Language Facts

Contrary to a popular theory, the word 'testify' has got nothing to do with testicles. Find out why they sound as if they could be related

There is a theory that the word ‘testify’ originated because Romans placed their hands on their genitals or on another persons genitals, or testicles, when testifying.

This is very far from the truth! The Romans certainly did not swear oaths on their private parts.

The confusion can be cleared up by looking at the etymology of the word ‘testify.’ It originates from the Latin word ‘testis’ meaning ‘witness.’

Note there is a difference between testis and testes. Later the word developed into ‘testificari’, still meaning ‘a witness’. Only in late Middle English was the word ‘testify’ used, which was derived from the root Latin word ‘testificari’.

Now, you might wonder where the word ‘testicle’ originates from. ‘Testiculus’ is the diminutive of the Latin root word ‘testis’ and means ‘witness of virility.’ The plural is testes. Clearly both these refer to a witnessing of some kind, but testifying certainly did not come from men placing their hands on the testicles of others.

To clear up any further confusion (if there could still be any) ‘virility’ originates from the Latin word ‘virilitatem’ (from virilis), which means power of procreation. Therefore ‘testicles’ directly translated would mean ‘witness of (a man’s) power of procreation.’


there are more people speaking french in Africa than in France

French is mostly a second language in Africa, but in some areas it has become a first language, such as in the region of Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire or Libreville, Gabon.

The language is spoken by an estimated 120 million (2010) people in Africa spread across 15 countries.

This doesn’t even include those in non “French-speaking” countries. With this number, Africa is the continent with the most people who speak French, meaning that there are more people who speak it in Africa than in France, though a continent is much larger than a single country.

The amount of French spoken depends on where you go. Sometimes it’s used as a first language by upper-class members while the lower classes know it as a second language. The French spoken is known as African French, and is a little different from the original language.

The countries with the most French speakers are the Democratic Republic of the Congo with over 24 million people who know it as either their first or second language, Algeria with 19 million, Côte d'Ivoire with close to 13 million and Morocco with over 10 million.


There is a town in Norway named ‘Hell’.

It gets even better - if you use the country’s abbreviated form, the town is called Hell, NO! The name Hell is deriven not from the fiery furnace, from the Old Norse word hellir, which meant ‘cliff cave’. Strangely enough, nowadays the word ‘hell’ in Norwegian means luck! As you would expect, the town has become a relatively popular tourist destination over the years. Visitors enjoy taking photographs of the local train station, which boasts a sign which reads “Hell: Gods-expedition”. This is actually a clever play on the Norwegian term godsekspedisjon, which means “cargo handling”! Rumor has it that this Hell tends to freeze over annually, believe it or not.

Another Hellishly fun fact: Mona Grudt, the first Norwegian to be named "Miss Universe", is from a small town near Hell. During the competition in 1990, she listed herself as "The Beauty Queen from Hell" as a publicity stunt. The trick must've worked, because she ended up winning the entire competition!

Some awesome lists!

The word 'Jay' used to mean stupid, and was eventually applied to country folk. When these Jays came to the city, they didn't understand traffic signals; thus, they were 'jaywalking.'

Jaywalking is defined by being the illegal or reckless pedestrian crossing of a roadway, but where did the term come from in the first place?

Folklore might suggest that it comes from the letter “J” being the path one might follow to “jaywalk”. More likely, though, it has another origin.

The first recorded usage of the word came from the United States, and that is thought to be where the term originated. It’s generally believed that “jaywalking” is a compound word, with the two words being “jay” and “walk”.

One meaning for “jay” is an inexperienced person. In towns in the American Midwest in the early 20th century, "jay" was a synonym for "rube," a derogatory term for a rural resident, assumed by many urbanites to be stupid, slightly unintelligent, or perhaps simply naïve. Such a person did not know to keep out of the way of other pedestrians and speeding automobiles.


“Mortgage” means “death contract.”

Though it might not initially seem so, it wasn’t coined that way for a comedic reason. It basically just means that the contract ends, or “dies,” when either the obligation is fulfilled (meaning the house is paid off) or the property is taken through foreclosure.

The word was taken from Law French, a language that was based first on Old Norman and Anglo Norman languages, and later influenced by Parisian French and English. Its name derived from its use in the law courts of England, hence “Law French.” The phrase is elaborated on in “Commentaries on the Laws in England,” an 18th century four volume analysis of common law. 

As it says in the treatise, "[I]f he doth not pay, then the Land which is put in pledge upon condition for the payment of the money, is taken from him for ever, and so dead to him upon condition, and if he doth pay the money, then the pledge is dead as to the Tenant" So always remember, one of the most integral parts of the American Dream is, in fact, a death contract. 



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