Common Most Interesting Vocabulary Questions for Exams Part 6

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Which English Words End in -Gry?

Answer

You might have heard a question which asks for the third word in English ending in -gry, along with hungry and angry. Well … there isn՚t one!

This ‘riddle’ has been in circulation for years now. Dictionary and reference departments the world over have been plagued by questions about it. It seems to have originated as a trick question, but the wording has become so garbled in subsequent transmission that it՚s hard to tell what was originally intended.

The most probable answer is that, in the original wording, the question was phrased something like this:

Think of words ending in -gry. ‘Angry’ and ‘hungry’ are two of them. What is the third word in the English language? You use it every day, and if you were listening carefully, I՚ve just told you what it is.

The answer is ‘language’ (i.e.. the third word in the phrase ‘the English language’ ) .

There are several other English words ending in -gry which are listed in the 20-volume historical Oxford English Dictionary, but they are all obsolete or obscure: none of them would find a place in dictionaries of current English. They include:

  • aggry: aggry beads, according to various 19th -century writers, are coloured glass beads found buried in the ground in parts of Africa
  • begry: a 15th -century spelling of beggary
  • conyngry: a 17th -century spelling of the obsolete word conynger, meaning ‘rabbit warren’
  • gry: the name for a hundredth of an inch in a long-forgotten decimal system of measurement devised by the philosopher John Locke
  • iggry: an old army slang word meaning ‘hurry up’ , borrowed from Arabic
  • meagry: a rare obsolete word meaning ‘meagre-looking’
  • menagry: an 18th -century spelling of menagerie
  • nangry: a rare 17th -century spelling of angry
  • podagry: a 17th -century spelling of podagra, a medical term for gout
  • skugry: 16th -century spelling of the dialect word scuggery meaning ‘secrecy’

Which English Words End with -Mt?

Answer

The answer is dreamt, a variant spelling of dreamed (past tense and past participle of the verb dream) , that՚s used in British English. There is also undreamt, as in the pace of technological development is leading to social change undreamt of a decade ago.

Which Letters in the Alphabet Are Used Most Often?

Answer

The inventor of Morse code, Samuel Morse (1791 - 1872) , needed to know this so that he could give the simplest codes to the most frequently used letters. He did it simply by counting the number of letters in sets of printers՚ type. The figures he came up with were:

Table Supporting: Which_Letters_in_the_Alphabet_Are_Used_Most_Often
12,000E2,500F
9,000T2,000W, Y
8,000A, I, N, O, S1,700G, P
6,400H1,600B
6,200R1,200V
4,400D800K
4,000L500Q
3,400U400J, X
3,000C, M200Z

However, this gives the frequency of letters in English text, which is dominated by a relatively small number of common words. For word games, it is often the frequency of letters in English vocabulary, regardless of word frequency, which is of more interest. We did an analysis of the letters occurring in the words listed in the main entries of the Concise Oxford Dictionary ( 11th edition revised, 2004) and came up with the following table:

Table Supporting: Which_Letters_in_the_Alphabet_Are_Used_Most_Often
E11.1607 %56.88M3.0129 %15.36
A8.4966 %43.31H3.0034 %15.31
R7.5809 %38.64G2.4705 %12.59
I7.5448 %38.45B2.0720 %10.56
O7.1635 %36.51F1.8121 %9.24
T6.9509 %35.43Y1.7779 %9.06
N6.6544 %33.92W1.2899 %6.57
S5.7351 %29.23K1.1016 %5.61
L5.4893 %27.98V1.0074 %5.13
C4.5388 %23.13X0.2902 %1.48
U3.6308 %18.51Z0.2722 %1.39
D3.3844 %17.25J0.1965 %1.00
P3.1671 %16.14Q0.1962 %(1)

The third column represents proportions, taking the least common letter (q) as equal to 1. The letter E is over 56 times more common than Q in forming individual English words.

The frequency of letters at the beginnings of words is different again. There are more English words beginning with the letter ′ s ′ than with any other letter. (This is mainly because clusters such as ′ sc ′ , ′ sh ′ , ′ sp ′ , and ′ st ′ act almost like independent letters.) The letter ′ e ′ only comes about halfway down the order, and the letter ′ x ′ unsurprisingly comes last.

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