Have you always been logofascinated – fascinated by words? Do you one day dream of being described by as logodaedalus – someone who is cunning with words?
If so, you’ll enjoy Word Drops: A Sprinkling of Linguistic Curiosities, by Paul Anthony Jones, which contains 1,000 facts about words, language and etymology.
The book follows the success of Jones’s Twitter account @HaggardHawks, which Tweets strange and surprising facts about words and language.
Here are some of my favourites from the book:
- “A pedant was originally a schoolteacher.”
- “Conundrum was originally an Oxford University nickname for a pedantic person.”
- “‘Four’ has four letters, it’s the only self-describing number in the English language. “
- “In Urdu, the same word, kal, is used to mean both ‘tomorrow’ and ‘yesterday’. “
- “Checkmate derives from shah-mat, the Arabic for ‘the King is dead’. “
- “An ale-knight is a drinking companion, or a habitual drunkard. “
- “A shot-log is an unwanted friend or drinking companion, whose company is only tolerated so that they can pay for a round for the rest of the group.”
- “Whisky derives from a Gaelic word, uisgebeatha, meaning ‘water of life’.”
- “Anyone who is crambazzled has aged prematurely through excessive drinking. “
- “The most commonly misspelled word in the English language is separate. A survey in 2010 found that separate – typically misspelled with an E in place of the first A – was the most troublesome word in the English language, seeing off competition from the likes of definitely in second place, and maoeuvre in third.”
- “The line separating the numbers in a fraction is called a vinculum. “
- “A moment is precisely a fortieth of an hour.”
- “A smidgen is precisely 1/32 of a teaspoon.”
- “The word run has 645 meanings in the Oxford English Dictionary.”
- “The Oxford English Dictionary defines a food coma as ‘a state of seep or extreme lethargy induced by the consumption of a large amount of food’.
- “As an example of how to use the word dull, Samuel Johnson’s Dictionary states, ‘to make dictionaries is dull work’.”
- “Bumph, meaning ‘tiresome or pointless work’, is a military nickname for toilet paper. It’s shortened from ‘bum-fodder’.
- “The first recorded use of the acronym OMG dates from 1917. On 9 September 1917, at the height of the First World War, Admiral John Arbuthnt Fisher wrote to Winston Churchill, hen Minister for Munitions, to say that ‘I hear that a new order of Knighthood is on the tapis – O. M. G. (Oh! My! God!) – Shower it on the Admiralty!’.”
- “The French equivalent of LOL is MDR. It stands for mort de rire, or ‘dead with laughing’.”
- “In Ancient Greece, an idiot was someone with no interest in politics.”
- “Tory derives from an Irish word for ‘outlaw’.
- “The act of trimming or shaving a beard is pogonotmy. The process of growing a beard is pogonotrophy. A treatsie written on the subject of beards is a pogonology.”
- “Typewriter is one of the longest words that can be spelled using only the tp row of keys on a qwerty keyboard.”
- “A string of random symbols and punctuation marks used to censor swearwords – like ‘f@#?!’ – is called a grawlix.”
- “The dot above a lower case i or j is called a tittle.”
- “Octothorp is an alterative name for the hash sign #.”
- “The N of PIN stands for ‘number’.”
- “The German word kummerspeck means ‘excess weight gained through comfort eating’. It literally means ‘grief-bacon’.”