Page 2 - Language Facts

Japanese has a word for buying books and never reading them. Do you ever do this?


In Sanskrit, there are 96 words for “love.” Ancient Parisian has 80 words for “love.” Even Greek has three different words while English only has one. What does that say about Anglo-Saxons’ relationship to their feelings? Discuss. Meanwhile, I’ll tell you that Inuits have 30 different words for “snow.” How many are used in the United States, and what does that say about our relationship to this form of precipitation? That’s too boring to discuss, so read on.

One word we do have? Bootylicious (syllabification: Boo·ty·li·cious). If “bootylicious” could be added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004, why do we have no word for the common task of buying books and putting them on shelves without reading them? “Tsundoku” is what the Japanese call it.

The rest of us just practice it, whether we name it or not. It’s used informally in Japanese and is pronounced “tsoon-doh-koo” in English. Maybe we can get a curvaceous R & B singer to write a song about this word, making it the next big thing?

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Swedish wasn’t the official language of Sweden until 2009!


While many people think it must be common sense for Swedish to be the official language of Sweden, it wasn’t until 2009! Swedish is a North Germanic language that is extremely similar to other Scandinavian languages such as Danish and Norwegian.

Because of the prevalence of other languages, Swedish was not made official until 2009. While today most everyone speaks Swedish as at least a second language, almost as many people speak English. Almost everyone in Sweden speaks English because of the trade links established after World War II and a strong Anglo-American influence that was established. 

English became a mandated course taught in schools because it was so prevalent in the country. Because it is so popular, many people called for the strengthening of Swedish, thus it was officially made the language of Sweden! 

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The mountains of Iceland. In Iceland, 1 in 10 Icelanders will be published in their lives!


Iceland is a beautiful country. It's also covered in snow and pretty inhospitable for huge swaths of the year. Maybe that's why Iceland reads, writes, and buys more books than any other country in the world on a per-capita basis.

In their lifetimes, one in ten Icelanders will publish a book, and the average Icelander reads four books every year. Many people attribute this love of literature to Iceland's most famous export: The Sagas

The Icelandic Sagas are a group of tales and stories written in Old Norse that recount the oral history of the Icelandic people. Written around the turn of the first millennium, they mostly concern the travels and travails of the Vikings, Kings, and peoples of Iceland. To this day, the word "saga" means "story" in modern Icelandic.

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Some awesome lists!

It took more than 200 years for the Greek people to choose an official language — it wasn't as easy as you would think!


The Greek people grappled with a strange, but not all too unusual problem from 1766 until 1976. They had to decide what the official language of Greece would be and they had to choose one of two options. It was a highly controversial topic in the 19th and 20th centuries.

The dispute was about whether the language of the Greek people (Demotic Greek) or a cultivated imitation of Ancient Greek (katharevousa) should be the official language. The language phenomenon in question—which also occurs elsewhere in the world—is called 'diglossia.'

Diglossia refers to the coexistence of two—in extreme cases—completely different forms of a language that greatly exceed the usual stylistic difference between written and spoken word. Usually there is a 'higher' more formal language co-existing with a 'lower' form of the language that is spoken in homes, market places and among friends. One can therefore say there is a formal and informal version of the same language.

In Greece 'katharevousa' (ancient Greek) was the formal, high version of the language and demotic Greek was the common or 'lower' version of the language. The dispute was finally settled in 1976 when demotic Greek was chosen as the official language of Greece.

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The word 'frenemy' was first used in 1953 to describe the relationship between Russia and America.


"Frenemy," sometimes spelled "frienemy,” is a combination of the words "friend" and "enemy." It can be used to describe an enemy pretending to be a friend, or it can describe a real friend with whom one is competing for something – a title, a job or popularity.

The word is not only used to describe personal relationships, but also refers to political and commercial relationships among individuals, groups, corporations and even countries. The word has appeared in print as early as 1953 when W. Winchell wrote: "Howz about calling the Russians our Frienemies?" In the ‘Nevada State Journal ‘ on 19 May 1953.

Although the word has been around for a long time, it was popularized on the third season of the television series ‘Sex and the City’. In politics one could say that the Arabic proverb, ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ comes into play and evolves into ‘frenemy’ when two countries that are not necessarily friends, work together against a common, more threatening enemy.

Frenemy has become a popular word and a widely used concept. It has been written about in publications such as ‘Businessweek’ and the topic appears abundantly on various websites like that of ‘Scientific American’ and on countless blog pages.

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