The average American has a vocabulary of 10,000 words. Those who have not completed college have a vocabulary of 5,000-7,000 words. Farm laborers have an average vocabulary of 1,600 words. Professionals have a lexiconic arsenal of approximately 15,000 verbal projectiles to unleash.
The term "smart aleck" comes from a famous confidence man, Alec Hoag, who devised methods for prostitutes to trick and rob their patrons in New York during the 1840's.
The word "bellwether" comes from the practice of having a castrated sheep ("wether") lead the flock while wearing a bell around his neck. The bellwether thus signals where the flock (or things in general) are going.
A "moment" is actually 90 seconds.
Brides actually walk down the "nave" of the church (that's what the center walkway is called).
"Set" has more meanings than any other word in English.
The abbreviation "I.O.U." stands for "I owe unto" rather than "I owe you."
"Honcho" means "squad leader" in Japanese. It was adopted by the Americans after World War II.
In the U.S., a "billion" is 1,000,000,000, or a thousand million. In Europe (including England) a "billion" is 1,000,000,000,000, or a million million, which we would calll a "trillion" in the U.S. A U.S. billion is called a "milliard" in Europe.
In Middle English, "balded" meant white; the word survives in the shortened version "bald" which is why the bald eagle (with its white head) is called bald. Dogs who have white spots are called pibald (or "part white") for the same reason.
Mrs. was originally an abbreviation of "mistress," but now is not an abbreviation of anything, except a woman's single lifestyle.
The word "corn" is generally used in English-speaking countries to mean the most common grain. Thus, in England, "corn" means wheat, while in Scotland it means oats. What the U.S. and Canada refer to as "corn" is generally called "maize" in other countries.
The alumni of a school are its male graduates (one of whom is an alumnus). The alumnae are its female graduates (one of whom is an alumna). There is no correct term for all of the male and female graduates together.
The real name for a snap of the fingers is a "fillip."
The name of "jordan almonds" comes from the French jardyne almaunde, which means "garden almond."
"The" is the most frequently used word in the English language (used three times in this sentence alone).
More countries use English as their official language than any other. French is second.
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Generally Useless Facts
Copyright 2003-2007 by Ray Bromley.
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