Average Americans know about 10,000 words. Writers know the most words, averaging 20,000. Farm workers seem to know the fewest words, at around 1,600.
The word "set" has over 100 meanings or uses.
According to the Guiness Book of World Records, there are as many as 2,241 synonyms for the state of being "drunk." How many can you list?
A fellow in Montana gave his daughter a 622-letter long name. His purpose: To tangle up and crash beaurocratic computers!
In 1984 Alan Foreman of England sent his wife Janet a rather long letter containing over one million words.
When modern kids say "bad!" their actual meaning is "good!" Some of us wince at this slang reversal. This is not the first such reversal in the English language, however. "Awful" used to mean awe-inspiring, and "artificial" used to mean full of art.
In Spanish and German, they capitalize the word "you." In English, we capitalize "I."
Here's an interesting example in the evolution of the English language. Butterflies used to be called "flutterbys."
Who first said, "'t count your chickens before they are hatched?" It was Aesop, of Aesop's Fables.
A voice heard over a telephone does not sound live. It sounds false or "phony."
In France a computer is called l'informatique, and in Sweden a computer is a dator (because it handles data).
Hemidemisemiquaver is a funny word. It is a musical term meaning a 64th note.
Chauffeurs date to the days of coal-fired, steam-driven cars. In fact, "chauffeur" is French for "stoker."
In the mid-1800's, there was a guy hired by an Irish earl to collect high rent from tenant farmers. The farmers totally ignored him. His name was Charles C. Boycott.
Some Vocabulary Going Out of Style
When is the last time you heard the word "aglet" in conversation? It is the clear plastic tip on the end of a shoelace.
Blowouts are less-often seen nowadays. They are the things you used to see at parties - you put one end in your mouth, and when you blow into it, the other end unrolls and makes a weird noise
And pianoforte has gone out of style. This is what a piano used to be called. Pianoforte literally translates to quiet-loud. In fact, before "pianoforte," people used to say "fortepiano."
Here are some seldom used nautical terms from a century-year-old book:
Bend: To fasten; as, to bend on a rope. Bulwarks: The sides of a vessel surrounding and extending above the deck. Caboose: A kitchen on deck. Cat's paw: A light puff of wind. Painter: A rope used to secure a boat to anything. Reeve: To pass the end of a rope through a pulley, etc. Thwarts: A boat's seats. Trick: A sailor's duration of time in steering.
These words came from the Hindu language: Bungalow, pajamas, shampoo, jungle, cot.
The Hindu word khaki means "dusty."
The word cosmetics is based on the Greek, 'skilled in decoration.'
From Algonquin (American Indian) we get: Skunk, pecan, chipmunk.
From Arabic: Almanac, mattress.
From Chinese: silk, tea, ketchup, tycoon.
Ernest Hogan, a black musician, wrote a song in 1896 called "All Coons Look Alike To Me." He used the then-common slang of "coon" to mean white man. After the song became popular, the terminology reversed, with "coon" becoming slang for a black man.
The word gobbledygook was coined by a Texas congressman in 1944.
The word "book" comes from "bok" meaning "beech." The first books in Europe were written on thin slabs of beech wood.
The word candidate roughly translated into Latin means a person dressed in white.
The word "deliberate" translates roughly in Latin to balance, or weigh on a scale. "Libra" means scale. This is where the abbreviation for pound comes from. (lb.)
The original meaning of the word "fee" was cow, an ancient trading medium that is not used much anymore because it is not convenient to carry cattle your pocket.