We’ve all been in situations that required us to make awkward small talk.
Perhaps it was at the office holiday party, at a dinner with clients or at your child’s dance recital. Maybe you have nosy in-laws or a co-worker who frequently “pops in” to your cube.
Even the smoothest PR pro can need a little help from some neutral topics of conversation. Why not talk about your passion for language? Below are 15 little-known facts about the English language that can help you fill an awkward void.
- The English language has 1,100 different ways to spell its 44 distinct sounds, more than any other language. (Source: Learn English Spelling)
- You can spell out all the numbers from 1 to 99 without using the letters A, B, C or D.
- The most commonly used word in written English is “the.” The most commonly used spoken word in English is “I.” (Source: Rinkworks.com.)
- Edith Wharton—who began living in Paris in 1907—received a Legion of Honor from the French government for her support of the French during World War I.
- “You” and “ewe” are pronounced the same, but have no letters in common.
- Roughly 1,000 new words are added to the Oxford English Dictionary every year.
- The words “bookkeeper” and “bookkeeping” are the only unhyphenated English words with three consecutive sets of double letters.
- A palindrome is a word, phrase, or other sequence of letters that reads the same backward or forward, such as, “Never odd or even.”
- Around 45 percent of English vocabulary is of French origin.
- “Sequoia” is the shortest English word containing all five vowels.
- Author Agatha Christie was an avid surfer. She became adept at the sport and surfed in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, and Honolulu.
- Ninety percent of English text consists of just 1,000 words.
- Misusing “their,” “there,” and “they’re” and other grammar gaffes are among the biggest texting sins for online daters.
- “Gherkins,” “quartzy,” and “muzjiks” are some of the highest-scoring words in Scrabble.
- The space between the eyebrows and the nose is known as the glabella.
What other language or literary facts can you add to this list?
Laura Hale Brockway is a writer and editor living in Austin, Texas. Read more of her work on PR Daily and at Impertinent Remarks.