(This is an update of a post from 2011.)
As good as the Internet is for some things, it’s also a great source of misinformation about language (and whatever else you’d care to name). Take the page entitled English language did you knows. When I first came across the page in 2011, it claimed that “skiing is the only word with double i.” Nice try, but that left out genii and radii; it also omitted the tasty mushrooms called shiitake, along with the entomological term reduviid, a name for assassin bugs, which find other insects tasty. The false claim about skiing has since been removed from that site.
The same website still mistakenly claims that “the longest one-syllable [hyphen mine] word in the English language is ‘screeched,'” but a bit higher on the page we see the statement that “the word ‘Strengths’ is the longest word in the English language with just one vowel.” Notice that strengths, like screeched, also has nine letters that form a single syllable, so at best screeched would be tied for the longest one-syllable word. There are other nine-letter monosyllables as well.
The English language did you knows page used to begin with a list of words that supposedly don’t rhyme with anything else. One supposedly unrhymable word was scalp, so the unidentified compiler(s) of this list apparently never heard of the lower case alp, a word formed from Alps that now designates a high mountain in general. Another English word that rhymes with scalp is palp, which the 1913 Webster’s Dictionary defined as ‘a feeler; especially, one of the jointed sense organs attached to the mouth organs of insects, arachnids, crustaceans, and annelids.’ The word is derived from Latin palpare ‘to stroke, touch softly, pat.’ English once borrowed that as palp, a verb meaning ‘to have a distinct touch or feeling of.’ Though palp as a verb is archaic or obsolete in English, the equivalent Spanish palpar is alive and well. Medical English has the verb palpate, meaning ‘to examine a body by pressing it with your fingers.’ Spanish and English have the adjective palpable, whose meanings include ‘touchable’ and by extension ‘obvious, evident, easily noticed or perceived.’
© 2016 Steven Schwartzman