Simple facts, mistranslation facts, culture facts and fun facts.

“You. You are fantastic. Even though you might be bald, your boops are dropping, you have a beer belly, or you can’t count to ten, there is one consolation. Each person is winner of a competition tougher than any Olympic Games. A competition in which a few 100 millions fanatics participated. There could only be one winner, and you were that one. The main prize was the fertilisation of an ovum (egg-cell).”

I bet you never thought of your life as your main feat, but now you do. And whatever way you look at this translated quote from my lasted library addition (see details below; p. 9), in essence it is a matter of fact. And I love facts. Perhaps that is why I decided to specialise in Higher Education and Research. Or was it the other way around?

Small facts often make me smile. Especially when they are completely useless. Like: “All polar bears are left-legged” (p. 89.) Who cares? But it is great fun to say it out loud when you are visiting the zoo; everyone around you will be trying to find some proof – for or against it. Well, it has been established – until, of course, the first right-legged polar bear comes along.

Other facts are so surprising, that you can’t wait to pass them on. Mistranslations, for instance. Did you know that in the original Chinese version, Cinderella was wearing slippers made of squirrel fur, later colloquially called pantouffles en vair? The French fairy tale author, Charles Perrault, mistook that for verre, glass (p. 157).

Speaking of translations, do you know where the word freelancers originates from? In Sir Walter Scott’s days, mercenaries sold their services to the highest bidders. They were first called free companions, and later free lancers, as they brought their own weapons (p. 131).

And have you ever wondered about okay, or OK? It is derived from ‘Old Kinderhook’, pet name and birthplace of US President Martin Van Buren (p. 134). I do admit, there are several other theories…

Now that it is nearly Christmas, it might be nice to remind everyone that the custom of stealing kisses underneath the mistletoe is an ancient pastime. The Romans did it, during Saturnalia, the wild midwinter-fest, on or around 17 December (p. 220).

On that note, I do wish you all a great festive season. And do remember that running has a positive influence on your good cholesterol (HDL,) and so does alcohol. Therefore, running from pub to pub is as healthy as can be! (p. 29).

But if pubs don’t appeal to you, don’t worry. Have a great Christmas breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner at home and tell your guests that it is impossible to lick your own elbow (p. 20). Or, if you are in naughtier mood, simply remark that avocado, or egg plant, is Aztec for testicle (p. 130). Either way, you will have great fun!

Best wishes to you all,

All quotes from:
Hein Meijers & Simon Rozendaal. 2008. Het grootste lexicon van nutteloze feiten. 2222 dingen die u al helemaal niet wilt weten [The greatest lexicon of useless facts. 2222 things you really don’t want to know]

Copyright, 1999-2006. All rights reserved. -
Freelancers and other useless facts
Author: Els Spin
Dutch to English translator 
By Els Spin
Published on 12/9/2008
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