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  • Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The college professor still left in me grabs hold once in a while and it’s time again to take on the teaching mantle and pontificate regarding the mundane.

So here goes. I have always had a love affair with the English language and it always fascinates me when I consider the idiosyncrasies of our Mother Tongue. Equally intriguing are the oddities of life. So, with some help from the Internet, here’s this week’s lesson:

For instance, did you know?

The longest one-syllable word in the English language is “screeched.”

“Dreamt” is the only English word that ends in the letters “mt”.

Almonds are members of the peach family.

The symbol on the “pound” key (#) is called an octothorpe.

The dot over the letter ‘i’ is called a tittle - as in the expression “jot and tittle.”

Ingrown toenails are hereditary.

The word “set” has more definitions than any other word in the English language.

“Underground” is the only word in the English language that begins and ends with the letters “und.”

There are only four words in the English language which end in “…dous": tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous.

The longest word in the English language, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.

The only other word with the same amount of letters is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconioses, its plural.

The longest place-name still in use is Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukaka
Pikimaungahoronukupokaiwenuakitnatahu, a New Zealand hill.

Los Angeles’s full name is “El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los
Angeles de Porciuncula.”

Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.

Donald Duck’s middle name is Fauntleroy.

The muzzle of a lion is like a fingerprint — no two lions have the same pattern of whiskers.

A pregnant goldfish is called a twit.

There is a seven letter word in the English language that contains ten words without rearranging any of its letters, “therein": the, there, he, in, rein, her, here, ere, therein, herein.

Dueling is legal in Paraguay as long as both parties are registered blood donors.

A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.

It’s impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

Cranberries are sorted for ripeness by bouncing them; a fully ripened cranberry can be dribbled like a basketball.

The male gypsy moth can “smell” the virgin female gypsy moth from 1.8
miles away.

The letters KGB stand for Komitet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti.

“Stewardesses” is the longest word that can be typed with only the left hand.

To “testify” was based on men in the Roman court swearing to a statement made by swearing on their testicles. Only men were recognized by the court.

The combination “ough” can be pronounced in nine different ways. The following sentence contains them all: “A rough-coated, dough-faced, thoughtful ploughman strode through the streets of Scarborough; after falling into a slough, he coughed and hiccoughed.”

The only 15 letter word that can be spelled without repeating a letter is uncopyrightable.

Facetious and abstemious contain all the vowels in the correct order, as does arsenious, meaning “containing arsenic.”

Emus and kangaroos cannot walk backwards, and are on the Australian coat of arms for that reason.

Now, don’t you just feel smarter with all of this new-found knowledge packed into your brain?

Don’t thank me. Just knowing that you will be sharing this knowledge with others is thanks enough. My professor duties are done for today.



John Brock is a retired college professor who lives and sometimes thinks (but not today) in Georgetown County. His Email address is: brock@johnbrock.com. Website: www.SouthernObserver.com.

Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.

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