Showing posts from December, 2005

Interesting Word - Twerp

The word "twerp" has been classed as both parliamentary and unparliamentary language. In 1956, the Speaker ruled it in order because he assumed "it was a sort of technical term of the aviation industry". It was later classed as unacceptable.

(Twerp means the quality or condition of being stupid, or lacking intelligence. You can see why they banned it.)

Interesting Fact - 100 words

A knowledge of just 100 words would allow you to understand half of any book, even adult fiction, researchers at Warwick University say.

(I wonder what they mean by "adult" fiction?)

Interesting Fact - Smoking

It is illegal to buy cigarettes under the age of 20 in Japan.

(Good for them. I guess after 20 you should know better. But wait! What's this? About 51% of men smoke in Japan.)

Interesting Words # 33 - A smack

The collective noun for a group of jellyfish is a "smack".

(Hmmm - I doubt if that is one of the 100 words you need - see interesting fact # 204.)

Interesting Christmas Fact - Boxing Day

26th December was traditionally known as St Stephen's Day, but is now more commonly known as Boxing Day. This expression came about because money was collected in alms-boxes placed in churches during the festive season. This money was then distributed during to the poor and needy after Christmas.

More about Christmas

Interesting Christmas Fact # 8 - Telesphorus

Telesphorus, the second Bishop of Rome (125-136 AD) declared that public Church services should be held to celebrate "The Nativity of our Lord and Saviour." In 320 AD, Pope Julius I and other religious leaders specified 25 December as the official date of the birth of Jesus Christ.

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Eve

At midnight on Christmas Eve 1914 firing from the German trenches suddenly stopped. A German brass band began playing Christmas carols. Early, Christmas morning, the German soldiers came out of their trenches, approaching the allied lines, calling "Merry Christmas". At first the allied soldiers thought it was a trick, but they soon climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the German soldiers. The truce lasted a few days, and the men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings, sang carols and songs. They even played a game of football.

(Now that's what I call the 'spirit' of Christmas.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Trees

The first printed reference to Christmas trees appeared in Germany in 1531.

(In 1834, Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert brought the first Christmas tree to Windsor Castle for the Royal family. Lots of 'British' Christmas traditions come from Germany.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Silent Night

The Christmas carol Silent Night (orig. Stille Nacht) was written in 1818, by an Austrian priest Joseph Mohr. He was told the day before Christmas that the church organ was broken and would not be repaired in time for Christmas Eve. He was saddened by this and could not think of Christmas without music, so he wanted to write a carol that could be sung by choir to guitar music. He sat down and wrote three stanzas. Later that night the people in the little Austrian Church sang "Stille Nacht" for the first time.

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Abolishing Christmas

In 1643, the British Parliament officially abolished the celebration of Christmas.
In 1649 they even banned Christmas Carols. Puritans thought that Christmas should be a very solemn day so they banned carols and parties. The only celebration allowed was a sermon and a prayer service. The ban remained in place until the restoration in 1660.

(Puritans were such a miserable lot. I mean celebrate Christmas how you will (or not), but don't tell me I'm not allowed to.)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas Trees

Every year since 1947 the people in Oslo have given a Christmas tree to the city of Westminster, London. The gift is an expression of goodwill and gratitude for Britain's help to Norway in the second world war.

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - The Christmas Cracker

Tom Smith who owned a sweet shop in London was the originator of the cracker. In the 1840s Tom found that people like sugar almonds, but while he was in France he discovered a variety of sweets wrapped up in a twist of paper. These bonbons were popular, so Tom decided to copy them. When he noticed that young men were buying them to give to their sweethearts he began to place "love mottoes" on small slips of paper inside the sweet wrapping.

In 1846 Tom's thoughts turned towards Christmas - instead of sweets he thought he would place toys and novelties inside the twisted wrapping. He experimented with this and the idea of producing a wrapping that could be pulled apart - just like the cracker as we know it today.

