Questions tagged [language]

The specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication.

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18
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2answers
6k views

In American Sign Language, does 2022 loosely translate to "bird go peace-peace"?

This Tweet is doing the rounds: Hearing people are like joke-panicking about the fact that 2022 is pronounced “2020, too”. But like in ASL, 2022 loosely translates to “BIRD go PEACE-PEACE” and that’s ...
7
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1answer
1k views

Is "Mu" a more common last name than "Xi" in China?

Is "Mu", which has a coronavirus variant named after it by the World Health Organization, a more common last name than "Xi", which the WHO has avoided naming a variant after? ...
18
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3answers
1k views

Was "their" a singular pronoun in English before the 16th century?

I saw this meme on facebook: So, was "their" truly a genderless 3rd person singular pronoun prior to some change in the 16th/17th century? This Wikipedia article indicates that the ...
15
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1answer
1k views

Are the ingredients listed in "Macbeth" common plants?

It is easy to find dozens of sites claiming, generally without attribution, that the ingredients in the famously gruesome witches' brew from Shakespeare's play Macbeth are herbalist jargon for common ...
42
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1answer
9k views

Did Parker Pens release an advertisement in Spanish that accidentally implied their pens would prevent pregnancy?

I've heard some variation of this story a handful of times: an advertisement for a pen was meant to claim that it wouldn't leak in your pocket and embarass you, but in Spanish, they used the word ...
24
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1answer
2k views

Is “Your Baby Can Read” effective and helpful?

I have seen these videos advertised online and on TV, and they make some pretty fantastic claims, showing kids as young as 2 reading complicated words. From what I can find online, it uses a ...
8
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0answers
501 views

Is Japanese language "cleaner" than English in terms of spreading coronavirus?

I was watching a video from Abroad In Japan channel where Chris Broad, the creator of that channel talks about a TV show in which "experts" discussed about the reasons why number of cases of ...
8
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2answers
758 views

In Sumerian and Akkadian, is the same word used for both ‘priest’ and ‘accountant’?

Johan Norberg in Open: The Story of Human Progress (2020) claims: In Sumerian and Akkadian the same word is used both for ‘priest’ and ‘accountant’. Is this true?
25
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2answers
12k views

Are there more English speaking people in China than in the USA?

I have heard there are more Chinese who speak English than there are Americans who speak English. Is this true?
38
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2answers
5k views

Are Americans more likely to be monolingual?

From a comment on English Language & Usage, also mentioned in Wikipedia, and Chad Fowler's book The Passionate Programmer (Related blog post by the author: How Learning a Second Language Changed ...
11
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2answers
6k views

Was French spelling artificially altered for longer words?

There's a widespread belief that says that the reason for French having so many silent letters is that historically the authors were paid by the letter, so they were tempted to write longer words. ...
-4
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1answer
403 views

Is the proportion of French speakers as a second language in Africa growing?

Several articles I read claim that the number of speakers of French as a second language on the African continent is growing. For example: BBC: Why the future of French is African, April 2019 "...
19
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0answers
777 views

Did Burmese typewriters contain an upside-down character, which subsequently became proper typewriter style?

I was reading about the Internet Archive's work to archive the materials of a famous New York City typewriter family: http://blog.archive.org/2020/08/26/an-archive-of-a-different-type/ I was ...
7
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1answer
695 views

Can Rambo, the German shepherd, follow written commands?

An article on The Laughing Squid shows a German shepherd seemingly following written commands. An impressively intelligent German shepherd named Rambo, who’s learning how to read with the help of ...
48
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5answers
24k views

Are there 20,000 English words in the average adult's vocabulary?

Is there any consensus as to how many words are in the average adult's vocabulary? Over the years, I've come across various factoids and blurbs online and in magazine articles that have made ...
12
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2answers
2k views

Is “Lord Privy Seal” a technical term in documentary film making?

Richard Dawkins has claimed many times in public speeches, especially in reference to the documentary “Expelled”, that documentary filmmakers use the expression “Lord Privy Seal” in a disparaging ...
5
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0answers
241 views

Does learning a language improve memory and concentration skills?

When using the language learning app Duo Lingo messages often popup when the lessons are loading. One of those messages that pop up is the claim Learning a language improves memory and ...
18
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4answers
30k views

Was the word 'racist' coined by Trotsky in 1927?

