Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Origins of the alphabet, writing, and paper

The first alphabet was  created by Assyrian, Sumerian and Arab populations around 1800 B.C. I should mention that the Arabs claim their ancestry to Abraham who lived between 1800-1500 BC. It is plausible, however, that the honour goes to the Phoenicians in around 1650 B.C. Being excellent sailors and sea-traders, it is likely that they spread their alphabet throughout the countries of the Mediterranean.
The Phoenician alphabet consisted exclusively of 22 consonants. Vowels were added later by the Greeks around 750 B.C. To this day, the  Hebrew and Arab alphabet don't have vowels. The Etruscans adopted and modified the Greek alphabet which they passed it on to Rome. The Romans later refined it by introducing the alphabet that we use today in modern English, containing every letter except J, U and W. All languages used in the West have kept the Roman alphabet. I should mention that the Russians and Ukrainians still use the Greek alphabet

Writing Direction & The Etruscans
As for the alphabetical order and the direction of the writing are purely arbitrary. In fact in the Western countries we write from left to right, while in Arab countries they write from right to left, in China from top to bottom. The Etruscans wrote one line in one direction and the second line in the opposite direction. In case you don't know, the Etruscans, people of an advanced civilization, lived in Italy before the Romans in an area corresponding to modern Tuscany, western Umbria and northern Latium. They ruled Italy before the Romans until they were expelled  around 500 B.C. Later in 396 B.C. they were absorbed by the Romans who adopted many of their advanced arts, their customs, and their institutions.

Invention of Paper
The English word paper derives from papyrus, a plant used by the ancient Egyptians to make paper, which was used by other Mediterranean cultures before the invention of paper in China by T'sai Lun in 105 A.D.
It took nearly 500 years for paper making to reach some parts of Europe. It began in Spain and in Italy in the 12 th  century, and by the year 1250 Italy had become one of the major producers of paper. By the 1400 this craft had reached Southern France and Germany.
This rapid expansion of European paper production was accelerated by the invention of the printing press.


Tuesday, May 6, 2014


How were names assigned to all different colours?

According to anthropologists colours were always given in the same order but nobody knows why. The number of colours varies from culture to culture, for example Eskimos have 7 words to indicate the colour white. Two American anthropologists, Brent Berlin and Paul Kay have noticed that in general the number goes from a minimum of 2 words (white and black, or clear and dark as in New Guinea) to a maximum of 11 and they appear always in the same order: white, black, red, green, yellow, blue, brown, orange, purple (violet), pink and gray.

Do all people smile in the same way?

Yes and no.  Orientals and Westerners smile in different ways : This  emotion activates different facial muscles. Westerners  use many more muscles of the mouth, while Orientals use the eyes to show mirth. A study done at the University of Glasgow shows clearly, that for the same 6 emotions (happiness, surprise, fears, rage, sadness, disgust) people from the West activate  more muscles of the face and mouth, while the Orientals' emotions are much more difficult to interpret since they only activate eye  muscles. In short Westerners and Orientals smile in different ways.

Why do we bend our head to the right when we kiss somebody?

According to a recent study done by a German psychologist this habit is born in the uterus. The upper part of the spinal cord of the fetus tends to bend to the right as soon as  it starts to develop the heart and the intestine.

Is it true that until the '700 women, in the old world, did not use underwear?

It should be said that in the '500 underwear was only worn by prostitutes. Everyone else started to wear them in the '700 even though the Church did not approve.

 Women started wearing knickers in the 19th century.  Before that time the underwear worn was a long linen garment called a shift, smock or chemise. In the 16th century women began to wear corsets made with whalebone or wire called a farthingale. Later still some women began to wear a roll around their waist called a 'bum-roll' to hold out their dress.

In the US the underwear is called panties a term never accepted in the UK.


Did you ever think of becoming a stand up comedian?

A paraprosdokian is often used for humorous or comic effect. Some ofthem not only change the meaning of an early phrase, but they also play on the double meaning of a particular word.

 Paraprosdokians are figures of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected; frequently humorous. Winston Churchill loved them.

1.  Where there's a will, I want to be in it.

2.  The last thing I want to do is hurt you. But it's still on my list.

3.   Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

4.   If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong.

5.  We never really grow up, we only learn how to act in public.

6.  War does not determine who is right - only who is left.

7. To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.

8.  I didn't say it was your fault, I said I was blaming you.

9. Women will never be equal to men until they can walk down the street with a bald head and a beer gut, and still think they are sexy.

10. I used to be indecisive. Now I'm not so sure...

11. To be sure of hitting the target, shoot first and call whatever you hit the target.

12. I asked God for a bike, but I know God doesn't work that way; so I stole  a bike and asked for forgiveness.

13. The last thing I want to do is hurt you; but it's still on the list.

14. Light travels faster than sound; this is why some people appear bright      

     until you hear them speak.

