Eighty percent of English words are not spelled phonetically. That is, they are not written as they sound.
‘Manslaughter’ and ‘man’s laughter’ are spelled exactly the same. So are ‘fatherless’ and ‘fat her less.’
The letter combination of ‘ough’ has more pronunciations than any other combinations: bough, bought, cough, dough, hiccough, rough, thoroughbred, through, and trough.
The word ‘queue’ is the only word which retains its original pronunciation even when the last four letters are dropped.
‘Strengths’ is the longest word with only one vowel. ‘Latchstring’ has six consonants in a row. Beijing, Fiji, and hijinks have the most dots in a row. ‘Set’ has the most different meanings, with ‘run’ running a close second.
George Bernard Shaw, who tried unsuccessfully to will his fortune to anyone who could invent a better alphabet, declared it was possible to spell fish ‘ghoti’ by using gh as in enough; o as in women; and ti as in nation. But there are many ways to spell fish. For instance: Phusi- as in physics / busy / pension. FFess- as in off / pretty / issue. Ughyce- as in augh / hymn / ocean. The list is endless.
‘Floccinaucinihilipilification’ is the longest word in the Oxford English Dictionary. The word is unusual not only because it dates back to 1741; not only because it has 29 letters with 9 i’s and no e’s, but also because it means to classify something as worthless or trivial.
Amaze your friends by dropping these words into the conversation: Foozle: a bungling golf stroke. Groak: to stare hopefully at other’s food. Schizocarps: the pinwheels that grow on maple trees. Vomer: the slender bone separating the nostrils
In the Shan language of Burma, inflection and tone means a great deal. With the proper inflection, the sentence, “Ma ma ma ma ma” means “Help the horse, a mad dog is coming.”
In America, Rice Krispies say “snap crackle and pop” but in Sweden they say “piff paff puff” and in South Africa they say “knap knaetter knak” and in Germany “knisper knasper knusper.”
The Russian word for hurry is “bystro.” When Russian soldiers occupying Paris in 1814 sat down in French bars, they’d shout out “Bystro! Bystro!” Eventually bistro came to mean a small tavern or bar.
Makrama is the Turkish word meaning a fringed napkin and gives us macrame.
In the South Seas the word tattaw means to knock or to strike and gave us the word tattoo.
The chess term checkmate comes from the Persian shah mat meaning “the king is dead.”
When Bradley, Voorhees, and Day formed an underwear company in 1876, they called their product BVDs.
The Hollywood stereotype of an Indian saying “How!” is based on the traditional Indian A-Hau meaning “Peace with you” or “All is well.”
The ancient Greeks used a resin called ‘mumia’ or ‘momie’ to preserve bodies, giving us mummies.
The word tip is an abbreviation for “to insure promptness.”
The German word frau means wife. It is a contraction of two German words, froh meaning joy, and weh meaning woe.
The word potpourri originally meant a stew. In French it literally means “putrid pot.”