Page 4 - Language Facts

What was the last letter added to the alphabet?

Ever wonder why I and j are side by side in the alphabet when they look so similar? Well, they actually started out as the same letter.

The letter j's swash was just an embellishment on I. The two would be used interchangeably. This explains the 'j' in the word hallelujah.

With the introduction of the Roman numeric system, j was also used to punctuate a series of one's, like xiij for the number 13.

It seemed that 'j' would forever be doomed to life as a fancy 'I' until 1524 when an Italian Renaissance grammarian Gian Giorgio Trissino distinguished the two sounds.

He introduced the soft 'j' sound, as in "jam." For this, Trissino was named father of the letter "j". Yet ironically, his name contains 5 I's and no j's.


The word bonfire has a much more morbid meaning than you think.

A bonfire or balefire is a large controlled outdoor fire made from bales of straw or wood. The word is believed to come from "bone fire".

In the time of the Celts, there were midsummer festivals where animal bones were burnt to ward off evil spirits.

Bonfires were also used for rituals. The idea was that the fire would purify. It was used to consecrate things, or people, that are to make them sacred, in some way.

In ancient times, cattle were important symbols of wealth and status. Such cattle were led through the smoke of a bonfire.

Couples who were to be wed on May Day would leap through the flames of the bonfire to seal their vows. Coals from a bonfire would be taken home to light the fires in family hearths. This practice was thought to bring good fortune.


The origin of upper case and lower case letters is actually incredibly simple! What is it?

The Printing Press was the most revolutionary piece of equipment ever created. The printing press allowed the creation and duplication of many different documents, so that they could be spread around the world.

Reading and Writing were skills only obtained by the rich and religious leaders. The creation of the printing press made it easier for the general public to have access to reading materials, and slowly, overtime, they learned how to read.

Enough of that boring history. Let's learn why we refer to capital letters as 'uppercase' and regular leaders, as 'lower case'. The original printing press had two different cases on it.

Each case was identical, except for the fact that one of the cases had only capital letters (A, B, C...) While the other case had regular letters (a, b, c...)

People started referring to capital letters as Upper Case letters because they were literally on the upper case of the printing press!


Some awesome lists!

If you've ever said "Money is the root of all evil," you completely missed the point of the original phrase. Here's why

Most of us have heard the saying "money is the root of all evil." Essentially, this means that money is behind all the evil in the world - the motivation, the goal, the means. However, this saying, while some may believe it is true, is actually a misquotation.

The phrase comes from the Bible, specifically Timothy 6:1-12. The actual saying is "the love of money is the root of all evil." And if you want to get technical with the translation, it's "the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." All of these phrases may sound the same at first glance. They aren't though.

The real translation puts the focus on the person because someone has to love money in order for it to be evil. Money itself is not inherently evil. And anyone could love money - rich or poor.


Before the r-word, there was this term that came from the French word for Christian!

Over the years, there have been plenty of offensive names for those with mental disabilities.

With increased understanding and sensitivity to these issues, these names have thankfully diminished. The first term used to describe the mentally handicapped was actually quite kind though.

"Cretin" is considered a term of abuse today. However, when it was first used, it was not seen that way. It comes from a French word for Christian.

It conveyed that those with mental disabilities were still human and still Christian. They deserved to be treated with dignity and were thought to be incapable of sin. Thus, they were Christ-like.



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