Linguists Share The Most Interesting Language Quirks They Know

The sounds falling out of your mouth are fascinating.

People who can speak more than one language astonish me. I just don't seem to have the ear or the jaw memory. Some languages feel completely made up by drunk people. When you overhear a conversation in a foreign tongue and it's spewed at warp speed it feels like people are just communicating through telepathy.

Redditor u/ask-if-im-a-parsnip wanted to hear from communication experts about the different kind of sounds our mouths make by asking..... Linguists and bilingual folks of Reddit, what are some interesting quirks particular to one language that we may not know about?

"A thousand devils!"


Swedish: Many mild curse words (similar to "darn") are just numbers (or old-fashioned ways to say numbers):

  • Sjutton också! ("Seventeen also!")
  • Tusan! ("A thousand!")
  • Attans! ("Eighteen!")

Apparently, this came from expressions like "A thousand devils!", but which were then shortened and mild into just the number. "Sjujävla" (seven-deviled?) is still used as an intensifier. TypingLobster


In Swahili, only three colors have "direct" words: black (nyeusi), white (nyeupe), and red (nyekundu).

All other colors are comparatives, e.g.:

green - rangi ya kijani: "the color of leaves"

gray - rangi ya kijivu: "the color of ashes"

maroon -rangi ya damu ya wazee: "the color of the blood of old people." mlimame


The Navajo word for tank is "chidí naaʼnaʼí beeʼeldǫǫh bikááʼ dah naaznilígíí". Traditionally Navajo does not use foreign words and instead forms its own using simpler words, and so the word literally is "a car that crawls with a gun on which people sit".

For those asking, the word car is an onomatopoeia of a ford model T engine and the word gun from the word 'to explode'.

Explain Celine.


In French French the word "gosses" means children, but in Québécois French that word means testicles, so if there's an old guy who's very enthusiastic about showing you a photo of his gosses, better pray he's French. Callalilly45

For the Love of Liver. 

Something I find funny about Farsi is the saying "jeegaret-o bokhoram" which is an expression meaning "I love you" but it literally means "I want to eat your liver". Similarly "jeegare mani" means "You are my liver", though this one makes a bit more sense because it's like saying "I love you so much you're a part of me".

Edit: Looks like there are even more liver sayings. "Jeegaret besham" means "I'll be your liver"/"I'll do anything for you". There's also "kheyli jeegari" which means something like "You're such a cool person" but it hilariously translates to "You really are a liver". Apparently all this is because the liver is such an important organ, like the person is important to you. Hotrod20006

Buy a Vowel.


In Romanian, you can build a sentence out of vowels only: "Eu iau o oaie" - "I take a sheep"

EDIT: As publicly requested, here's an attempt to pronounce this in English (just not very accurate):

Yeaw yow oh wa-ye. Vladimir-the-Great


I learned today that a billion in Spanish isn't the same as a billion in English. sololloro

Edit: For context, I'm American and I was talking to my Colombian coworker. Apparently the "other billion" is more universal than I thought and Americans are just...wrong. Which isn't surprising!

Even in English, you get the traditional British billion (which no one really uses any more) and the American billion. FakeNathanDrake

The King's Speech. 

The Korean alphabet was single-handedly invented by the King in the 15th century. He was tired of writing Chinese characters in Korean, so created a completely different writing system that was easier to learn and more adaptive to the Korean language. -__bean__-

"Ó o auê aí, ôu!"

In Portuguese....

"Ó o auê aí, ôu!" can be understood as "Hey, check out this messy situation that's going on over there". It's old slang but quite universal. Another meaning would be something along the lines of "Dude just stop, you're making a fool of yourself".

Edit: Brazilian Portuguese, that is. Enigmagico

Oh Danny Boy.


Irish people (particularly older generations) have their own version of English where they say sentences in an order that makes no sense grammatically but it makes perfect sense to any other Irish person. This is because the sentences are directly translated and word order is strange in Irish. Also as a result of this we say certain phrases that make no sense to anyone (I'm irish living abroad and I keep forgetting this).

Also just the fact there's 3 different ways to say the number two depending on context

A Dò (a doe) is if you're counting numbers as in one, two, three

Dhá (gaaww) is if you're counting things

Beirt (birch) is if you're counting people

Edit: There's a fourth way to say two

You use the word "dara" to say the second thing. The_Confession_Box


As the saying goes, you can't believe everything you read.

But every now and then, you might find yourself reading or hearing a piece of information that you at first think couldn't possibly be real.

Until you are presented with verified, reliable information to back it up... Then you have to eat your words and put your disbelief behind you.

Perhaps the most surprising instances of these are statistics, which at first glance you can't possibly believe are accurate and find yourself proven otherwise.

Keep reading...Show less
a graduation cap and a green tassel on a piece of wood
Photo by Dragos Blaga on Unsplash

Earning a college degree, especially a doctorate, takes a heck of a lot of work and definitely requires intelligence. Expertise in your usually narrow field of study definitely doesn't guarantee expertise in other areas — especially common sense, it seems.

Keep reading...Show less
turned on projector
Photo by Jeremy Yap on Unsplash

When it comes to TV and movies, acting is everything. A good actor can make a bad TV show good, while a bad actor can do the opposite.

While the main character is the person viewers focus on for the most part, the villain may be the most important character.

Without the villain, our main character wouldn't be interesting.

The actor or actress who plays the villain needs to be top-notch. A great example of this is Imelda Staunton, who played Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1.

Umbridge was a truly despicable character, made more evil by the fact that she posed as someone working for the greater good and held a position of authority over all the heroic characters. Staunton did a great job portraying her exactly as the books described, and made viewers hate her just as much as we hated her in the books.

As the main villain in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, a poor performance would've destroyed the movie. Instead, this is often the movie fans like the best.

Redditors know the importance of a good villainous performance and are eager to share their opinions on the best in TV and movie history.

Keep reading...Show less

Sometimes the most outlandish ideas sound totally plausible.

In this day and age when 'Saturday Night Live' and 'The Onion' sound like credible news sources, anything is possible.

It feels like a lot of humans will believe literally anything.

Keep reading...Show less