Page 9 - Language Facts

The plural of sphinx is sphinges. What's the plural of octopus?

Some words have very odd plural versions. Cul de sac becomes Culs de Sac. Thesis becomes theses. Octopus becomes octopi. And sphinx apparently becomes sphinges. Where did that come from?

A sphinx is a creature with the head of a person and a body of a lion. It is also an ancient Greek monster. The best known sphinx is probably the giant sphinx statue built in ancient Egypt. It can also be a mysterious or inscrutable person.

Since there isn't usually more than one sphinx at a time, people don't often use the plural version. Hence why sphinges sounds so odd. It pronounced almost exactly as it sounds — sfin - jeez.


In many languages blue and green are considered to be different shades of the same color. In English, that color is referred to as 'grue'

According to Brent Berlin and Paul Kay's 1969 study 'Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution', distinct terms for brown, purple, pink, orange and grey will not emerge in a language until the language has made a distinction between green and blue.

Many languages, however, do not differentiate between certain colors on the visible spectrum and they therefore do not have separate terms for blue and green. Instead, they use one term to cover the description of both these colors. In English linguistic terms, this cover description is referred to as 'grue'.

For example, in Vietnamese the word to describe the color of both tree leaves and the sky is 'xanh'. To distinguish, they use xanh l cy ("leaf grue") for green and xanh dương ("ocean grue") for blue.

In the Thai language 'khiaw' means green, but when referring to the sky or the ocean, it means blue. In Chinese has 'qīng' can refer to green, blue and sometimes even black! The Korean 'pureuda' can mean either green or blue. Many African languages also utilize the same word to describe both colors.

But what is the color of water? Many will say blue, and some of us will say green. Color is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.


Russians have a word to describe a weekend long bender! Learn more

The word "Zapoi" (written in Russian as запой) refers to two or more days of continuous drunkenness, during which an individual withdraws from society.

The fact that Russia has a word for such a specific behavior is not surprising—drunk culture is widely prevalent throughout Russian society, and heavy drinking is generally a socially acceptable behavior.

According to a World Health Organization report in 2011, the annual per capita alcohol consumption in the country is 15.76 liters, the fourth highest in Europe.

In 2012, as an effort to combat alcoholism in the country, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev nearly doubled the price of vodka. Still, the problem persists throughout the country.


Some awesome lists!

Ending a Sentence With a Preposition is Just Fine If You're Speaking English. Here's why

A preposition at the end of a sentence is also known as a stranded preposition. It is a grammatical myth that a sentence in English should never end in a preposition, and this rule originates from the Latin-obsessed 17th century. For the next two centuries teachers and grammarians very seriously tried to enforce it.

English is not Latin and the deferring of prepositions is part of English. If you wish to be a pro-Latin grammar elitist—maneuvering all prepositions to the end of a sentence—you might end up sounding like Yoda in Star Wars.

A well known witticism that illustrates this point very well, is: "This is the sort of English up with which I will not put!"


"Helicopter" and "pterodactyl" have the same Greek root word! Do you know which?

Police use helicopters, but the etymology of helicopter has nothing to do with cops. Rather, it relates to fliers from the Jurassic period. It's helico–pter, from the Greek ἕλικος (elikos) "spiral" + πτερόν (pteron) "wing."

The "-pter" in helicopter is the same as the "–pter" in pterodactyl. The prehistoric flying reptile is "wing-fingered." It gets it's name from πτερόν + "dactyl," the combining form of δάκτυλος (dactylos) "finger."



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