Just an Interesting Language Tidbit

I have been enormously busy with other things going on the past couple of weeks, so I have not been able to finish a number of the blog posts I am working on. I apologize for that, and as soon as things settle down, we’ll get some posts up.

In the meantime, here are some interesting tidbits I have discovered recently about our beloved English language.

  • It might surprise you to know that in 16th century, English had three main regional dialects. In London, present active indicate verbs ended with -en. Thus, one might say “He loven ye.” But in the south, they used -eth which you might find familiar if you ever read the King James Bible: “He loveth thee.” While the southern pronunciation beat out the London one for quite some time, around the time of the rule of King James himself, the northern preference for ending verbs with -s had become the more common one as in “He loves you.” Shakespeare used all three, but you know which one won don’t you?
  • Have you ever wondered why one landmass has three continental names: Asia, Europe and Africa? It is entirely because of the Romans. Europe was the area people in Asia could not see, beyond the setting sun. Asia was originally just modern day Turkey and Persia, and Africa comes from the Phoenician word for “sand” (not too surprising there if you have ever seen North Africa). The Romans used the convenience of these three terms for the world around their own. They never used them to describe Rome and Greece – only the regions that were not Roman or Greek.
  • English actually has very little English in it. Less than 1% of our vocabulary descends from Anglo-Saxon. Most of our vocabulary comes from Norman French, and much of our grammar comes from Danish.
  • Generally speaking, Greek words are used for scientific terms and types of medical expertise, but we almost exclusively use Latin words for biological descriptions.
  • Ironically, much of the terminology in mathematics and physics derive from Arabic – including our numeral system (which is actually Indian but comes to us through the Arabs).

Ok, that’s enough trivia for today.

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