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

Saturday, December 7, 2013

For Curious People

 For Curious People

Traditions old and new, as well as superstitions, all mix together to create the culture of modern day Italy.  As we approach the New Year, I would like to share with you how Italians ring in this event.                                                                                                                                

Do Italians really wear red underpants on New Year’s Eve?                                                          It might surprise you to discover that Italian men and women do wear red underpants for good luck (Buona Fortuna). In order for this custom to be effective, the red underwear must be thrown out the following day. Especially in the south, throwing old things out the window symbolizes the acceptance of the New Year, insuring good luck.

What do you know about the Roman Emperor Nero (37-68AD)?

He is remembered for his perverse mind and his persecution of Christians. Nero, who killed his mother and two of his wives, became totally deranged in later life. When a fire ravaged Rome for six days, destroying 14 districts, Romans suspected that Nero had set this fire. According to a legend, Nero craved to become pregnant as he wanted to experience the feeling of giving birth. He threatened doctor after doctor until he found two who gave him a beverage containing a small live frog. After swallowing this potion, the frog would move in his belly thus giving him the sensation of having a baby. In the meantime the two doctors fled before the frog showed up in Nero’s stools. Nero, to mock those who laughed at him, paraded the frog through the streets of Rome on a chariot. When the parade reached the Tiber, the frog jumped into the river, hence the word (name) Laterano, from the Latin  “Latitans rana”(frog on the run).

Do you know where the term “Syphilis” comes from?

Girolamo Fracastoro (1478-1553), an Italian physician, poet, astronomer and geologist studied at the University of Padua, where he met the Polish astronomer Copernicus. His most famous work was the narrative poem “Syphilis Sive Morbo Gallico”(French disease), in which he talks about a young shepherd (Sifilio) who is infected with this sexually transmitted disease, now called syphilis. I should add that in 1494, the siege of Naples by the French troops and their aggregated 800 prostitutes caused an epidemic of this Syphilis.

Casanova and his anti conception method.        

Casanova (1725-1798), the legendary world’s greatest lover, conquered women with his charm and his love technique. e was a very intelligent manh He was a very intelligent man who was welcomed in the boardroom and in the bedroom. It is said that he slept with 130 women.                                                                                                                Casanova  is also known for having discovered the use of lemons as a contraceptive: a lemon was cut in half, squeezed, and the rind, devoid of pulp, was placed over the uterine opening like a cap. This has been confirmed by Australian scientists at the University of Melbourne.  Besides being a “playboy” he was a prolific writer as well.

Things that you never knew:


1) Every man produces 104 millions of spermatozoa a day, about 1200 per second.


 2) The brain reaches 90% of its size by age six, stops growing by age 18, and it weighs an    

      average of 1.5Kg. (3lbs), representing 2% of our body weight.


3) Parts of our body do regenerate: bones in 7 years, skin regenerates completely in 15-30 days, nails in 3-4 months. It varies from individual to individual and it is also influenced by the seasons.

4) There are 600 different shapes of pasta in Italy.

5) Did you know that in France you cannot use the word “Mademoiselle”? In fact the  French Government has abolished the word from its official protocols and replaced it with “Madame”. Anglo-Saxon countries use “Ms. ”instead of “Miss”. Germany uses “Frau” and not “Fraulein”, and in Italy Signorina” has been replaced by “Signora”.




Monday, October 7, 2013

Some Interesting Tidbits

No word in the English language rhymes with month, orange, silver, or purple.
"Dreamt" is the only English word that ends in the letters "mt".

The sentence: "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" uses every letter of the alphabet.

( I know you are going to try this out for accuracy, right?)

There are only four words in the English language that end in "dous": tremendous, horrendous, stupendous, and hazardous.

(Are you doubting this?)

There are two words in the English language that have all five vowels in order: "facetious" and "abstemious."

(I bet you are going to say: "a, e, i, o, u".

"Typewriter" is the longest word that can be made using the letters only on one row of the keyboard.

(Test this out)

"Stewardesses" is the longest word typed with only the left hand and "lollipop" with your right.

(You tried this out mentally, didn't you ?)

The longest one-syllable word in the English language is "screeched."

The words "racecar," "radar," "madam," kayak" and "level" are the same whether they are read left to right or right to left.

Babies are born without kneecaps. They don't appear until the child reaches 2 to 6 years of age.

Our eyes are always the same size from birth, but our nose and ears never stop growing.

Women blink nearly twice as much as men.

Rubber bands last longer when refrigerated.

A goldfish has a memory span of three seconds.

A crocodile cannot stick out its tongue.

A snail can sleep for three years.

A  shark is the only fish that can blink with both eyes.             

A dragonfly has a life span of 24 hours.

Butterflies taste with their feet.

Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur.

It is impossible to sneeze with your eyes open.

A "jiffy" is an actual unit of time for 1/100th of a second.

The average American motorist,  in his lifetime,  will spend an average of 6 months waiting for red lights to turn green.

Leonardo Da Vinci, who could write with one hand and draw with the other,  invented the scissors.

Winston Churchill, who smoked between 8 to 10 cigars a day, and drank at least 22 shots of cognac and champagne a day, was born in a ladies' room during a dance.

Now you know everything !


