in

People Share The Best Facts About Language That No One Seems To Know

JACQUELINE BRANDWAYN/Unsplash

Language may seem like a pretty boring subject—we all had to study it throughout our school years, after all.

But languages are way weirder—and way cooler—than you might think.

Redditor FamousTeam90 asked:

“What is a fun language fact you know?”

Italian Is Newer And Older Than You Might Think

“The official Italian language is both new and old. It is based on an old dialect that was only adopted by the Italian state after unification in the late 1800’s.”

“It’s based on a literary language spoken by upper class Tuscans in 11th-12th 13th century. Most regions in Italy still speak their own dialect and the official Italian taught in schools.”

“Here’s a brief history for the curious.” –TrevArts

“My mother’s grandparents immigrated to the US from northern Italy around the turn of the 20th century. They apparently didn’t speak standard Italian, they spoke Lombard, which is a funky looking language/dialect. My mom said her grandparents kind of cut off the end of words like the French do.” -SagiTsukiko

“My grandparents originally lived near Napoli and spoke Neapolitan. Compared to standard Italian a lot of the pronunciations are totally different. My mother learned it from her parents and when we went to Italy to visit relatives who didn’t immigrate she got comments from people on how she spoke the old language instead of the new one.” -PrivateVasili

Finnish Has A Lot Of Homophones

“The Finnish phrase ‘kuusi palaa’ can be understood in 9 different ways:

“Six pieces / Six of them return / Six of them are on fire / The number six returns / The number six is on fire / A spruce is on fire / A spruce returns / Your moon is on fire / Your moon returns”

“A piece = pala / (multiple) pieces = palaa / A moon = kuu / Your moon = kuusi / A spruce = kuusi / Six = kuusi / To be on fire = palaa / To return = palata / Return(s) = palaa” -InfamousChibi

“‘How many do you want?’ ‘Kuusi palaa.’ ‘My moon is what?'” –joha130

English Is Changing

“We think of English, particularly American English, as becoming more homogeneous over time (usually attributed to the prevalence of national-level media), but in fact, the fastest vowel shift in the history of the English language is currently underway. It’s called the Northern Cities Shift, and is taking place from Chicago to upstate New York.” -HungryLikeTheWolf99

“The pronunciation of short vowels have shifted from their common sound, for example short o is now pronounced as short a, so the word block sounds more like black. It is happening around the great lakes and linguists aren’t sure why it has happened.” -maryxchristmas

“This short video shows people who demonstrate the accent but were filmed for other reasons (i.e. they were not trying to accentuate the Northern Cities Vowel Shift).”

“Edit: I wanted to add this video as well. It does a good job of actually explaining the phenomenon.” -Cat_Man_Dew

German Elements Can Be A Bit Strange

“Sauerstoffe, the German word for oxygen, literally translates to ‘sour material’.” -PersonWhoExists50306

This isn’t the only weird element name in German.”

“Hydrogen = Wasserstoff = ‘Water stuff'”

“Nitrogen = Stickstoff = ‘Choke stuff'”

“Carbon = Kohlenstoff = ‘Coal stuff'” -GeneralDarian

“‘Oxygen’ means acid forming. Acids taste sour.” –GozerDGozerian

Not All Medical Terms Are Latin

“Many people think that the medical names for organs of the body are derived from Latin, but only the muscles and bones are. For example, ‘gluteus maximus’ is Latin for biggest muscle. But, ‘pulmonary’ is derived from the Greek, since it is not a muscle (i.e. pertaining to the lungs).” -Ex_Nihil

Fruity Confusion

“In French, grape is ‘raisin’ and raisin is ‘raisin sec’ (which roughly translates to ‘dry grape’).”

“F**ked me up as a child.” -_aft3rlif3_

“My parents always interchanged French and English, but would only use raisin for the dry type and I never knew if I was getting grapes or raisins.” -notyetcommitteds2

ASL Is Quite Complex

“American Sign Language (ASL) is one of many signed languages around the world and has very little relation to the English language.”