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - The 3 Wise Men

In the UK we call them the three wise men, but they have different names in various countries:

Spain and South America: The Three Kings
Italy: La Befana (a kindly old witch)
England: Father Christmas (aka Santa)
France: Pere Noel (Father Christmas)
Russia: In some parts - Babouschka (a grandmotherly figure) and in other parts it is Grandfather Frost.
Germany: Christkind (angelic messenger from Jesus), a beautiful fair haired girl with a shining crown of candles.
Scandinavia: a variety of Christmas gnomes. One is called Julenisse
Holland: St Nicholas.

Interesting Words # 32 - Carol

The word carol is derived from the old French word caroller which derives from the Latin choraula. This itself was derived from the Greek choraules.

(fa la la la la, la la, la la)

Interesting Fact # 192 - Double-decker buses

The familiar London, red, double-decker bus, the Routemaster, might have disappeared from the capital's streets, but it's still used in Guernsey.

(Well thank goodness for that.)

Interesting Fact - Mistletoe

The UK's mistletoe capital is Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire, where nearly all wholesale supplies of the plant are sold.

(So, pucker up!)

Interesting Fact - Mobile Phones

In the UK 14% of seven- and eight-year-olds have mobile phones.

(Good grief - I only joined them recently!)

Interesting Animals - Cicadas

Cicadas can spend up to 17 years underground before emerging in their adult form.

(No wonder they're so noisy! They have a lot of catching up to do.)

Interesting Fact - Hawaiian

There are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet.

(Now I bet you are all wishing you were learning Hawaiian.)

Interesting Fact - Speeches

The longest speech to the House of Commons lasted six hours, a record set in 1828.

(I can't believe that no one has broken that record - they must just seem longer.)

Interesting Fact - Quicksand and Custard

No it's not a recipe - quicksand and custard share the same physical properties - both are non-Newtonian fluids that flow when treated gently but thicken when hit hard.

(Hmmm - at last science explains the properties of school custard!)

Interesting Fact - Transport

The UK's Road Safety Minister Stephen Ladyman has nine points on his driver's licence.

(If you are convicted of a motoring offence, the courts can endorse your licence with penalty points or order a period of disqualification. A person whose penalty points reach 12 or more in a period of 3 years is liable to be disqualified.)

Interesting Inventions - Smileys

The smiley sun anti-nuclear badge ""Nuclear Power? No Thanks", was designed by a Danish pupil in a schools competition in the mid-1970s.

Interesting Fact - Calories

At -40° Centigrade a person loses about 14.4 calories per hour by breathing.

(Brrrr - That's a high price to pay for losing a bit of weight.)

Interesting Fact - Energy

If you yelled for 8 years, 7 months and 6 days you would have produced enough energy to heat one cup of coffee.

(Hardly seems worth it, does it?)

Interesting Fact - Memory

The ability to ignore information makes for a better memory.

(So you had better ignore all the information on this blog. Otherwise your brain will be full.)

Interesting Fact - Binge Drinking

Binge drinking in the UK dates back at least to the 12th Century.

(You see - it's tradition!)

Interesting Fact - Christmas Fact - Christmas cards

The first Christmas card was designed by John Callcott Horsley and commissioned by Sir Henry Cole, a civil servant and inventor, in 1843.

(It featured a design showing three generations of a family raising a toast to the recipient, and cost 1 shilling (that's 10p in new money). The average price of a Christmas card in the UK now (in 2005) is 71p, which might sound expensive in comparison, but it's actually much cheaper. A shilling could have bought you a meal back in the 1800s, so its buying power today is probably around £10.)

Interesting Fact - Toilet Paper

Toilet paper is the third biggest selling household commodity, with sales exceeding £11bn a year.

(That's a lot of loo roll. For posh people 'loo roll' = 'toilet tissue')

Interesting Fact - Royal Mail

The Royal Mail uses 342 million rubber bands a year to bundle up letters.

(Seemingly they use red bands so that they can be more easily seen when dropped.)