15 interesting language and literary facts

If you quake at the idea of making small talk for the many holiday parties on your calendar, use this list to help you navigate conversations.

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However, the battle isn’t over yet.

It’s December, and for many of us that means navigating a gantlet of holiday office parties, neighborhood get-togethers, hockey team potlucks and more. What is “safe” to talk about?

How about language? Below are 15 little-known facts about the English language that can liven up a dull conversation or steer a volatile interchange into calm waters:

1. The English language has 1,100 different ways to spell its 44 distinct sounds, more than any other language. (Source: Learn English Spelling)

2. You can spell out all the numbers from 1 to 99 without using the letters A, B, C or D.

3. The most commonly used word in written English is “the.” The most commonly used word in spoken English is “I.” (Source: Rinkworks.com)

4. The words “alms,” “amends,” “doldrums,” “ides,” “pants,” “pliers,” “scissors,” “shorts,” “smithereens” and “trousers” have no singular form.

5. Virginia Woolf was the granddaughter of novelist William Makepeace Thackeray.

6. “You” and “ewe” are pronounced the same, but have no letters in common.

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