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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On a Life in Fear


“A life lived in fear is a life half-lived.”

– Spanish proverb

On The Quran


“The idea that this is the best book ever written – on any subject – can only be maintained in an enormous intellectual isolation.”[1]

– Sam Harris


[1] Consider: the country of Spain translates more of the world’s literature and learning into Spanish every year than the entire Arab world has translated into Arabic since the 9th century.

4/iii mmxv


During mating season, the testicles of some fruit bats become so swollen that flight becomes impossible.

In Spanish, the verb trasnochar means ‘to stay awake all night’.

The Atlantic Ocean is slightly saltier than the Pacific Ocean.

In the Arabic broadcast of The Simpsons episodes, Homer drinks soda instead of beer and eats Egyptian beef sausages instead of hot dogs.

In 2006, a Gallup poll revealed that 53 percent of Americans believe the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago – interestingly, the Sumerians had invented glue one thousand earlier.

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’).

The Spread of Latin


‘For some centuries after Rome was founded, the Romans were a feeble and insignificant people, their territory was limited to Latium, and their existence constantly threatened by warlike neighbors. But after the third century before Christ, Rome’s power grew rapidly. She conquered all Italy, then reached out for the lands across the sea and beyond the Alps, and finally ruled over the whole ancient world. The empire thus established lasted for more than four hundred years. The importance of Latin increased with the growth of Roman power, and what had been a dialect spoken by a single tribe became the universal language. Gradually the language changed somewhat, developing differently in different countries. In Italy it has become Italian, in Spain Spanish, and in France French. All these nations, therefore, are speaking a modernized form of Latin.’

– D’Ooge. B.L. 1909. Latin For Beginners Boston, Massachusetts, United States: The Athenaeum Press, Ginn and Company (1911) p. 1-2

26/ii mmxiv


Christians eat their god.

When the soft drink 7-Up was launched in 1929, one of its ingredients was the mood-stabilizing lithium citrate.

Indonesia has a Bishop called Martinus Dogma Situmorang. Dogma is his middle name. Literally.

Because Tonto means ‘stupid’ in Spanish, for Latin America, the Lone Ranger’s sidekick was renamed Toro or ‘bull’.

Ironically, the first legal slave owner, in what would eventually become the United States, was a black man named Anthony Johnson.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

6/xi mmxiii


In 1950, less than 10% of Africa had been mapped.

chess

A chess board with two rather artistic pieces

In the Netherlands, a 90-year-old marriage is called granite – ‘graniet’ in Dutch.

Africa covers a fifth of the land area of the planet but contains only a tenth of the world’s population.

The main exports of the African country of Niger are uranium and chickens.

A great international linguistic variety is shown by the words: Gwyddbwyll, Ajedrez, Catur, Ficheall, Daba, Male, and Chesu which all mean ‘chess’ in Welsh, Spanish, Indonesian, Irish, Bengali, Estonian and Japanese respectively.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts