Today, January 9th, is Word Nerd Day. This day is special for people who love all things literary and English because it’s dedicated to the words that make up our wonderful language.
As a literature enthusiast myself, I’ve decided to share some nerdy facts that you should tell your family at the dinner table tonight. Here are four fun facts you may have not known about words.
Shakespeare Invented Words That We Use Today
Everyone has come across Shakespeare’s work at one point in time or another. His writing is part of every high school English class and there have been countless films and other pieces of media based on his plays.
But did you know many of the words Shakespeare wrote weren’t actually part of the official English dictionary at the time?
Now to say that Shakespeare “made up” all of those words is a little misleading because he probably used many of the words that people spoke around him.
After all, think about how language has changed over the course of your life: new words are invented and used by communities before they make it into the dictionary officially.
However, while scholars disagree over the number of words Shakespeare invented, he was one of the first writers to put them into his work. Therefore, Shakespeare is credited as inventing (or being the first to write down) as many as 1,700 words.
Some of the words invented by Shakespeare include:
- Candle Holder
As you can see, we use many of those words still today. Shakespeare’s work helped to shape our language by giving us the first written record of our vernacular.
We Read the First And Last Letters of a Word
Did you know that our brains only look at the first and last sentence of a word?
Take this sentence for an example:
Our birnas olny raed the frsit and lsat ltteer of a wrod.
However, this is only true in some cases, particularly if the words are shorter. Our brains can read these words because they don’t stray far from their original spelling. That is why we can usually read sentences even if there is a small typo in the word.
However, word puzzles can still jumble our brains and cause us to be unable to figure out what is being said. That means there is a level of randomization that makes our brains incapable of reading a word.
According to Matt Davis, a researcher at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Cambridge University, here are some other key things that matter:
- How you switch the letters. The randomization of the letters can affect how your brain reads a word. Take the word accomplishment: cmmpontealcshi v. aoccnpismehlemt. The latter is easier to read.
- We understand words better when the sounds are similar. The example Davis uses is “talot” v. “toattl.” Notice how one preserves the original meaning of total while the other does not.
- The predictability of the sentence. If our brains can guess what will come next, then we will have an easier time processing the information.
In general, small spelling mistakes that keep the word mostly the same can be read by our brains; however, longer words that have more mismatching when it comes to the spelling error can be unrecognizable.
Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious isn’t the longest word in the dictionary
Everybody loves this song from Mary Poppins, and you’ve probably heard it a million times as a child.
While this is probably one of the longest words you’ve ever said, it is not the longest word in the dictionary.
The award for the longest word in the English language goes to pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis. This is a type of lung disease caused by silica dust.
This word is forty-five letters and will probably take you many tries if you want to pronounce it.
However, it’s fascinating that this word—of all words—is the longest word in the dictionary purely because Evertt M. Smith invented it at the National Puzzler’s League.
Maybe someone will invent another word to be the longest word in the English language, but for now, we’ll all have fun trying to say pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis.
Some words that are difficult to Rhyme
You might have aspirations to write a poem or a song with words that rhyme.
However, did you know that there are a few words that don’t rhyme with anything at all?
Now some of these words might be able to rhyme with a phrase or an incredibly obscure word. However, this is a list of words you might have a hard time finding a rhyme to:
So much for being able to use these at the end of your sentences in your next hit song; however, maybe someone will invent a word that rhymes with each of these in the future.
Happy Word Nerd Day!
Since Today is Word Nerd Day, take these facts and impress your friends as you flaunt your newfound literary knowledge.
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