15. The early bird might get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.  

16. A bus station is where a bus stops. A train station is where a train stops.   On my desk, I have a work station.

17. A bank is a place that will lend you money, if you can prove that you don't need it.

18. Why do Americans choose from just two people to run for president and 50 for Miss America ?

19.  Behind every successful man is his woman. Behind the fall of a successful man is usually another woman.

20. Some cause happiness wherever they go. Others whenever they go.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Interesting Amusing Tidbits


Origins of names as reported by Bill Bryson: Kennedy= ugly head, Campbell= crooked mouth. The same is equally true for other languages : Gorky= bitter, Tolstoy= fat, Macchiavelli= bad nail, Cicero= wart on the nose.

 Did you know that Leonardo DiCaprio was named while his pregnant mother was standing in front of Leonardo Da Vinci’s painting at the Galleria degli Uffizi? It was then that she first felt baby DiCaprio’s kick.

 It is illegal to be a prostitute in Siena, Italy, if your name is Mary.

 Cappuccino (coffee) derives from the Italian word cappuccino which means hood, which is itself derived from Latin “cappa”. A properly prepared cappuccino leaves a brown ring along the rim of the cup making it look like a capuchin (Franciscan monk) cowl.

 Did you ever think why the abbreviation for pound is “lb.”? Because in ancient Rome the value of a sack of coins was determined by weight which was measured in “libras”

 Where does the term “paparazzi”come from?

This term was popularized by Federico Fellini’s 1960 film “La Dolce Vita”. One of the characters in the film is  “Signore Paparazzo”a tabloid photographer. Since then photographers who stalk public figures and celebrities, such as athletes, politicians,  actors, singers etc. are called “paparazzi”.

 Don’t be surprised

In 2005 two etymologists from Cornell University dedicated the names of 3 new beetles (roaches) to George Bush, then President, Dick Cheney, Vice President, and Donald Rumsfeld,  secretary of defense at the time.  The 3 new species were given the names of Agathidium bushi, Agathidium cheneyi, and Agathidium rumsfeldi.

 For all lovers out there

A study done in England reveals that kissing causes the brain to release oxytocin, sometimes called bonding hormone. The study suggests that more oxytocin release did make easier for men to relax and act more lovingly toward their sexual partner.

 Here a short list of not too well-known and  humorous Italian sayings:

 Ama il tuo letto come te stesso.      Love your bed like yourself.

 Quando ti viene voglia di lavorare, metteti a sedere e aspetti che ti passa.

When  you feel like working, sit down and wait, it will pass.

 Di troppo riposo non è morto nessuno.  Nobody has ever died from too much rest.

 Si nasce stanchi  e si vive per riposare.  We are born tired and we live to rest.

 Quello che ha inventato la fatica è morto da un pezzo.

He who invented hard work died a long time ago.

 Se vedi qualcuno che si riposa aiutalo.  If you see somebody resting let him be.

 Non fare oggi quello che puoi fare domani.  Don’t do today what you can do tomorrow.






Monday, January 20, 2014

Little know facts about well Known personalities

Did you know that Leonardo DaVinci, Albert Einstein, Bill Gates, Whoopi Goldberg, Tom Cruise, J. F. Kennedy, Pablo Picasso and many others were dyslexic?
Churchill had difficulty in learning how to read. Agatha Christie dictated her books because she mixed up the order of the letters in writing. I think that it is much harder to learn how to read in English or French because the same letters have different sounds, while in Italian every letter corresponds to one sound. This explains why the number of dyslexics in Italy is very low.
Did you know that Mussolini, in order to encourage population growth, imposed a Bachelor’s Tax in the late 1920’s ?The reason why we use lb. for pound is due to the fact that in ancient Rome the value of a sack of coins was determined by weight which was measured in librae (pl. of libra).
When Michelangelo overheard that the statue of  La Pietà was being attributed to another sculptor he signed it by carving his name diagonally across Mary’s chest.
.Leonardo DiCaprio was named after Leonardo Da Vinci because his pregnant mother felt DiCaprio first kick while she was admiring Leonardo’s painting at Galleria Degli Uffizi.in Florence.
History of Spaghetti
Contrary to popular belief it wasn’t Marco Polo the first to bring pasta from China , instead were the Arabs during the conquest of Sicily.
History of  e-mail
Ray Tomlinson, a US programmer, is the inventor of internet based e-mail. In 1971 he was inspired by colleagues who didn’t answer their phones. He chose the symbol @ which he placed between the user log in name and the host computer.Gondolas in Venice
There are about 400 gondolas in Venice and all are obliged to be painted black, unless it belongs to a high official . All gondoliers mush wear black pants. When one gondolier dies the license passes to his widow.
Movement used to say no with your head varies from culture to culture
To say “no” we turn our head to the right and left. For the Indians this movement is the opposite ( it means “yes”.).
Arabs, to show disagreement, move their head up. Turks and Iranians, to indicate “yes” move their head from side to side. In Greece, to indicate ”yes”, they move their head backwards.
Dolbear’s Law
In 1897 Amos Dolbear, an American scientist, published an article “The Cricket as a Thermometer”in which he describes  how the rate of crickets chirp, that male crickets use to attract females, increases with the higher temperature. The formulas below are fairly accurate. To calculate the temperature in Fahrenheit count the number of chirps in 15 seconds (N15) then add 40, TF=40+N15. 
To calculate the temperature in Celsius there is a shortcut method: “count the number of chirps in 8 seconds then add 5, TC=5+N8