I can’t tell you how many times I have had to explain my reasoning for being an English major. So many people have it in their heads that English is somehow a boring subject. Now, I know I’m biased… but that’s just not true. Let me prove it to you. Here are six crazy facts about English and Literature that will blow your mind (even if you think you don’t like English) :
1. Have you ever seen those old bookstores or shops that have signs that say “Ye Old Bookshop” or “Ye Old Bakery”? Well, you probably read it in your head based on what it says– Ye. However, in Old English, that “y” isn’t actually a “y”, it is a symbol that looks like a “y” but really makes the “th” sound. So “Ye Old Bookshop” is really pronounced “THe Old Bookshop”. Let’s just say that was a mind blowing moment for me in History of the English Language class.
2. Ever wonder where Shakespeare gets his inspiration? Well, I can tell you were he got it for at least one play, The Tempest. During the time Shakespeare was writing, the Americas were being settled. There was a boat that was carrying travelers and supplies from Salem, England to Jamestown, Mass. It crashed somewhere on an island in the Bermudas before it made it to Jamestown. The survivors actually took the wreckage from their boat and new materials from the island and built a new boat. They continued their journey and made it to Jamestown with the supplies just in time to save all the sick and starving settlers. So whoever those people were, they saved America. They also inspired The Tempest. Somebody get those guys a medal.
3. Finnigan’s Wake by James Joyce is a rough read. Really awesome, but rough. Especially since Joyce is CRAZY. Anyway, if you ever do read it, you’ll probably find some pretty crazy stuff in there, including the random phrase “come in!” in the middle of a completely different sentence. It is totally random and does not belong in that part of the book at all, so let me just tell you why it’s there (because I know). Joyce was blind when he wrote Finnigan’s Wake, so he dictated it. He had a lot of different dictators, but one of them was an awesome guy named Samuel Beckett- a very famous Irish playwright (super weird, but pretty good if you can make sense of what he’s saying). Beckett wasn’t very good at dictating, so he had to really concentrate. During one dictation session, Joyce was talking and there was a knock at the door. Joyce turned and said “come in!” but no one did, so he said it again then moved on when there was no reply. While reading back the dictation, Beckett got to the part when there was a knock and he read “come in.” Joyce asked why that was there and Beckett replied that he had said that while he was dictating. Joyce thought about it and decided to just leave it in there. So that’s why there’s a random “come in” in the middle of a paragraph where it doesn’t belong. Who are these people?
4. I hope you have heard of Jane Austen (if you haven’t, please come talk to me). Anyway, she is amazing. I had no idea how amazing she was until I took a class on her this semester. Basically, my professors are blowing my mind here. Lots of random fun facts, but the biggest one I have come across so far is in regard to her novel Pride & Prejudice. There are a TON of characters in this book, but this fun fact pertains to Mr. Bingley and Jane Bennet. You don’t need a ton of background for this one. Basically, the characters both attend the same ball and meet each other. They decide they kind of like each other so they dance for two dances. Now this isn’t like your regular dance. Dances during this time period last A HALF HOUR. So Jane and Mr. Bingley dancing two is a pretty big deal. In fact– two is the max amount of times you could dance with someone without getting engaged… for real. Three dances means you’re getting married. Thank god that wasn’t a rule in my high school.
**One more random fact about Jane Austen, or rather her family. Two of her brothers were very active in the navy. One of them, Francis, was a very high ranking Naval Officer during the Napoleonic Wars. He did a lot of cool stuff and was at most of the famous battles during that time. He would have actually been present at the Battle of Trafalgar, but he couldn’t get there in time. Apparently he was pretty mad about it.**
5. Another mind blower from History of the English Language– ever heard the British town names Winchester, Westchester, Manchester, etc? Well, a long time ago when the Romans invaded England they set up camps everywhere and eventually towns popped up. “Chester” comes from the Roman word “castra” meaning a military camp or fort. So all of those places in England that end in “chester” were the sites of Roman military camps a couple thousand years ago. I know, right?
6. Finally, don’t hate me Trekkies, but one of your most famous quotes, “To boldly go where no man has gone before,” is grammatically incorrect. Sorry. It’s a split infinitive. Technically, the grammatically correct version would be “To go boldly where no man has gone before,” but who really cares right? Grammar stinks anyway (I’m just kidding, I love grammar).
So there you have it! Random English facts that blow your mind. Or maybe it’s just me– after all, I AM an English nerd. Either way, I hope you enjoyed reading! Comment if you know of any other fun facts! I’m always up for getting my mind blown!