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In Britain, it is illegal for a political party in an election to call itself ‘None of the Above’. This is to prevent the words appearing on ballot papers; presumably, there is a fear that the NOTA party would win by a landslide.

Michael J Fox’s middle name is Andrew.

Karaoke means “empty orchestra” in Japanese.

In the Oxford English Dictionary, the first use of the word ‘sponge-cake’ is attributed to Jane Austen.

The first treaty Adolf Hitler ever made as a dictator was with the Vatican.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

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Cleavage in Politics


Cleavage is not just the space between a woman’s breasts, it can mean a lot of things: in biology, it is the repeated division of a cell into daughter cells after mitosis; in chemistry, it is the splitting of a large molecule into smaller ones; and in politics, the division of voters into voting blocs.

English is unique in the way it uses the word ‘cleavage’ for all these different phenomena.

“Breasts are a scandal because they shatter the border between motherhood and sexuality.” – Iris Marion Young

Political systems are characterised by cleavages. These are the metaphorical lines which divide members of the community into different sides. Cleavage lines are mainly founded on values, ethnicity, language or socioeconomic status.

Specific issues, political parties and ideology on the other hand are not the bases for cleavage, but they may well be indicative of the fundamental value conflicts which do constitute the lines of cleavage in a particular system.

Evil Atheists?


‘If you are right to believe that religious faith offers the only real basis for morality, then atheists should be less moral than believers. In fact, they should be utterly immoral. Are they? Do members of atheist organizations in the United States commit more than their fair share of violent crimes? Do the members of the National Academy of Sciences, 93 percent of whom reject the idea of God, lie and cheat and steal with abandon? We can be reasonably confident that these groups are at least as well behaved as the general population. And yet, atheists are the most reviled minority in the United States. Polls indicate that being an atheist is a perfect impediment to running for high office in our country (while being black, Muslim, or homosexual is not). Recently, crowds of thousands gathered throughout the Muslim world—burning European embassies, issuing threats, taking hostages, even killing people— in protest over twelve cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad that were first published in a Danish newspaper. When was the last atheist riot? Is there a newspaper anywhere on this earth that would hesitate to print cartoons about atheism for fear that its editors would be kidnapped or killed in reprisal?

Christians like yourself invariably declare that monsters like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Kim Il Sung spring from the womb of atheism. While it is true that such men are sometimes enemies of organized religion, they are never especially rational.[2] In fact, their public pronouncements are often delusional: on subjects as diverse as race, economics, national identity, the march of history, and the moral dangers of intellectualism.

[2] And Hitler’s atheism seems to have been seriously exaggerated:

My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison___as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.

Hitler said this in a speech on April 12, 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939. Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20. Oxford University Press, 1942).

The problem with such tyrants is not that they reject the dogma of religion, but that they embrace other life-destroying myths. Most become the center of a quasi-religious personality cult, requiring the continual use of propaganda for its maintenance. There is a difference between propaganda and the honest dissemination of information that we (generally) expect from a liberal democracy. Tyrants who orchestrate genocides, or who happily preside over the starvation of their own people, also tend to be profoundly idiosyncratic men, not champions of reason. Kim Il Sung, for instance, demanded that his beds at his various dwellings be situated precisely five hundred meters above sea level. His duvets had to be filled with the softest down imaginable. What is the softest down imaginable? It apparently comes from the chin of a sparrow. Seven hundred thousand sparrows were required to fill a single duvet. Given the profundity of his esoteric concerns, we might wonder how reasonable a man Kim Il Sung actually was.’

Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 14

Shakespeare and False Friends


There are a number of words in Shakespeare’s plays and poems which are deceptive to modern ears. They may seem familiar words but, in fact, camouflage a quite different meaning lost to modern English. In Linguistics, these words are called False Friends.

A False Friend is a word which has kept its form but has strayed from its original sense (or was a completely different word) so that the modern English word is false when compared to the original sense or word. Shakespeare likes to extend the wordplay further by often deliberately using words in their older senses. Consider the following words:

Lover
Modern: someone you are in a sexual relationship with, usually illicitly
Shakespeare: friend

Lover as friend precedes the modern meaning by a little over a century, with both dating back to the Middle English period. Shakespeare, however, punster that he is, uses lover almost exclusively in the old sense. If you do not know what he means, some Shakespearean situations can sound quite awkward, to say the least. Lorenzo, for example, fervently puts a plug in for Antonio to Portia as ‘a lover of my lord your husband’ (The Merchant of Venice, III.iv.7).

Friend
Modern: a person you know well, love and regard
Shakespeare: (primarily) lover

Friend is an Old English word which appears in texts as early as Beowulf; it derives from the Proto-Germanic frijōjanan and is cognate with the verb ‘to free’. It started with the sense we know today, with a slightly extended application to someone we hold in regard or a relative. This generalized sense, too, is encountered in Shakespeare and creates a pun or two. Now that you know what Shakespeare has in mind, you are clued in when Lady Capulet tells Juliet to stop crying, ‘So shall you feel the loss, but not the friend / Which you weep for’, and Juliet replies that she is weeping for her beloved — not the relative, ‘Feeling so the loss, I cannot choose but ever weep the friend’ (Romeo & Juliet, III.v.74-7).

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In Argentina, it was forbidden to say “Juan Domingo Perón” after the coup that deposed him in 1955; the media referred to him as the “Deposed Tyrant”.

Orang-utan means ‘person of the forest’ in Malay.

Liquorice is used in Chinese medicine.

94% of happy, healthy participants, when placed in a totally silent room developed tinnitus.

At the age of 100, Teiichi Igarashi became the oldest person to climb Mount Fuji – in his socks.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts