Today I thought we could have some fun with the English language. Let’s begin with a short quiz. Since the answers are tough, I’m giving you some hints. The correct answers will appear later in the reflection.
- English is the second most spoken language in the world. Which language is first?
- What is the most common adjective used in the English language. (Hint: it’s not a bad word.)
- What are the two most common words used in English? (Hint: They are pronouns.)
- What is a “mouse potato”? (Hint: you are probably one right now!)
- What is the shortest grammatically correct sentence in English? (Hint: It has 2 letters.)
- What is the word “goodbye” derived from?
- Which word in English has the most definitions? (Hint: it has 3 letters and can be a verb, adjective, and noun.)
- What is the most commonly used letter in English? (Wheel of Fortune contestants often buy this vowel!)
Here are a few more fun facts about the English language. About 840 million people speak English as their first language. It is the second most spoken language in the world today–after Mandarin. In the United States there are about 24 dialects of English spoken. This is why someone from Upper Michigan might have trouble understanding someone from southern Alabama–and visa-versa. But radio, television, and our mobility have done much to “equalize” our English.
Here are the other answers to the questions: 2) the most common adjective: good, 3) the two most common words: I and you, 4) a “mouse potato” is someone who sits at a computer a lot–it’s akin to “couch potato.” 5) the shortest sentence: Go. (But “Be” could be a sentence too!) 6) the word “goodbye” is derived from “God be with you.” I like that! 7) the word with the most definitions: set. 8) the most commonly used letter is e. How did you do?
A few more fun facts about English. There are seven ways to spell the long “e” sound. This sentence contains all seven of them: He believed Caesar could see people seizing the seas.
Interestingly, on the federal level, the United States does not have an official language. But 32 states have declared that English is the official language of their state. (My state, Ohio, is not one of them. Making English the official language was part of the “English-Only Movement” in the U.S.) Some languages beside English have been given special status by some states: French in Louisiana and Cherokee in Oklahoma, for example.
Why is English so widely spoken in the world? Here are three contributing historic factors: The vastness of the British Empire, the rise of the U.S. as a world power after World War II, and, of course, the birth of the internet. Today 80% of the information stored on computers worldwide is stored in English. English is also the official language of air travel for pilots and control towers.
I’ll close with this fact: there are roughly l million words in the English language. A new word is added to the dictionary every 2 hours! But the average English speaker knows only about 20,000 to 30,000 words. Maybe we all should invest in a new dictionary and learn a new word at least every day!
Did anything stand out for you in this reflection? Is English your first language? If so, are you fluent in any other language? If English is not your first language, was it challenging to learn English?
Speaking of language…
Today’s song is “Love in Any Language” sung by Sandi Patty. While different languages can separate us, it is the language of the love in our hearts that can unite us as a world community.
I welcome your response to this reflection and/or song. My readers and I always enjoy reading the responses!