Monday, January 01, 2007

50 things I didn't know until last year

1. Calculations by The Economist in January 2005 revealed that the total value of unredeemed air miles has exceeded the worth of all the dollar bills in circulation.
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2. One in 10 Europeans is allegedly conceived in an Ikea bed.
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3. Singapore is known as the ‘little red dot.’ Although the term began as a derogatory remark, it has been proudly taken up by Singaporeans as evidence that Singapore’s importance is far greater than warranted by its size.
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4. Bookmakers’ odds ensure that gamblers bet roughly the same amount of money on one team as on the other. Bookmakers don’t gamble on which team will win; they instead make money through a slim percentage – called vigorish, or just the vig – deducted from the winner’s booty.
(Source : ‘The Wisdom Of Crowds : Why The Many Are Smarter Than The Few’ by James Surowiecki)

5. Gibraltar was named Jebel Tarik - Tarik’s mountain - by Moorish settlers in honour of their leader Tarik ibn Zeyad. The last syllable was lost over time.
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6. Outside of primates, only vampire bats have been known to trust non-relatives on a routine basis.
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7. Camp David was established by FD Roosevelt and called Shangri-La. Its name was changed to Camp David by Eisenhower.
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8. The Islamic name of the Queen of Sheba is Bilqis.
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9. The Paralympics or Olympics for the Physically Disabled are held immediately after the Summer Olympics and at the same venue.
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10. All countries in the European Union have abolished the death penalty and any country wishing to join it must follow suit.
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11. The phrase “it’s never over ‘til the fat lady sings” is actually fairly recent in origin; it was coined by sportswriter Dan Cook in 1978.
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12. The red skyline in the Edward Munch painting ‘The Scream’ was inspired by red twilights caused all around the world by the 1883 Krakatoa volcanic explosion in Indonesia.
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13. Papua New Guinea boasts the highest level of linguistic diversity in the world with approximately 830 languages for around 5.4 million people. That’s about one language for every 6,500 residents.
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14. During World War II, baseball commentators on radio were prohibited from mentioning anything about the weather, lest enemy interceptors find out too much about American weather.
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15. The popcorn kernels that fail to pop are called ‘old maids’.
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16. Zimbabwe literally means ‘House of Stone’ in the native Shona language.
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17. Developing countries received $167 billion last year – from immigrants in developed countries sending back money home. According to World Bank estimates, that figure is twice as much as developing countries received in foreign aid.
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18. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the father of the modern Olympics, was against women taking part in the Olympics - describing the move to include them as “impractical, uninteresting, unaesthetic and wrong.”
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19. The Incas used a writing system that involved knotted strings called Khipu.
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20. The Sports Illustrated Jinx is the decline towards mediocrity observed in several sports persons after they reach the top. It is so named because of the tendency of an athlete to enter a career lull after gracing the magazine’s cover.
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21. The Japanese name for Godzilla - Gojira - is derived from a combination of the Japanese words for gorilla (gorira) and kujira (whale.)
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22. In the 15th and 16th century, Coventry in England was famous for a superior blue dye. From this was coined the phrase, ‘As true as Coventry Blue”, referring to someone of the highest integrity - which led to the term ‘true blue’.
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23. Dragline silk, minor ampullate silk and flagelliform silk are different types of silk produced by spiders to spin their webs.
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24. Edinburgh has also been known as Dunedin. In fact, Dunedin in New Zealand was originally called ‘New Edinburgh’ and is still known as ‘Edinburgh of the South’.
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25. The state of Illinois is known as ‘Land Of Lincoln’ because the 16th US President spent most of his life and career there.
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26. Even though America’s population has increased since the Six Degrees of Separation theory was tested by Stanley Milligram, studies show that modern technology and networking have reduced the average number of nodes connecting any 2 people in the US to 4.6. In the case of actors, it can be as low as 3 as demonstrated by the on-line game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.
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27. It was only in 1940 that the two-weekend was officially introduced.
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28. The modern practice of starting the day at midnight – equidistant from sunset and sunrise – began with the Romans. All calendars before (and a few later) calculated day break differently – dawn in ancient Egypt and India; sunset by Jews, Muslims and Chinese.
(Source : ‘The Calendar : History, Lore And Legend’ by Jacqueline De Bourgoing)

29. Over the past couple of decades, increase in female employment has added more to global GDP growth than either new technology or the new giants, China and India.
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30. The extra credit for the director of a film (usually in the form ‘A Film by _________’ or A __________ Film) is called the possesory or vanity credit.
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31. The difference between the value of money and the cost of its production is called seigniorage.
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32. Plimsoll shoes are named after Samuel Plimsoll (who also gave us the Plimsoll Line, a line on the hull of every cargo ship that indicates the level of maximum submergence) because submerging them above their rubber trim results in disaster.
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33. About 120,000 convicts and misfits were transported from Britain to America between 1650 and 1775. American independence put an end to the practice and forced Britain to send convicts to the distant colony of New South Wales instead.
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34. The famous Hollywood sign originally read “Hollywoodland” and was created to advertise a property development company.
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35. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi originally conceived the Statue of Liberty as an Egyptian peasant swathed in robes titled ‘Egypt Bringing Light To Asia’ and wanted to place it at entrance to the Suez Canal.
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36. The prop used by actors/leading men to appear taller than they actually are, is called apple box.
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37. The edges of books used to be colored with red, green, blue, yellow or pink edges to protect the edges from dirt, dust and handling.
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38. In the US, ex-presidents continue to be addressed as “Mr. President” for the rest of their lives.
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39. Australia sits on its own tectonic plate while Greenland is geologically a part of North America - one of the reasons why the former is classified as an island continent and the latter isn’t.
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40. The ‘Standard’ SMS tone on a Nokia cellphone is Morse code for ‘M’ (message). The ‘Special’ tone option when receiving SMS (text messages) is actually Morse code for ‘SMS’. Similarly, the ‘Ascending’ SMS tone is Morse code for ‘Connecting People’ - Nokia’s slogan.
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41. The celebrated car designer Sir Alec Issigonis and creator of the Rover Mini is credited with introducing the word ‘mini’ to the English language.
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42. Introverts tend to remember their dreams better than extroverts.
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43. The phrase ‘expletive deleted’ entered the English language with the release of the Nixon tapes in connection with the Watergate scandal. To shield the public sensibilities from the foul-mouthed profanities of the President, the transcripts were littered with the phrase ‘expletive deleted.’
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44. The suffixes ‘chester’ or ‘cester’ in an English place name are derived from the latin word ‘castrum’ meaning ‘fortified place’ and suggest the presence of a Roman fort at the place.
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45. Many traditional languages around the world use the same word to refer to the colours blue and green.
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46. There were two writers who used the pen-name Mark Twain. Samuel Langhorne Clemens - the more famous one - took the name from the pen-name of a Captain Sellers, a riverboat pilot who wrote about river conditions for the New Orleans Picayune.
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47. Theodore Herzl, who outlined the need to create a Jewish State in his book in 1896, presented two options as the possible sites for the state of Israel – Palestine and a piece of barren land in Argentina.
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48. Green Cards used to be green in colour before 1964.
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49. Though outer space officially begins about 100 miles away, NASA recognises anyone who orbits the Earth above 50 miles as an astronaut.
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50. In his first appearances, Superman was capable of tremendous leaps but he couldn’t fly. His ability to fly was added in the early 1940s.
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