Tuesday, February 1, 2011

World Wide Words

Words are very unnecessary: the sound of silence is the universal refuge.

Some notes on words

"E" is the first common used letter (12.702%) in English, and the second most common letter is “T” (9.056%) and "A" acquired the third position (8.167%).


What is the longest word in English? It is a name of a protein. The wall here does not support to bear the word limit. The word has 189,819 letters. It is:


It is one of over two million proteins.The word has 189,819 letters. It is also called as 'Titin' in short form.


'Honorificabilitudinitatibus' is the longest word William Shakespeare used in Act V, Scene I of Love's Labour's Lost. It is mentioned by the character Costard. It means “the state of being able to achieve honours." It is also the longest word in the English language featuring alternating consonants and vowels.


The least commonly used letter in the English language is "z" and the second least is "q". "E" is also the most common letter in French, German, and Spanish. Friends can access some interesting mathematics to find out the least used word in English from the site at


Oxford Dictionary of Quotations says that the shortest poem in the English language (by an unknown poet) is titled 'On the Antiquity of Microbes' and contains only this much – Adam/Had 'em.


"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Above is the shortest short story consisting of only six words. Credit goes to Ernest Hemingway. On a bet, Hemingway once presented his friends with this six words short story.


Terza Rima is a type of poetry consisting of 10 or 11 syllable lines arranged in three-line format. The first known use of terza rima is in Dante's Divina Commedia. This style has been used by Milton, Shelley, and Byron. The rhyme-scheme is: aba, bab, cdc, ded, etc.


Cna yuo raed tihs? The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.


Collins dictionary has chosen 102 words and phrases to exemplify a year in the past century and a bit. For example: 1978 test-tube baby; 1979 Rubik cube; 1980 Solidarity; 1981 SDP (ie, the then new and now defunct British Social Democratic Party); 1982 CD; 1983 Aids; 1984 yuppie; 1985 glasnost; 1986 Mexican wave; 1987 PEP (Personal Equity Plan, a type of tax-free savings); 1988 acid house; 1989 Velvet revolution; 1990 crop circle; 1991 ethnic cleansing; 1992 clone; 1993 information superhighway; 1994 National Lottery; 1995 road rage; 1996 alcopop; 1997 Blairite.etc etc.

A similar list produced for the Guardian by the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary is like this: 1978 BMX, Teletext; 1979 space invaders; 1980 Reaganomics; 1981 Walkman; 1982 Exocet; 1983 Star Wars; 1984 Aids; 1985 yuppie; 1986 perestroika; 1987 free market, Black Monday; 1988 lager lout; 1989 poll tax; 1990 global warming; 1991 citizen’s charter; 1992 grunge, annus horribilis; 1993 Whitewater, bobbit; 1994 World Wide Web; 1995 Britpop; 1996 ecowarrior, scratchcard; 1997 New Labour.


Grammars were originated first in Sanskrit : (6th century BC), Tamil (1st century BC), Greek (3rd century BC) and Latin (1 st Century BC) respectively. In 7th Century Irish grammar was originated and that of Arabic followed in next century. It is very interesting to know that Hebrew grammar was originated very lately in 10thh Century only and the first grammar in English began with John of Cornwall in 14 th Century


Old English(mid-5th century to the mid-12th century) had two numbers, three genders, four cases, remnants of dual number and instrumental case, which could give up to 30 inflectional forms for every adjective or pronoun. Its syntax was only partially dependent on word order and has a simple two tense, three mood, four person (three singular, one plural) verb system. The spelling of Old English is strictly phonetic.


In all of his work - the plays, the sonnets and the narrative poems - Shakespeare uses 17,677 words: Of those, 1,700 were first invented by Shakespeare by changing nouns into verbs, changing verbs into adjectives, connecting words never before used together, adding prefixes and suffixes, and devising words wholly original.


‘An Alligator skin ’, ‘epileptic’, ‘eyeballs’, hot-blooded’, ‘household words’, ‘obscene’, ‘puking’, ‘skim milk’, ‘the game is afoot’ and ‘worm-holes’ are some words and phrases that don't appear anywhere in English prior to Shakespeare putting them on paper.

‘An Alligator skin’ in Romeo and Juliet (First Folio), Act V, Scene I, Romeo Soliloquy.

‘Epileptic’ in King Lear, Act II, Scene ii, Kent to Cornwall.

‘Eyeballs’ in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act III, Scene ii, Oberon to Puck.

‘Hot-blooded’ in King Lear, Act II, Scene iv, King Lear to Regan.

‘Household words’ in King Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii, Henry to Westmoreland.

‘Obscene’ in Love's Labours Lost, Act I, Scene i, Ferdinand to Costard.

‘Puking’ in As You Like It, Act II, Scene vii, Jaques to Duke Senior.

‘Skim milk’ in Henry IV, Part I, Act II, Scene iii, Hotspur Soliloquy.

‘The game is afoot’ in Henry IV, Part I, Act I, Scene iii, Northumberland to Hotspur.

‘Worm-holes’ in the narrative poem The Rape of Lucrece.


Various spellings were used at the time of Shakespeare’s marriage with Anna Hathway in the Episcopal Register at Worcester on November 27th 1582 and November 28th 1582- there were at least 16 different spellings of Shakespeare including Shakspere, Shakespere, Shakkespere, Shaxpere, Shakstaff, Sakspere, Shagspere, Shakeshafte and even Chacsper! Shakespeare always signed himself as "Shakspere"



  1. Excellent Dr.Sarojini! How eruditely and scholarly you are! Thanks for sending me these bits of rare knowledge. Recently I wished one of my friends in Himachal Pradesh, "Have an ice day!" In fact I meant "Have a nice day!" Luckily he was not offended though it was a day of biting cold.