Monday, September 9, 2013

Funny English Translations

 English is regarded as being cool, thus is being used all over

 the world for advertisement. Here is an hilarious selection of funny

English signs and notices from all four corners of the world.


                            In an Acapulco hotel:

The manager has personally passed all the water here.


                           On a golf course in Mexico:

Any persons, except players, caught collecting golf balls on this course

will be prosecuted and have their balls removed.


                         In a Copenhagen airline ticket office:

             We take your bags and send them in all directions.


                        Doctors office, Rome:

           Specialist in women and other diseases.      


                          In a Nairobi restaurant:

Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.


                                      In a cemetery:

              Persons are prohibited from picking flowers

                         from any graves but their own.


                  Advertisement for donkey rides, Thailand:

                    Would you like to ride on your own ass ?


                                 A laundry in Rome:

                  Ladies leave your clothes here and spend

                      the afternoon having a good time.


                               Cocktail lounge, Norway:

            Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.


                                Dry cleaners , Bangkok:

                   Drop your trousers here for best results.


                             On the menu of a Swiss restaurant:

                         Our wines leave you nothing to  hope for.


                                           Hotel, Japan:

                You are invited to take advantage of the chambermaid.

                (This one might interest Dominic Strauss Kahn!)


                              In the lobby of a Moscow hotel across

                              from a Russian Orthodox monastery:                              

Your are welcome to visit the cemetery where famous Russian and Soviet composers, artists and writers are buried daily except Thursday.


                                 Hotel, formerYugoslavia:

                  The flattening of underwear with pleasure

                         is the job of the chambermaid.


                                Supermarket, Hong Kong:

                       For your convenience, we recommend

                            courteous , efficient self-service.


                Tourist agency, former Czechoslovakia:

                 Take one of our horse-driven city tours.

                      We guarantee no miscarriages.


                                    In a Swiss mountain inn:     

                                  Special today - no ice-cream.


                                   In a Paris hotel elevator:

                     Please leave your values at the front desk.


                             Outside a Hong Kong tailor shop:

                                 Ladies may have a fit upstairs.


                              In a Rhodes (Greece) tailor shop:

                    Order your summer suit. Because is big rush

                   we will execute customers in strict rotation.


                                     In a Budapest zoo:   

                Please do not feed the animals. If you have any

                   suitable food, give it to the guard on duty.        


                                      In a Indian maternity:

                                       No children allowed.




Friday, June 28, 2013

Here is an entertaining and heartwarming approach to relationships.
I like to share with you these amusing math calculations that I came across lately. Enjoy !

ROMANCE MATHEMATICS                                                              

 Smart man + smart woman = romance
Smart man + dumb woman = affair

 Dumb man + smart woman = marriage

 Dumb man + dumb woman = pregnancy

 Smart boss + smart employee = profit

Smart boss + dumb employee = production

 Dumb boss + smart employee = promotion
 Dumb boss + dumb employee = overtime

 A man will pay $20 for a $10 item he needs.

 A woman will pay $10 for a $20 item that she doesn't need.

A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.

 A man never worries about the future until he gets a wife.

A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can spend.
 A successful woman is one who can find such a man.

 To be happy with a man, you must understand him a lot and love him a little.

To be happy with a woman, you must love her a lot and not try to understand her at all. _______________________________


Married men live longer than single men do, but married men are a lot more willing to die.

A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.

 A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, and she does.

 A woman has the last word in any argument.
Anything a man says after that is the beginning of a new argument.



 Old aunts used to come up to me at weddings, poking me in the ribs and cackling, telling me,

 "You're next." They stopped after I started doing the same thing to them at funerals.


Smart boss + smart employee = profit
Smart boss + dumb employee = production

Dumb boss + smart employee = promotion
Dumb boss + dumb employee = overtime



 Was Pythagoras right in stating that " All is number ?"

 PS.  Since  I’ll be taking a summer hiatus, I like to wish you all a safe and happy summer.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

For Curious People

Things we never thought of: Time spent doing various activities or physical functions in our lifetime.  A man takes an average of 600 steps a day, which is equivalent to 4 times the circumference of the earth in our lifetime. A lady spends 3 years taking care of her body and make up.  We blink our eyes 15-20 times a minute, 10 thousand times a day and more than 6 million times a year.  Women blink nearly twice as much as men.  Consider also that we spend the same amount of time peeing as making love.
Since our average life expectancy is 80 years, I'm going to break down the time that an average person spends doing stuff in his (her) lifetime so that we can all program our time to do everything that we want to do.
Time spent for every action:
Standing up                                30 years
Sleeping                                     27 years
Walking                                     16 years
Watching TV                             11 years
Listening to the radio                 10 years
Seated at a table                           9 years
Working                                      8-9 years
Eating                                          6-7 years
Talking on the phone (women)     5  years
Laughing with friends                  1 year & 258 days
Having a cold                                500 days
Being sick                                      420 days
Making love                                   110 days
Having a pee                                  106 days
Waiting for a woman                      3 months
Having a poo (shit)                              53 days
Having an orgasm                            16 hours
Sticking the fingers in the nose        4 times a day

We lose almost 1g of skin every day which is equivalent to 20 Kg in our lifetime. Remember that we change our skin completely every 3-4 weeks.
I should add that we waste precious time in many other activities of our life, such as waiting for a bus,  in traffic (7 years), etc. etc.
Smile and don't waste time!