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The names Honda and Toyota derive from Japanese words for different kinds of rice field.

The longest palindrome in the Oxford English Dictionary is ‘tattarrattat’. James Joyce used it in Ulysses: ‘I knew his tattarrattat at the door.’

Each of us is surrounded by bacteria that are released from our bodies; everyone’s personal microbial cloud is unique.

An animal the size of an elephant could evolve to an animal the size of a sheep in 100,000 generations, but for an animal the size of a sheep to evolve to the size of an elephant would take 1.6 million generations.

The ancient Greeks had no word for religion.

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In 1995, the number of TV programmes in Britain watched by over 15 million people was 225. By 2004, this had fallen to six.

Biologists cannot agree on definitions for the words ‘species’, ‘organism’ or ‘life’.

Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo all mean ‘capital’, in their respective languages.

Dildos are illegal in Texas.

The amount of water on Earth is constant, and continually recycled over time: some of the water you drink, will have passed through a dinosaur.

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In traditional champagne production, a remueur is someone who, every now and then, slightly turns the bottle to aid fermentation.

Research using rabbits has led to 26 Nobel Prizes for Physiology or Medicine.

The Japanese for ‘handbag’ is handubagu.

Modern homing pigeons find it convenient to, every now and then, follow motorways and ring roads and turn left and right at junctions.

Women make 25% of the films in Iran, compared to, 4% in the United States.

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Kotodama


In Japan, there is a common myth of the spirit of language called kotodama; a belief that some divine power resides in the Japanese language.

The term kotodama literally means ‘the spirit of language’. It is a belief based on the idea of Shintoism, the indigenous religion of Japan which worships divinity in all natural creation and phenomena.

In ancient Japan, language was believed to have a spirit, which gives positive power to positive words, negative power to negative words, and impacts a person’s life when his or her name is pronounced out loud. Wishes or curses were thus spelled out in a particular manner in order to communicate with the divine powers. According to this ancient belief, the spirit of language only resides in ‘pure’ Japanese that is unique and free from foreign influence.

“What a strange thing!
to be alive
beneath cherry blossoms.”
― Kobayashi Issa, Poems

Today we can observe that the diversity of Japanese society goes hand in hand with the diversity of its vocabulary, which we can see from the rapid increase of loanwords in Japanese. However, at the same time, this increases a sense of insecurity in relation to the linguistic and cultural identity of Japan.

As a result, the ancient myth of kotodama has been reinvented as a way to manifest Japanese linguistic identity through the idea of a ‘pure’ language. Kotodama has no fixed definition, and continues to transform as Japanese society undergoes changes. It is questionable if the Japanese still really believe in the spiritual power of language – however, the myth of linguistic purity persists in the mind of the Japanese through the word kotodama.

Postpositions


‘Instead of prepositions, some languages have postpositions. They function like prepositions in that they indicate a semantic relationship between other entities, but instead of preceding the noun or noun phrase they follow it. Compare the Japanese postpositions with the English prepositions below:

Japanese Postpositions

Taroo no
hasi de
Tookyoo e

English Prepositions

of Taro
with chopsticks
to Tokyo

The placement of prepositions before a noun, which seems natural to speakers of English (and French, Spanish, Russian, and many other languages), would seem unnatural to speakers of Japanese, Turkish, Hindi, and many other languages that postpose rather than prepose words in this lexical category.’

– Finegan. E. 2008. Language, Its Structure And Use Stamford, CT, United States: Cengage Learning (2012) p. 39

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Women are paid less than men for the same work in every U.S. State.

In 2008 a lock of Jane Austen’s hair was sold at auction for £5,640.

In Japanese, two different sets of characters spell out the word danshoku meaning either warm colour, or male homosexual sex.

The biblical book of Esther contains neither the word God, Lord, Jesus, nor Jehovah.

Many of the indigenous people living close to the banks of the Zambezi river (the fourth longest river in Africa which has its source in former Zambia and flows through Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique) carry dogs in their canoe in case of a crocodile attack.

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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.

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About 78% of the food advertised on Canadian television is fast food.

The first ever hot air balloon passengers were a sheep, a duck and a rooster. They made their successful flight in 1783.

The Japanese and Russians call the sun red. The Chinese call it yellow and white.

George W. Bush was the first American President to come to office with a criminal record. He had been arrested for drunk driving. Bush was the second man with a criminal record to become President if you count George Washington’s record for treason.

If you spent one day visiting each of Indonesia’s islands, it would take 48 years to see them all.

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