WTF Fun Fact 13168 – The Dot Over the i

We’ll be honest, we’ve never actually wondered what the dot over the i or j (in lowercase, of course) was called. But if you’ve been curious, kudos to you for noticing the small things! And to answer your question, it’s called a “tittle.”

Why do we have marks over letters and characters?

Many languages have what we call diacritic marks over a character in order to change its sound or meaning. But English only has two letters with a diacritic – lowercase i and j. They’re always there and don’t change anything about the sound or meaning of the letter (in English, at least).

According to “The small distinguishing mark you see over a lowercase i and a lowercase j is called a tittle—an interesting name that looks like a portmanteau (combination) of tiny and little, and refers to a small point or stroke in writing and printing. Generally, a diacritic dot such as a tittle is also referred to as a glyph, a mark that adds meaning to the written letter. However, in regards to i and j, the removal of the mark is still likely to be read as I or J; as such, these are not true examples of a glyph.”

Why is the dot over the i and j called a tittle?

Who comes up with these things anyway?

Well, tittle comes from the Latin word “titulus.” A titulus is an inscription or heading. The word appeared for the first time in the 11th century as monks were copying manuscripts from the ancient world. Back in that day, handwriting was very different, and letters could easily get confused or blend together. As you may have guessed, i and j posed particular problem. That’s why copiers needed to come up with a diacritic to distinguish them from other letters.

It wasn’t until the 1400s when the printing press and typefaces were invented that the diacritical mark turned into just a small dot above each letter.

In other words, they’re simply a relic of a time when everything was handwritten.  WTF fun facts

Source: “What’s The Name For The Dot Over “i” And “j”?” —

WTF Fun Fact 13166 – Most Misspelled Word

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the most commonly misspelled word is “publicly.”

The most misspelled word

Publicly may be the most commonly misspelled word because it violates a spelling rule in English. Words that end in “ic” get “ally” added to the end (like magic and magically). But public only gets an “ly.” This causes people to often misspell it as “publically.”

It seems like an unlikely word to misspell – or at least misspell most often. But other sources have other words that they believe are the most misspelled.

Other commonly misspelled words

Misspelling words can be hazardous to your success. According to CNBC, “According to one survey, 43% of hiring managers automatically chuck a candidate’s resume if it has spelling errors. Another showed that 79% of recruiters and human resource managers said spelling and grammatical mistakes were the biggest ‘deal breakers’ in job hunting.”

They also gathered grammar experts to alert us to some of the most commonly misspelled words in the English language. These include:

  • Accommodate (it’s hard to remember that there are two sets of double letters — “cc” and “mm”)
  • Acknowledgment
  • Acquire (people often forget the “c”)
  • Apparent
  • Calendar (really? c’mon, folks!)
  • Colleague
  • Conscientious
  • Consensus
  • Entrepreneur
  • Experience (people often assume it ends in “ance”)
  • Indispensable
  • Liaison
  • License
  • Occurred
  • Recommend
  • Successful
  • Until (seriously?)

Clearly, folks missed a lot of spelling classes in elementary school!

Depending on which source you’re asking, there may be a whole different list of “most commonly misspelled words.”

We all have some easy words we misspell by transposing letters or forgetting a vowel. Maybe we’ve become too reliant on spell checkers (or simply don’t care to get it right). But one thing is for sure, most of us could use a refresher of our 3rd-grade spelling class.  WTF fun facts

Source: “These are the 32 most commonly misspelled words, say grammar experts. How many can you get right?” — CNBC

WTF Fun Fact 13158 – Baby Puffins

Baby puffins are called pufflings. How adorable is that?

A stranger fact about baby puffins

Ok, now that you know pufflings exist, did you know that on Iceland’s Westman Islands (aka Vestmannaeyjar), puffling season means throwing the animals off cliffs? We promise it’s not what it sounds like.

People do it to save their lives.

According to NPR:

“The chicks of Atlantic puffins, or pufflings, hatch in burrows on high sea cliffs. When they’re ready to fledge, they fly from their colony and spend several years at sea until they return to land to breed, according to Audubon Project Puffin. Pufflings have historically found the ocean by following the light of the moon… Now, city lights lead the birds astray.”

Now, some of the residents of Vestmannaeyjar “spend a few weeks in August and September collecting wayward pufflings that have crashed into town after mistaking human lights for the moon. Releasing the fledglings at the cliffs the following day sets them on the correct path.”

So they don’t chuck them off cliffs (although some may toss them less gently than need be) – they just lead them back to where they belong (or have a better chance of surviving). It’s amazing how light pollution can disrupt an ecosystem!

Puffling lives

Since a pair of puffins mates for life but only raise one egg per season, the loss of a whole generation could be devastating to their populations.

You could even get a chance to help save the pufflings if there’s a colony around you. Their seasons will depend on food supplies and light conditions.

