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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.

See other: Quite Interesting Fact

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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.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

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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.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

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.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts

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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.

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’).