QI: A selection #5

Here is another selection of trivia that I have picked from the QI column in the Telegraph:

According to the 2009 Michelin Guide, Tokyo has overtaken Paris as the world’s gastronomic capital, with 11 three-star establishments to Paris’s 10. France remains the leading three-star nation, with 25 to Japan’s 18. Britain has three three-star restaurants, the same as Belgium.

Florence Nightingale spent the last 50 years of her life in bed

In 2008, Romanian policemen were given twice weekly lessons from ballet dancers to improve their style and grace. “The aim is to develop an ability to regulate traffic and achieve elegance in their movements, which will not only be agreeable to the eyes but could also help drivers waiting at a red light get rid of their stress or sadness,” said Dorel Cojan, the head of the community police in the town of Timisoara. In the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, district police are paid a monthly bonus of 30 rupees to grow a moustache because bosses say it helps them to command more respect when they are on patrol.

Japanese brands and the origins of their names: Canon was first called Kwanon after the Buddhist goddess. The name was changed to entice foreign markets when the company began its roll-out of 35mm cameras in 1935. Nintendo translates into English as “leave luck to heaven”. The company first started trading in 1889, making hanafuda, a type of Japanese playing card. Sony was founded in 1946 as Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo (Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation). This was cumbersome so in 1955 co-founder Akio Morita came up with Sony, which combined sonus, Latin for sound, with Sonny, an American term of endearment for a little boy. Sony’s products would, he claimed, combine excellent sound and small size.

When Oliver Cromwell was a baby, he was abducted by his granddad’s pet monkey and carried on to the roof of Hinchingbrooke House.

A 1973 survey of the origins of English words revealed an almost even split between Germanic, French and Latin origins. However, this is misleading – of the 1,000 most commonly used English words, 83 per cent are of Germanic origin and all the top 100 come from Germanic roots. The words of French origin are often to do with property, military matters, administration and sophisticated food. Latin and Greek supply many of the philosophical or technical terms. Borrowings from other languages, although tiny in comparison, can be quite significant in certain areas. Dutch gave us many nautical terms, German merchants gave us trade, smuggle and dollar, and many scientific terms came from Arabic.

America’s Marjorie Gestring (1922-1992) won a gold medal for springboard diving in 1936 at the Olympics in Berlin. At 13, she remains the youngest ever Olympic champion. School dropout Chester Greenwood was born in Farmington, Maine in 1858 and invented earmuffs at the age of 15. He went on to make a fortune supplying ear protectors to soldiers during the First World War. French philosopher Blaise Pascal was 18 when he designed the first counting machine to make his father’s job as a tax collector easier in 1642. He called it the Pascaline and it was able to add and subtract to two decimal places. George Nissen of Iowa started work on the trampoline when he was 16. A keen gymnast, he was inspired by a visit to the circus to start work on a “jumping table” that would help put him back in the air after landing. Nissen, 96, lives in San Diego. He’s still inventing and manages several handstands a day.

The youngest current head of state in the world is Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (pictured), who was 28 years old when he was crowned in November 2008. The Oxford-educated bachelor is extremely popular in his country and one of the favourite topics of gossip is who the young king will marry (his father married four sisters). The youngest English monarch was Henry VI, who took the throne at nine months of age, but Mary Queen of Scots acceded to the Scottish throne when she was only six days old.

The Romans had three different words for kissing. The chaste kiss, or osculum (literally “little mouth” or “pucker”) which was used as a greeting; the lovers’ kiss on the lips or basium from which the French, Italian and Spanish get their words for kissing; and the saviolum, the full-on kiss with tongues which we now call the French kiss. The only time the saviolum was acceptable in public was at the end of a marriage ceremony. In German the Nauchkuss is the kiss given to make up for all the ones that have previously been forgotten. Why do we kiss? One theory is that the intimate smell and taste of a kiss allows us to detect immune system proteins (the MHC or major histocompatibility complex). Females tend to prefer males with different immune systems to their own, as this gives their offspring better resistance to disease. But be careful: being on the pill makes women less sensitive to these proteins.

According to 2009 surveys by YouGov and Maestro, there are 8.6 million UK adults actively dating, roughly half the total number of singletons. The cost of the average date is £206.87, the financial brunt of which is mostly borne by men, although women spend almost as much (£191.38) on clothes, hair and beauty products in preparation. At the national average of four dates each per year, this equates to a total dating market value of more than £8 billion. The highest spenders on average are the Welsh; the highest ratio of single women to men is found in Glasgow; the lowest is in Reading. Some 4.7 million people claim to have used a dating website in the past year and one in five marriages of 19-25 year-olds started online. Some 43 per cent of people use Google to check out a first date.

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