You’ve heard of onomatopoeia, hyperbole, and euphemism, but have you heard of funistrada or contranyms? These are only 2 of the 5 mind blowing word facts we highlight in this post.
Let’s dive in.
1–80% of English Words are Loan Words
Loan words are words from one language that are incorporated into another language. Depending on your perspective, these words were given from one language to the other (loaned) or “taken” by one language (borrowed).
Scholars estimate that up to 80% of English words were incorporated from other languages. Cultural contact between two groups leads to the loaning or borrowing of words. For example, English borrowed words from the people that invaded the island and later from British colonization.
Science, circus, and paper came from Latin, noodle and poodle from German, and canyon, guitar, and alligator were borrowed from Spanish.
An extensive history of loan words is available on this Rice University webpage.
2–“Ghost Words” Are Meaningless
A ghost word was created by mistake but has been included in a reference book–such as a dictionary. Made up words, such as claster and pounet, do not count. Even though they could fool an opponent in Scrabble, they aren’t in the dictionary.
Dord is a ghost word—it was created by accident and appears in the dictionary even though no one ever used it. In 1931, an individual working on Webster’s New International dictionary took the initials D-or-d (which stood for Density in physics or chemistry) and removed the hyphens. Dord was the result.
Cairbow was inserted in the Oxford English dictionary through this example sentence “It (the Cairbow) then suddenly squats upon its haunches.” Cairbow was a typo for caribou.
Ghost words can also happen from poor editing. For example, the term “kime” appeared in the Edinburgh Review; it was a typo for the word knives.
3–Foods that Don’t Exist are Funistrada
Foods such as buttered ermal and braised trake don’t exist, but they were included in a military survey asking soldiers about their preferred foods. The military created these fake foods to determine which soldiers took the survey seriously.
Soldiers preferred funistrada, ermal, and trake over eggplant, lima beans, and cranberry juice. Clearly, soldiers did not want lima beans.
- The horse Funistrada earned $479,404 in its career.
- A British publisher of journals for businesses, professionals, and consumers took the name Funistrada Ltd.
- The restaurant Trattoria Funistrada in Maple City, Michigan, serves real food, such as steamed mussels, Angel Hair Carsoni, and Tiramisu.
Technically speaking, funistrada is not a ghost word. It was not a typo or misprint and was never published in a reference book.
4–Pangrams are Sentences that Use All Letters in the Alphabet
A pangram is a sentence that uses every letter in the alphabet in as few letters as possible. The most famous example is “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” which contains 35 letters.
Also known as holoalphabetic or alphabet sentences, examples include the 31-letter sentence “The Five Boxing Wizards Jump Quickly,” and the 28-letter sentence “Fox nymphs grab quick jived waltz.”
Font designers use this sentence to highlight the letters of their fonts. Pangrams are also used in typing practice.
Want to know if a sentence is a pangram? Wordsmith has a pangram finder–copy and paste a sentence, and the pangram finder will let you know what letters the sentence lacks.
The previous paragraph is missing 6 letters: b, j, q, v, x, z.
5–Contranyms are Words with Opposite Meanings
The final mind blowing word fact is that contranyms have contradictory meanings. Depending on how they are used, contranyms, also called antagonyms or self-contradictions, can have an opposite meaning.
Some examples include
- Bolt. You can bolt something down so it will stay put, or you can bolt from the scene.
- Buckle. You can secure something using a belt buckle, while something under excessive pressure can bend, collapse, or buckle.
- Dust. You can sprinkle particles on something (a light dusting) or dust and clean up your dust particles.
- Finished. A project can be finished or completed, or you can finish off, or destroy, a person or object.
- Strike. When you hit something with a stick, you strike it, but when you swing and miss in baseball, the ump calls “strike.”
- Wind up. Speaking of baseball, a pitcher winds up and throws. The batter hits, the outfielder throws to first base, and the ball winds up in the first baseman’s glove.
We hope these mind blowing word facts whet your appetite for words. Check out the Infographics page for examples of odd and little-used words.