“Also, when confronted with a proper noun, name or a concept that needs to be clarified because of the lack of a sign, we use fingerspelling. While you might think this is like speaking the letters of a name, signers spell so quickly that you aren’t supposed to catch every letter, just notice the general shape of the word as it’s spelled.”

“Some signs for ‘bank”dog’ and ‘what’ are fingerspelled so hurriedly that you omit a letter or two, leaving a quick motion in place of what would have been B-A-N-K.”

“Fingerspelling in general is bananas. Watch a Deaf person spell their own name (especially something long like Josephine) and you’ll see what I mean. It’s probably the toughest part of the language to learn since it’s nearly all intuitive.” -ICantHearYoo

Why Pineapple?

“Pineapple is some variation of ‘ananas’ in most languages…except English” -yeEEeEeeEeee3eeeeEet

“In Mexican Spanish, pineapple is piña, while in most other varieties it’s anana” -ThePeasantKingM

“It’s ananas in Kannada, a smaller language of a state of India. So weird, considering I doubt that there is any shared roots with other languages.” -Redditor

“Its ananas in Marathi too. I think it is that for PIE [Proto-Indo-European] root languages. Kannada isn’t one but maybe interacting with Sanskrit and other Indo-Aryan language probably gave it ananas.” -AdiSoldier245

Arabeezy

“When people type Arabic using Latin letters, they substitute some numbers for letters because they look similar. It’s commonly called “Arabeezy” as a portmanteau of the Arabic word for English, Engleezy, and Arabic. Examples include ew3adni, 2ool, 7abibi, 3li, 6arab. So sometimes you’ll see sentences like, ‘Eh a5bar sho3’lak?’ and wonder if their cat jumped on their keyboard.” -H0use0fpwncakes

“Been learning Arabic for two years and I had no idea the numbers were chosen because they looked like the letter, I just thought it was because English had no equivalent for that Arabic letter so we used numbers. This makes much more sense haha” -laika_pushinka

Don’t Interrupt

“You can’t really interrupt someone who use a language that places the verb at the end of the sentence because you won’t understand what he wants unless he’s finished” -OmarAdelX

“I mean to a certain extent. Japanese is that type of language but some sentences are even made not to be finished.. You don’t need the verb always.” -elrulestheworld

“Sure you can…if you know what they are going to say (context). Source – speak Japanese. People interrupt all the time.” -bless_your-heart-

“I’ve always wondered how translators work with this?”

“Like in German, for example, where you place the verb at the end.”

“For example, ‘I want to run quickly through the green grass.’ is ‘Ich möchte schnell durch das grüne Gras rennen.'”

“If someone was translating that it would seem like they’d hear ‘I want to quickly through the green grass run,’ so how do they know it’s going to be run?” -liamemsa

“Interpreter here, though in Spanish not German, but Spanish works the same way where I have to untangle the sentence to get it to make sense in English. When a client is talking, I usually wait for them to finish the thought before rendering it in the other language. This is called consecutive interpreting, one person talks, stops, and lets me do my thing. The other form, simultaneous, is when one person talks and once I can’t remember any more I start talking too, taking in info while I’m actively interpreting. Most of us don’t work in this mode often, unless you’re interpreting a conference or something. Most interpreter’s working memory is 4 ish sentences, so we know what you said and we just flip it around as we go. We also take notes depending on the type of session. It takes practice and a very high degree of fluency, but I honestly don’t think about the grammar much anymore. I’m trying to find the vocabulary that will get the message across best or remember a medical term.” -GrayGhoast

Language is even more fascinating than a lot of people think. Even if you take your native language for granted, there are probably a whole lot of really cool things you don’t know about it yet.

Written by Winn Sioux Christnot-Peters

Winn Sioux Christnot-Peters is a writer/web designer and aspiring librarian based in Northern Maine. When not writing or in class, they devote much of their time to multiple non-profit organizations, largely focusing on LGBTQ+ rights and animal welfare. During rare moments of free time Winona enjoys video and tabletop games, as well as various nerdy fiber crafts such as crocheting (mainly amigurumi Pokémon, cat toys, and blankets) and counted cross stitch.