According to the image below, "racist is a made up word by Leon Trotsky in 1927." I searched in the Online Etymology Dictionary and found that racist (n.) 1932 [as a noun], 1938 as an ...
24
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1answer
3k views

Is profanity correlated with trustworthiness and honesty?

This image can be found on 9GAG and Facebook: Profanity is defined by Merriam-Webster as "an offensive word" or "offensive language". It is also called bad language, strong language, coarse language, ...
19
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3answers
3k views

Does using big words make people sound more professional?

I have read in several places that people use big, fancy, complicated, and little known words (such as Brobdingnagian) to give the impression that they are knowledgeable, smart, and professional. Does ...
9
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1answer
569 views

Are North American children adopting British accents because of Peppa Pig?

Several news items have surfaced today which report that North American children are adopting British accents at a very young age due to watching Peppa Pig episodes. The only source quoted is Romper ...
8
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1answer
1k views

Is the use of X for unknown quantities taken from the Arabic word "shay"?

In this TED Talk, the speaker says that the use of X for unknown quantities was the result of Spanish people taking the Arabic word shay (meaning "thing"), which was used by Arabs to denote unknown ...
10
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1answer
1k views

Does requesting a bilingual trial often result in dismissal?

Life hack sites like to claim that requesting a bilingual trial will cause minor cases to be dismissed. I have seen this on multiple sites, but it seems they have a tendency to shut down after a year ...
3
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0answers
258 views

Did Wario say a swear? [closed]

Ok, this would have been in like 2004-5 or so. I had some disk for gamecube with a set of bonus features including trailers, and there was one for WarioWorld, and I remember clearly hearing him say "...
5
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1answer
3k views

In ritualistic use, did "virgin blood" originally mean "unused blood"?

I recently saw the following tumblr meme on Facebook: This strikes me more as a fanciful reinterpretation than an actual etymology (a la the more recent interpretation of "blood is thicker than water"...
17
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1answer
3k views

Is the origin of the phrase "suck it up" referring to WWII pilots?

I was reading this New Statesman article and was surprised to read this: The origin of the phrase “suck it up” is quite gross. Allegedly, it’s what WWII pilots were instructed to do if they vomited ...
7
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1answer
505 views

Was the term "goosebumps" ever used to refer to venereal sores?

This Cracked.com article claims that "goosebumps" used to refer to venereal sores: Well, it's thought that "Goosey" is referencing an old slang term "goose" which was a nice but roundabout way of ...
-3
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1answer
887 views

Has Richard Dawkins never learnt a language other than English? [closed]

From a tweet quoted by The Independent in Richard Dawkins accused of Islamophobia after comparing 'lovely church bells' to 'aggressive-sounding Allahu Akhbar' As a Christian from a mixed Christian-...
19
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3answers
7k views

Did Japanese people misspell "We pray for MacArthur's election"?

The Internet is full of references to the same story: It was probably in 1946, when Gen. Douglas MacArthur was temporarily put in charge of running Japan, which was in tough shape after ...
66
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3answers
13k views

Do people think in a language?

I was discussing some things with a psychology major, and he insisted that people always use a language to think. This is quite opposed to my own experience. I agree that I am capable of formulating ...
5
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2answers
1k views

Can people "wake up" with a new accent? (Foreign Accent Syndrome)

This MSN article from 2018-02-13 claims that an American woman fell asleep with a bad headache, and woke up with a British accent. This has been widely reported, including by The Washington Post ...
12
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2answers
3k views

Did the head of the Joint National Committee on language claim Jesus spoke English?

In Bill Bryson's book The Mother Tongue, it is claimed, that Dr. David Edwards, head of the Joint National Committee on Languages once said: "If English was good enough for Jesus, it's good enough for ...
10
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1answer
2k views

Was this Harry-Potter themed text written solely by a computer program?

A YouTube video caught my eye with the title, "A Robot Wrote A Chapter To A Harry Potter Book, And It's Absolutely Insane." The video claims that a software algorithm created by Botnik Studios was ...
7
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1answer
545 views

Does drinking alcohol improve foreign language skills?