If you decide to go on Puffin Patrol, it’s best to search for them at night with a flashlight in places where they might find food. It sounds like a great reason to go on vacation from August through September!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Puffin Chicks” — Audobon Project

WTF Fun Fact 13157 – First Use of the Word Unfriend

In the Appeal of Injured Innocence, the word “unfriend” was coined in 1659 by Church of England clergyman Thomas Fuller.

What’s the context around the first use of the word unfriend?

Did you think “unfriend” was a word before Facebook? We did, and we were wrong.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the first citation of the word “unfriend” (AND “muggle”!) was in a 13th-century epic Middle English poem Brut by Layamon. There are two uses of the word in the poem.

Of course, it’s a little hard to read English from this time, but it may be easier to say it out loud: “We sollen … slean houre onfrendes and King Learwenden after Brenne.” And “Wend to oure onfreondes and drif heom of blonde.”

Ok, that might seem like cheating. But unfriend was a word used throughout the Middle ages to denote one who is not a friend (but not quite an enemy).

Unfriend becomes a verb

Unfriending someone seems very Facebook-specific, but the word was also used for a very long before the 21st century (though still not as a verb). We have Shakespeare to thank for using ‘unfriended’ to refer to someone who has lost their friends. For example, in Twelfth Night, he wrote “Being skilless in these parts; which to a stranger, / Unguided and unfriended, often prove / Rough and unhospitable.”

In King Lear: “Sir, will you, with those infirmities she owes—. / Unfriended, new adopted to our hate.”

It was used as a verb in the 17th century when, in 1658, Church of England clergyman Thomas Fuller wrote to Peter Heylin, who had criticized Fuller’s The Church History of Britain from the birth of Jesus Christ until the year 1648,

“I hope, Sir, that we are not mutually un-friended by this difference which hath happened betwixt us. And now, as duellers, when they are both out of breath, may stand still and parley, before they have a second pass, let us in cold blood exchange a word, and, mean time, let us depose, at least, suspend, our animosities.
[…] I conceive our time, pains, and parts may be better expended to God’s glory, and the Church’s good, than in these needless contentions. Why should Peter fall out with Thomas, both being disciples to the same Lord and Master? […]
Who knoweth but that God, in his providence, permitted, yea, ordered, this difference to happen betwixt us, not only to occasion a reconciliation, but to consolidate a mutual friendship betwixt us during our lives, and that the survivor (in God’s pleasure only to appoint) may make favourable and respectful mention of him who goeth first to his grave?”

But as Interesting Literature (cited below) points out, Facebook still doesn’t take the cake for the first to use the word for social media purposes. “But even in social media circles, ‘unfriend’ predates Facebook, with which it is not most closely associated.

“Its origin, or at least its first recorded use, was on Usenet in 2003: ‘I have been “unfriended” by somebody in the LJ world today.”

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Curious Origin of the Word’ Unfriend'” — Interesting Literature

WTF Fun Fact 13148 – Pentheraphobia

Pentheraphobia means the fear of your mother-in-law. And while fear might not be the word most people would use, a phobia also refers to anxiety produced by the trigger and subsequent avoidance (to which more of us may be able to relate).

Is pentheraphobia real?

A phobia typically refers to an unfounded fear or dislike – and, let’s face it, some mothers-in-law are scary and threatening. (Of course, some are delightful!).

But the fear of one’s mother-in-law can be real for people who suffer from anxiety and who let their in-laws’ behavior or presence affect their lives in negative ways.

Pentheraphobia is not widespread (or widely recognized). While this specific phobia is not in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), general phobias are. And to qualify as a psychiatric disorder, a phobia must produce excessive and persistent fear, induce a state of panic around the trigger, and lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms in order to avoid contact.

According to Its Psychology (cited below): “It is a specific phobia, and it is important to clarify that it differs from a simple dislike or hatred because it can seriously affect the sufferer of the disorder.”

Fear of in-laws

If you’re not a fan of your in-laws or other parental figures, Its Psychology has a few other potential diagnoses to bring up with your doctor:

  • Socerafobia (fear of in-laws in general)
  • Vitricofobia (fear of the stepfather)
  • Novercaphobia (fear of the stepmother)

Suffering from phobias

While fear of one’s mother-in-law may seem amusing in some respects, the symptoms of phobias are no joke. They can include nausea, vomiting, tremors, irregular heartbeat, excessive sweating, and panic attacks. It goes far beyond dread.

Many phobias are believed to be rooted in past psychological trauma. Of course, you don’t have a mother-in-law until later in life, but it’s possible that you can be conditioned from a young age to fear non-blood relatives or pick up on other people’s fear or animosity towards their mothers-in-law.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Pentheraphobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments” — Its Psychology

WTF Fun Fact 13127 – Group of Ferrets

Have you ever asked yourself “what is a group of ferrets called”? No doubt you’ve asked yourself this deep and probing question multiple times in the past. Or maybe not, since it’s pretty rare to run into a whole group of ferrets?

What is a group of ferrets called?

Well, in case you’re NOW wondering what the name is for a group of these furry little guys, it’s a “business.” Yes, a business of ferrets.

