Leap Day Trivia


Throughout the ages, the leap day, or the 29th of February, has driven people from all over the world to rather odd behaviour – for one reason or another. Here is a selection of curious or special leap day related facts:

  • Julius Caesar introduced the first leap year around 46 BCE.
  • In Ireland, February 29 is called Bachelor’s Day, when women are allowed to propose to men. It is held that Queen Margaret of Scotland began the tradition in 1288. If a man refused the proposal, he would be fined a kiss, a silk dress or 12 pairs of gloves.
  • One in five engaged couples in Greece will plan to avoid getting married in a leap year. They believe it is bad luck.
  • In Taiwan, married daughters traditionally return home during the leap month as it is believed the lunar month can bring bad health to parents. Daughters bring pig trotter noodles to wish them good health and good fortune.
  • In Finland, the tradition is that if a man refuses a woman’s proposal on leap day, he should buy her the fabrics for a skirt.
  • According to the BBC, the chances of having a birthday on a leap day are about one in 1,461.
  • According to the New York Daily News, in modern times, at least two women have given birth to three leap day babies.
  • The Honor Society of Leap Year Babies is a club for people born on the 29th of February. More than 10,000 people worldwide are members.
  • On February 29, 1946, in Tokyo, the February 26 Incident ends.
  • In France, since 1980, a satirical newspaper entitled La Bougie du Sapeur is published only in a leap year, on February 29, making it a quadrennial publication and the least frequently published newspaper in the world.
  • On February 29, 1940, Hattie McDaniel became the first black woman to win an Oscar. She was awarded for her role in Gone With the Wind.
  • According to the World Heritage Encyclopaedia, the eighth premier of Tasmania, James Milne Wilson, was born in 1812 and died in 1880, both on February 29.

Frasier: Yeah dad, you should go.
Martin: Ah, Montana’s too far away.
Frasier: Well dad, his birthday only comes around once every four years. As a matter of fact, this day only comes around every four years. You know, it’s like a free day, a gift. We should do something special, be bold!  It’s leap year, take a leap!
Martin: You know, I was just about to say the same thing to you.
[…]
Frasier: Dad, Jimmy’s already sixteen. How many more birthdays is he going to have?
Martin: [smiles] You know, I would kind of hate not being there when Jimmy brings out the big ham.
Frasier Season 3, Episode 16; “Look Before You Leap” [No. 66]

Advertisements

Conversations: Other Faiths


Helena
It is interesting to observe that every devout Muslim has the same reasons for being a Muslim as Christians have for being Christian. And yet neither Muslims nor Christians find the other’s reasons compelling.

Sappho
So why do Christians not lose any sleep over whether or not to convert to Islam?

Helena
I think Christians feel they do not need to disprove the foundation of Islam in order to reject the beliefs of Muslims. They feel the burden is upon Muslims to prove that their beliefs about God and Muhammad are valid.

Sappho
Well, it is indeed clear to anyone who is not anaesthetized by the dogma is Islam that Muslims are simply not making claims about reality that can be corroborated. And ironically, Christians agree with us about this, “Isn’t it obvious that Muslims are fooling themselves?” you can hear them say.

Helena
That is an interesting point is it not, Christians know exactly what it is like to be an atheist with respect to the beliefs of Muslims.

Sappho
Indeed. I believe it was Richard Dawkins who said “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”

Helena
Quite so, and more importantly, I feel Christians should understand that the way they view Islam is precisely the way devout Muslims view Christianity. And it is the way we view all religions.

(Based on: Harris. S. 2006. Letter To A Christian Nation p. 4-5)

See other: Philosophical Conversations

Taarof


There is a social principle in Iran called taarof, it is the concept that describes the practice of politeness through linguistic indirectness and insincerity.

In Iran, people deal with the concept of honesty in a different way than most Western cultures in which directness and bluntness are, to a large extent, accepted and even encouraged communicative principles.

In the context of taarof, Iranians are expected to give false praises and insincere promises. Not out of deviousness, but out of the sociocultural expectation to tell people what they want to hear out of politeness, to avoid conflict, or to offer hope when there is none.

Examples of common taarof situations include: people imploring others to go through a door first; hosts insisting that they do not want customers to pay for dinner; dinner partners refusing to let others share in the cost of a meal; hostesses serving food even though their guests claim they are full; and people being invited to dinner when the host does not really want their company.

“Symbolism and vagueness are inherent in our language. […] Taarof is a sign of respect, even if we don’t mean it.” – Nasser Hadian

Bureaucracy and Suicide in the DDR


‘The statistics office on Hans Beimler Street counts everything, knows everything. How many shoes I buy a year: 2,3. How many books I read a year: 3,2. And how many pupils graduate with straight A’s every year: 6347. But there is one thing they don’t count, maybe because even bureaucrats find it painful, and that’s suicides[1]. If you call Beimler Street to ask how many people between the Elbe and the Oder, between the Baltic Sea and the Ore Mountains have been driven to their death by despair, our numbers oracle is silent. But it may just note your name for State Security… Those grey men who ensure safety in our land… and happiness.

In 1977, our country stopped counting suicides[2]. They called them ‘self-murderers’. But it has nothing to do with murder. It knows no bloodlust, no heated passion, it knows only death, the death of all hope. When we stopped counting, only one country in Europe drove more people to their death: Hungary. We came next, the land of Real Existing Socialism.’

– Translated from Wiedemann. M. et al. (Producer), Henckel von Donnersmarck. F. (Director). (2006). Das Leben Der Anderen [Motion Picture]. Germany: Buena Vista International


[1] Freitoden, from the singular Freitod, a euphemistic term meaning ‘suicide’, literally: “free death”.

[2] Selbstmorden, from the singular Selbstmord, a dysphemistic term meaning ‘suicide’, literally: “self murder”.

Eating Carbs


Enhanced dribble
100,000 years ago

Your saliva contains an enzyme called amylase, made by the AMY1 gene, which digests starch. Modern humans whose ancestors were farmers have more copies of AMY1 than people whose ancestors stayed as hunter-gatherers. This digestive boost may have helped start farming, settled villages and modern societies.

See other: What Makes Humans Human?

Dysphemism [Noun.]


The use of a derogatory, offensive or vulgar word or phrase to replace a (more) neutral original. As opposed to its antonym euphemism.

E.g. Consider two German words for ‘suicide’: the dysphemistic term Selbstmord, literally: “self murder”, and the euphemistic term Freitod, literally: “free death”.