An article in UK online newspaper The Independent has the following headline: Alcohol can help foreign language skills The article reports: Dr Inge Kersbergen, from the University of Liverpool's ...
134
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2answers
28k views

Do the Finnish have a word for getting drunk alone in your underwear?

Urban dictionary (and many other articles on the internet) claim that the Finnish word "kalsarikännit" means: to drink by yourself at your house in your underwear with no intention of going out I ...
2
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4answers
1k views

Do Rohingyas speak in a Bengali dialect?

This page says they do. Rohingyas are not Burmese. They called themselves as Rohingya. There are no such people in Burmese history and census. Rohingyas are in fact Bengali who speaks ...
19
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1answer
11k views

Is the "I before E" English spelling rule wrong more than it is right?

There are 923 words that break the "i before e" rule. Only 44 words actually follow that rule. This is a picture circulating right now, claiming that a huge majority of the words break the "i before ...
12
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2answers
1k views

Is Arabic the 4th most common language used on internet?

The Wikipedia page, Languages user on the Internet provides two different ways of ranking the most popular languages on the Internet. By content: Estimated percentages of the top 10 million ...
20
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1answer
3k views

Did Native Americans call European people "pale-face"?

In lots of American Indian novels you can read that the native peoples of North America called European people "pale-face" or "pale-faced": “Young Randolph! war-chief among the ...
2
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0answers
250 views

Does the F-word constitute a third of all swearing on the internet?

This youtube video (created as part of a series of short programmes for the UK's Channel Four television called Susie Dent's guide to Swearing) claims (around 3:08 in) that the word "fuck" makes up ...
2
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1answer
458 views

Do eskimos have large numbers of words for snow?

The oscar-winning movie Arrival has prompted some new interest the the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis that language constrains or enables certain abstract concepts. The idea that an alien language can rewire ...
22
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1answer
1k views

Can speakers of Kuuk Thaayorre navigate much better than Western speakers inside unfamiliar buildings?

Lera Boroditsky writes in the Edge article How does our language shape the way we think?: Simply put, speakers of languages like Kuuk Thaayorre are much better than English speakers at staying ...
5
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2answers
3k views

Is Melania Trump barely able to speak English?

Chelsea Handler has claimed that Melania Trump can barely speak English. From The Sun Handler, 41, was asked in a filmed interview if she would have Mrs Trump on her Netflix show Chelsea. "...
10
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2answers
11k views

Did World War II propaganda posters tell people to "Speak American", rather than languages of the enemy?

Wikimedia commons entry, claiming a citation to "Una Storia Segreta" by Lawrence Distasi. The licensing metadata from the picture claims that it is a "work prepared by an officer or employee of the ...
7
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1answer
1k views

Is Coober Pedy derived from an Aboriginal phrase for "White man in a hole"?

Coober Pedy is an opal mining town in the middle of nowhere in Australia. It's very hot, and lots of people live underground. I've frequently heard that it means "White man in a hole" in a local ...
7
votes
0answers
652 views

Is the Greek/French macaronic phrase written by an ancient author?

From Wikipedia article: Occasionally language is unintentionally macaronic. One particularly famed piece of schoolyard Greek in France is Xenophon's line "they did not take the city; but in fact ...
27
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1answer
2k views

Did Germans receive corn instead of wheat and rye after WW2 due to a translation error?

After World War II, the U.S. army sent food supplies to Germany. There is a widespread legend that they delivered maize instead of wheat and rye because the Germans demanded "Korn" which means grain ...
39
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1answer
6k views

Is xenoglossy a scientifically verified phenomenon?

It has often been said that people can speak in languages that were not formerly known to them. Arguably the most often recited example of this is in the context of demonic possession. For example, ...
18
votes
1answer
21k views

Was the phrase "hello" popularized because of the name of Alexander Graham Bell's wife/girlfriend "Margaret Hello"?

This is a popular explanation of the etymology of the word hello, seen in many email forwards: When you lift the phone, you say "Hello". Do you know what is the real meaning of "Hello" It is ...
10
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1answer
1k views

Do the English eat "pork" instead of "pig" because they were servants of the French?

Many online sources make the claim that the strange quirk in the English language of having French-derived terms (pork, beef, veal, mutton) for the meat of the animal, and having German-derived terms (...