OU blog

Personal Blogs

Design Museum

Some interesting facts about English

Visible to anyone in the world
Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Monday, 30 Aug 2010, 12:02
Courtesy of Henry Hitchings. 2008

K.O. = 'Knock Out' so 'OK' ... not so!

I’ve learnt something. And so simple. I thought it might be American Airforce derived. Code. I always wondered about OK.

What about F.A.B? From ‘Thunderbirds.’

There are 6,900 different, mutually unintelligible natural languages.


96% of the world's languages are spoken by 4% of its inhabitants.

There are 750 languages in Indonesia.

Eleven languages account for the speech of more than half the world's population:


1. Mandarin Chinese
2. Spanish
3. Hindi
4. Arabic
5. French
6. Bengali
7. Portuguese
8. Russian
9. German
10. Japanese
11. English

Only SIX may be significant in fifty years time:


1. Mandarin Chinese
2. Spanish
3. Hindi
4. Bengali
5. Arabic
6. English

English dominates in diplomacy, trade, shipping, the entertainment industry and youth culture.

English is the lingua franca of science and medicine.

Its position is prominent, if not dominant, in education and international business and journalism.

There are more fluent speakers of English in India, where it persists as 'subsidiary official language' than in Britain.

English as a second language is spoken by some 120 million non-British.

English is spoken by

* 80% of the population of the Netherlands and Sweden
* 50% of the population of Germany, Slovenia and Finland
* 30% iof the population of Italy, France and the Czech Republic

REFERENCE

The Secret Life of Words. How English Became English. Henry Hitchings. 2008
Permalink
Share post

Comments

Picture of Peter Kerruish

F.A.B Thunderbirds

I have always thought that F.A.B in Thunderbirds was a homage to the Beatles who described everything as fab in their early days.
Design Museum

New comment

I'm old enough to have had a Thunderbirds themed birthday party at a friend's age seven or so - we had the caps and bandanas and used the term F.A.B.

I'm sure even if it is a nod to the Beatrles that it meant something too.

Picture of N D

all clear

That's interesting, when I was in school I was told that OK stems from AC all clear. Apparently patrolling guards would shout all clear when they've checked out an area & it was to their satisfaction, shortly afterwards they would shout the abbreviated AC. Then whether intential or not (I don't remember) this became OK. I think because the letters are easier to distinguish over distance.

It's interesting how the origin or words (& indeed, all history) changes over time. Passed on by generations, the original story becomes distorted. When I look at sites like wikipedia I wonder what our children will think of us all.