10 January 2014

14 Quite Interesting facts about language

The word “infant” is from the Latin for “unable to speak”
A baby pterosaur is called a flapling.

Nudiustertian means “relating to the day before yesterday.”

The word “journey” is from the French journee and once meant the distance one could walk in a day.

Lalochezia is using swearing to relieve stress or pain.

The faint trace of perfume left in the wake of a passing person is known as sillage.

Plutomania is the delusion that one is immensely rich.

Kayak is an Inuit word meaning “man’s boat”; strictly speaking, the Olympic women’s version should be called the umiak competition.

“Restaurants” were originally meat soups for “restoring” strength.

Ebriety is the opposite of sobriety.

Grenade is French for pomegranate.

Latin and Gaelic have no words for ‘yes’ and ‘no'.

An old name for the kestrel is windfucker.

A spermologer is a collector of trivia.
Selections from 1,339 QI Facts To Make Your Jaw Drop, which I received as a Christmas present. 

One from the book that I did not include was "The metal clip for a light bulb inside a lamp shade is called a harp," because the harp is relevant to the lamp shade; it has nothing to do with the light bulb.


  1. I now have a new word to work into my next book, Dragon! :D

  2. I was thinking about the word infant recently, and how it differs from baby.

    For me, the prototypical infant is a newborn, or certainly no more than three months, whereas the prototypical baby (a more inclusive term) is a little older, perhaps six months. That is, I think of an infant as a particularly young baby, rather than as a synonym for "baby" in general.

    However, I can't find much evidence that other people see it the same way. The dictionaries certainly don't support my intuition.

    There is a tiny bit of support from the ngram viewer. If you look at the frequency ratio of the phrases "month old infant" and "month old baby" in American English, you'll find it's slightly less than the average frequency ratio of the corresponding phrases with "day" or "week" instead of "month". However, the difference is not strong. (It doesn't apply at all in British English.)

    Here is the graph.

  3. Ebriety --> Inebriated. Gotcha. I need to remember that word sillage. There are certain people who always have a distinct and relatively strong sillage. If that is using the word right...

  4. Not too long ago I finally found the opposite to avuncular: materteral. Not too many people know that.

    Also, if Latin didn't have Yes or No, what did they use?


  5. An umiak is different from a kayak: it's open at the top, like a skin canoe. I believe they were also used for different things: kayaks are for hunting sea mammals, which is probably why women didn't use them.

  6. It's not exactly "facts _about_ language", except maybe the first one.

    @ Anonymous (Jan 11) : answering with full phrases (which is still done in many languages* which have a yes and no)
    - do you want some bread with your soup?
    - thanks but i eat it without bread
    * I'm especially thinking of portuguese "queres pao? quero" or lithuanian "nori duonos? noriu" used for "do you want bread? yes"

  7. Infantry means those who have no say.

    1. Interesting. I hadn't thought of that. Tx, Barbwire.

    2. I thought it was called infantry because adultery was already taken.

  8. Mandarin is another language with no words for yes or no.


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