8 word facts to help you win quizzes
If you’re a fan of quizzes, you’ve probably been in the situation of trying to remember or work out facts about language – and we’re here to help. Here are 9 language facts to help you win quizzes…
The longest word included in OxfordDictionaries.com is pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis, but you’re not likely to hear it very often. It supposedly means ‘a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust’, but was invented in the 1930s in imitation of very long medical terms.
The one that’s most commonly cited is screeched (nine letters). Other nine-letter one-syllable words include schlepped, scratched, scrounged, scrunched, stretched, and the plural nouns straights and strengths.
These are beaten, though, by the extremely rare word scraunched, which can be found in the 1620 English translation of Miguel de Cervantes’ famous novel Don Quixote.
There are two 15-letter words that meet this criterion: uncopyrightable, referring to something for which it is not possible to secure copyright, and dermatoglyphics, meaning ‘the study of skin markings’.
Written representations of noises often contain triple letters, such as brrr, shhh, and zzz, but otherwise English tends to put hyphens in words that contain the same letter three times in a row, such as cross-section, bell-like, and shell-less.
Abstemious and facetious are the examples you’re most likely to see. Others included in Oxford Dictionaries are arsenious, abstentious, acheilous, anemious, caesious, and annelidous.
This question is often posed as a riddle, in the form ‘Think of words ending in -gry. Angry and hungry are two of them. What is the third word in the English language?’ The answer is ‘language’ (i.e. the third word in the phrase ‘the English language’); there is no other current English word ending in –gry.
There are, however, several obsolete or obscure words ending in –gry to be found in the Oxford English Dictionary, including aggry, begry, conyngry, gry, iggry, meagry, menagry, nangry, podagry, and skugry. Answer with any of those, and you’ve put the riddler on the spot.
The four most common English words end in –dous are tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous. There is, however, a fifth: the specialist zoological term apodous, which means ‘without feet’.
The only word in the 20-volume historical Oxford English Dictionary that rhymes with orange is sporange, a very rare alternative form of sporangium (a botanical term for a part of a fern or similar plant).