Language Facts

Baggins is not Bilbo's real name. Neither was Bilbo! The reason why is a bit... convoluted

Westron was the language of the Dunedain of Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings series of books by J. R. R. Tolkein. He wrote the books as if they had been translated from Westron (the Common Speech). Westron was the closest to the universal language of Middle-earth. Westron is a western word—not a word from the original language.

Westron as a created language is a derivative of the Aduniac tongue of Numenor, originating as a Creole language on the western coast of Middle-earth where the Numenoreans established forts and outposts for trading. From the west it spread east, with the exception of Mordor.

The translation has many effects on the language and by extension the novels. The ending of the "true" hobbit name was Bilba with an -a. However, the -a ending is associated with a female, so Tolkein changed it to the more masculine -o. Bag End was actually Labin-nec after Labingi, the true form of Baggins.


We all know the difference between upper and lower case letters, but do you know why they are called that? Keep reading to find out.

In the late 19th Century, printing presses used individual letter plates to create what they wanted to print and then be able to transfer to paper.

This became the norm for books and newspapers that had previously all been hand-written. Hand writing was not only time consuming, but did not leave much room for error. These printing presses now had the technology to record information and print it in mass quantities to share with the public by using these presses with letter plates.

Letter plates were small metal plates, each with its own letter, that were arranged on a larger plate to create full pages. In order to keep these letters organized, they came in a case referred to as a type case.

Type cases had small shallow compartments where the letter plates could be stored. Since most sentences have a significantly less amount of capital letters, these letters were stored in the upper part of the type case. The remainder of the letters were stored in the lower portion of the tray cases. That is the simple reason as to how upper case and lower case letters got their name.


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?


Some awesome lists!

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! 



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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