Interlingual Homophones


There are words which are pronounced the same as other words but differ in meaning or origin; these words are known as homophones. They are usually found within one language (e.g. carrot and karat) but they can cross language barriers; although they do not often exactly match across languages – as there always seem to be some slight deviation in how various sounds are pronounced – interlingual homophones do exist and can, potentially, cause all sorts of confusion.

  • εκεί / aquí
    In Greek, there. In Spanish, here.
  • ναι / nej
    In Greek, yes. In Swedish, no.
  • pig / pigg
    In English, mammalian species of the genus Sus. In Swedish, alert.
  • say / sé
    In English, to speak. In Spanish, I know.
  • tack / tak
    In Swedish, thank you. In Polish, yes.

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Sometime around 1500 BC, after being hit by a terrible earthquake, the residents of Crete tried to calm the earth by lowering a large basket of olives into a well.

About one in four animals on earth is a beetle.

In Tanzania there are 125,000 people for every doctor, compared to one doctor for every 156 people in Cuba.

Asteroid 1227 is called geranium.

Novelist Joseph Conrad’s real name was Teodor Józef Konrad Nałęcz-Korzeniowski. He became fluent in English only in his 20s. He never lost his Polish accent.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

What To Call The @


The @ is called by many different names across the 28 member states of the EU – mainly animals. The map also locates curious clusters in which these animals congregate, as if certain climates are more favourable to certain imaginary creatures than to others. Electronic elephants seem to thrive only in Scandinavia, for example.

The Romance languages by and large stuck to the inanimate arroba, the pre-digital name for the @ sign in Spanish and Portuguese. That name is derived from the Arabic ar-rub, meaning a quarter – in this case, a measure of weight: 25% of what a donkey (or mule) could carry. In Spain, the customary weight of an arroba was 25 pounds (11.5 kg), in Portugal, 32 pounds (14.7 kg). On the map, we see these weights proliferate throughout the Iberian peninsula, but also in France and French-speaking Belgium (as arobase).

Continental Europe is otherwise dominated by digital monkeys, due to the likeness of the @ to a monkey tail curling around a tree branch. In Germany and Austria, the symbol is referred to as Klammeraffe. The word translates as ‘spider monkey’ – an American genus of monkey noted for its long tail. Klammer on its own can mean ‘bracket’, ‘staple’ or ‘paperclip’. The Klammeraffe shares Germany and Austria with the ordinary at. But in Poland, the małpa (‘monkey’) has the country to itself.

Dutch speakers in the Netherlands and Belgium refer to the @ as apenstaart(je), ‘(little) monkey tail’. In Luxembourgish, that becomes Afeschwanz.

The simian simile also proliferates throughout the Balkans: in Romanian, the @ is called coadă de maimuţă (‘monkey tail’), in Bulgarian маймунка (maimunka – ‘little monkey’). Croatians either use at or manki, a direct loan from the English ‘monkey’ (rather than the Croatian word for monkey, majmun). Their Slovenian neighbours call it an afna (‘little monkey’).

In Scandinavia, the elephant was seen as an apt metaphor for the curly a. In both Danish and Swedish, the @ is called snabel-a, with snabel meaning ‘[elephant’s] trunk’. Their Finnish neighbours offically call it at-merkki, but colloquially either kissanhäntä (‘cat’s tail’) or miukumauku (‘meow-meow’).

Czechs and Slovaks are united in their fishy metaphor for the @, finding in its curly appearance a similarity to zavináč, or ‘rollmops’ (rolled pickled herring fillets).

Italy is dominated by a chiocciola (‘snail’) riding up its boot. In Greece and Cyprus, the @ is rather enigmatically compared to a παπάκι (papaki – ‘duckling’).

The Baltics follow the English fashion, and say at. Not very imaginative perhaps, but less impalatable than the Hungarians, who say kukac, or ‘maggot’.

That concludes all the fauna on this delightfully weird map, but here are some other remarkable names for @ in other languages: Armenian: shnik (‘puppy’); Chinese: xiao laoshu (‘little mouse’); Japanese: naruto (after the tidal whirlpools in Naruto bay); Kazakh: aykulak (‘moon’s ear’); Norwegian: krøllalfa (‘curly alpha’); Russian: sobaka (‘dog’); Ukrainian: vukho (‘ear’).

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Mark David Chapman had a copy of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye on him when he murdered John Lennon in 1980. He believed a large part of him was Holden Caulfield, the novel’s protagonist.

Try to avoid talking about ‘preservatives’ in Poland as the Polish word prezerwatywa means ‘condom’.

In ancient times, the root part of the carrot plant that we eat today was not typically used.  The carrot plant however was highly valued due to the medicinal value of its seeds and leaves. For instance, Mithridates VI, King of Pontius (around 100BCE) had a recipe for counteracting certain poisons with the principle ingredient being carrot seeds. It has since been proven that this concoction actually works.

The most money ever paid for a cow in an auction was $1.3 million.

Two large studies conducted in Australia and the US between 2004 and 2011 concluded there is evidence to suggest that the more frequently men ejaculate between the ages of 20 and 50, the less likely they are to develop prostate cancer.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

Interesting Polish


słitaśny [adjective.]

  • cute, lovely; cutesy, suggesting a stereotypical teenage-girl aesthetic.

być (pronounced “bitch”) [verb.]

  • to be.

W Szczebrzeszynie chrząszcz brzmi w trzcinie i Szczebrzeszyn z tego słynie

  • literally: ‘In Szczebrzeszyn a beetle buzzes in the reed, for which Szczebrzeszyn is famous.’

The Fool’s Mate


The Fool’s Mate, also known as the Scholar’s Mate, or Two-Move Checkmate, is the quickest possible checkmate in chess. There are a few variations; a prime example consists of the moves:

  1. f3 e5
  2. g4?? Qh4#

The pattern can have slight variations; for example White might open with 1. f4 instead of 1. f3 or move the g-pawn first, and Black might play 1. … e6 instead of 1. … e5.

The Fool’s Mate received its name because it can only occur if White plays extraordinarily weakly. Even among rank beginners, the mate almost never occurs in practice.

Nevertheless, the Fool’s Mate principle is known by different names around the world:

  • In French, Turkish, German, Dutch, Spanish and Portuguese: Shepherd’s Mate
  • In Russian: Children’s Mate
  • In Italian: Barber’s Mate
  • In Persian, Greek and Arabic: Napoleon’s Plan
  • In Polish: Scholar’s Mate
  • In Danish, Hungarian, Slovenian and Hebrew: Shoemaker’s Mate
  • In Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian and sometimes in Danish: School Mate

The Fool’s Mate has also occasionally been given other names in English, such as Schoolboy’s Mate and Blitzkrieg (German for ‘lightning war’, meaning a very short and quick engagement).

See other: Chess Traps