Among the language lore compiled by linguist Charles Berlitz:

* Language probably evolved from a series of sound signals such as those used by birds. The first words were undoubtedly warnings like "Look out!" or instructions to stay away from one's food or mate.

* The supreme personal insult--in many languages--is the implication of unprintable activities by that person's mother.

* Laughter in English also says "mother" (ha-ha) in Japanese; "hi" says "yes" (hai); "auto" sounds like "father" (otoh), and "Ohio" like "good morning" (ohayo).

* If you can't remember the Japanese phrase for "you are welcome" (doo itashimashite) you might get by if you say--quickly--"Don't touch my mustache." To pronounce the Spanish expression for "That's exactly it!" (Eso si que es) spell s-o-c-k-s.

* Although there are more than a million words in the English language, the average English speaker uses no more than 2,800 in daily conversation.

* The most frequently used English word? "And," followed by "of," "in," "still," "for," "as," "with," "at." Most common verbs: "have," "shall/will," "do" and "can." A 1953 study of word frequency showed: "war" used more often than "peace," "man" used about 10 times more often than "woman" and "mother" used about eight times as often as "father."

* The Italian greeting ciao comes from a form of the word "slave," schiavo, or "I am your slave."

* The size of words may be misleading. In Hawaiian, a tiny reef fish is called humohumokunokuapuaa and a giant ocean fish is called o.

* The internationally-used Rx on prescriptions is an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph for the eye of Horus, Egyptian god of medicine.

* The Chinese word for "good" is written by combining the ideograms for "woman" and "child." One "woman" under "roof" means "peace," two "women" means "a quarrel," and "women" by a "door" is "jealousy."

* The American Indian name for Chicago is "The Place of the Skunk Cabbage" and for Manhattan, "The Place of Great Drunkenness."

* Some Chinese equivalents of Western names translated literally from the original language: Nixon--"mud overcoming forest;" Carter--"tool booth special;" Kissinger--"lucky work house;" Reagan--"thunder root."

* English was selected over German as the official language of the United States by only one vote.