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Curiosity makes the world go round

Updated: Jun 4, 2020

How boring would it be if we don't ask questions? As a child, a programme called "Willem Wever" in Holland was my favourite programme on the radio. Its objective was to answer all questions from children and adults even if seemingly impossible. Now, 45 years later the programme still survives using other media, but the concept is the same.


Forum

I like modern-day forums online. So many good questions asked, but obviously the quality of the answers is random but entertaining. One question caught my eye. Why is a "jacuzzi" an Italian word whilst "j" is not even in the Italian alphabet? The answer is actually quite simple. An Italian immigrant to the US named Jacuzzi was the inventor of the whirlpool bath.


Alphabet

Being curious about the alphabet I started comparing the English and Italian alphabet, obviously both derived from the Latin alphabet, but officially the Italian modern alphabet has only 21 letters and the English 26. Take the letter "k". As one of 5 characters, it does not belong officially in the Italian alphabet. Looking up words starting with a k the Italians according to 'parolecon.it' lists 175 words whilst in English a similar website 'manythings.org' lists roughly 130 words More words in the language where the k isn't part of the alphabet. Seems odd. Scanning both lists, it is clear that 99% of the Italian words have a truly foreign origin and or are related to names, such as kino, kiwi, kermesse and kip. The English list displays words like kite, kitten, know, king and knee which are true English words. Perhaps the reason being that English despite the commonality of the source of the alphabet is a Germanic and not a Latin language.


Teachers in Italy now also use more frequently the 26 letter alphabet. Words starting with j, k, w, x and y are part of daily life.


Proof again that language is organic, the world comes and goes around, letters or sounds which originally featured in the old Latin alphabet were excluded and are reintroduced. Not only because of curiosity but for a good reason.


Marleen @englishafirenze.com #Englishonline #Englishteacher #Englishforbusiness #TEFL #ESL #TESOL

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