They may also be called a fesnyng, which isn’t nearly as catchy.

For some reason, these creatures have all sorts of names we didn’t know about. According to the website A-Z Animals (cited below), non-neutered males are called hobs, and unspayed females are called jills. For fixed ferrets, males are called gibs, and females are called sprites. Their babies are referred to as kits.

What’s this business about?

Still stuck on the fact that a group of ferrets is called a business? A-Z Animals explains (sort of):

Ferrets are known for their mischief, ability to get into things they shouldn’t, escape tactics, and energetic natures. Would it make more sense if we told you that, in the past, they were referred to as a busyness? People saw ferrets and went, ‘Wow, those are some busy critters!’”

We’ll be honest, we’ve never spent time observing ferrets, so we can’t say how busy they are.

There are some other interesting fun facts about ferrets, however. For example, it’s considered cruel to own just one since they are such social creatures. While you don’t have to get a whole business of ferrets, you should get your cuddly pal a companion. Otherwise, they can get depressed. Even if you give your pet lots of stimulation, you can’t play with them the way they need to be played with (for example, you really shouldn’t bite them, but nipping is something they enjoy doing while play-fighting either each other). They have very thick skin, so the biting doesn’t hurt them – instead, it’s something they do to communicate! WTF fun facts

Source: “What’s a Group of Ferrets Called?” — A to Z Animals

WTF Fun Fact 13083 – A Group of Butterflies

A group of butterflies is called a kaleidoscope. We love that! We’ve never actually seen more than one or two butterflies at a time, but now we know what to call them if we do.

You probably know that butterflies don’t start out life as beautiful flying creatures but rather as caterpillars. A group of caterpillars is called an army. It’s quite a biological and linguistic evolution to go through in one lifetime!

A kaleidoscope of butterflies

Of course, one may also call them a “swarm,” but that’s a lot less fun and it’s not really the official name. And no one really likes swarms of things.

Now, unless you go to a butterfly sanctuary, you may not have a great chance of running into a kaleidoscope of butterflies. They’re fairly solitary creatures. They even tend to migrate alone. If you’re near a source of food, that’s your best chance of seeing a kaleidoscope in the wild. Even though butterflies must come together to reproduce, they still don’t do this in groups. But they do use pheramones to attract one another as well as the colorful (dare we say, keleidiscopic) displays on their wings.

However, as far as monarch butterflies go, they do have a habit of clustering in trees at night. And those clusters are called a “roost.”

You may spot a roost in trees during migration if the weather gets cold or if predators are around.

Other butterfly facts

According to the experts at A – Z Animals (cited below), “There are around 17,500 species of butterfly in the world, scattered across all continents except Antarctica. In the United States, there are around 750 species of butterflies.”

As you may know, sadly, the migratory monarch butterfly (which is one of the most recognizable butterflies in the U.S.) is now endangered.  WTF fun facts

Source: “What’s a group of butterflies called?” — A – Z Animals

WTF Fun Fact 13059 – The Minionese “Language”

Have you seen “Minions,” “Despicable Me,” or “Despicable Me 2”? If so, you may have heard the Minion characters speaking their own language. All Minions are voiced by Pierre Coffin, who also created the language called Minionese.

Minionese and other made-up languages

From Klingon to Elvish, storytellers have been making up their own languages for years. And some fans have ever learned how to speak them.

According to the Motion Picture Association, Minionese is “the lexical version of a hearty stew, made up of words from multiple languages, expressed not only vocally, but through the Minions’ physical comedy. While the creation of Minionese makes narrative sense now that the Minions have a rich backstory…Coffin’s goal was for the audience to understand Minionese without actually knowing the exact verbiage through the Minions huge range of vocal melodies and inflections, as well as their physical actions.”

It takes an interesting mind to create such a dynamic method of communication!

Creating language

Coffin’s first task was creating a backstory for Minions Kevin, Stuart, and Bob. The characters are part of a nomadic tribe in search of a master. In the course of their journey, they’ve taken on bits of different languages they’ve come across. In fact, there are elements of Egyptian, French, and even Transylvanian.

But each character’s intonation means a lot to the language as well. All three Minions have different ways of vocalizing.

According to Coffin:

“You don’t understand their words, you don’t understand their grammar, but you do understand when they’re in a position of conflict, if they’re sad or if they’re happy.”

He actually started building the language while watching silent films. That helped him understand how visual communication would play an integral role in having characters speak something no one had ever heard (but needed to understand if they were going to follow the plot).

When Coffin gets stuck on a line of Minion dialog, he just turns to other languages:

“Every time I got stuck in a sequence or in a shot where I need to express something, I have my Indian or Chinese menu handy. I also know a little bit of Spanish, Italian, Indonesian and Japanese. So I have all these sources of inspiration for their words. I just pick one that doesn’t express something by the meaning, but rather the melody of the words.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “Here’s How They Created Minionese, the Language of the Minions” — Motion Picture Association