēto", German with "äh", French with "euh"-- basically, every language uses different sounds to interrupt themselves while their brain is working on forming thoughts into words.


7. To show how Classical Chinese had become an impractical language, linguist Chao Yuen Ren wrote a 92-character poem in which every syllable has the sound "shi". The poem "Shī Shì shí shī shǐ" translates to "Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den".


8. In English, zero quantities are plural by default. Therefore you can write "0 results found" and "I have found no results".


9. We say "pardon my French" after swearing because, in the 19th century, English-speaking people would drop French phrases into the conversation to display class, apologizing because many of their listeners wouldn't know the language. Then people hid swear words under the pretense of them being French.


10. Around 1000 of the world's approximately 5,000 languages are spoken solely in New Guinea.


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11The Onion

The Onion

Motto of the news satire organization, “The Onion” is “Tu stultus es” which in Latin translates to “You're an idiot.”


12. At the beginning of Mr. Bean episodes, as part of the opening credits, Mr. Bean falls from the sky in a beam of light, accompanied by a choir singing ‘Ecce homo qui est faba,’ which in Latin translates to ‘Behold the man who is a bean.’


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


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


15. 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.


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16Dothraki language

Dothraki language

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.


17. 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.


18. 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.


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


20. 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.


21Long time no see

Long time no see

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.


22. 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.


23. 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.


24. 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').


25. 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.

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