English: Every Jot, Tittle and Iota! Vol. 21

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Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson
Ray Hudson

Always looking for something different for you, this week I went looking for some weird wonderful and bizarre aspects of the English language.Let’s have some fun.

Here’s a good one for the next scrabble game you play: The longest word with no letters repeating, and using every vowel, is uncopyrightable. At 15 letters, I wonder what that would score over a triple tile?  Uncopyrightable yes, but could it be patented?

Quick quiz: what do you call the dot over the letters i and j? The answer is a tittle! When I went looking for it’s bunkmate on the page, “jot,” I found that they both refer to tiny quantities.  “A jot is the least letter of an alphabet” while a tittle is smaller still sounding like the combination or portmanteau of tiny and little. So a reference to every “jot & tittle” is a whole lot of not much! Now if you really want to show off at an incredibly boring cocktail party, you can demonstrate your exceptional erudition (immense knowledge) by dazzling them with the Greek equivalent of jot which is…wait for it…. iota.  Wow, wasn’t that worth waiting for?

Here’s a word that is deeply rooted in history, and I’ll bet not too many honourable jurists are aware of it. The word is testify, although often used to indicate the evidence given after an oath has been sworn, usually on a bible or other holy scripture, actually dates back to Roman times when in court, in those days, men swore on their, uhm, well, testifiables, that the evidence was true. Wow, I’d hate to think about the retribution for perjury under those circumci …I mean circumstances.

How many words are there in the English language?  According to the Global Language Monitor, as of January 1, 2014, there were 1,025,109.8  (point eight?). The same source estimates the average high school educated person knows about 45,000 words and a college education boosts that up to 75,000.  As a performance trainer, I maintain that we have two languages at our command: one written with an approximate 50,000 word vocabulary, and one spoken, which only uses an estimated 10% or less of that.  Mind you, if you sit in a pub, or listen to teens on a bus, one would place the vocabulary closer to 100 words with the spaces filled with repetitions of the “F” word.

Finally, I’ll leave you secure in the knowledge that a masterpiece has been achieved.  Ernest Vincent Wright, wrote Gadsby: A Lipogram Novel, in 1939.  It took five and a half months to write the story of over 50,000 words without using the letter “E.” According to a short write-up on Amazon, although the book was never reviewed it became a “cult classic” because of it’s quirky no “E” achievement. The book has sold for as much as $4,000, but you can indulge through Amazon for just $1,250 for a hard cover, $7.95 in paperback or $.92 cents on Kindle.  What’s it about?  Who cares?

See you next week.