January 04, 2007

It's becoming a bit of a tradition for me to mark the changing of the calendar year by reviewing the BBC's annual list of 100 things we didn't know last year.

The highlights of 2006:
In the "Language is weird" category:
  • Panspermia is the idea that life on Earth originated on another planet.
  • The medical name for the part of the brain associated with teenage sulking is "superior temporal sulcus".
  • The clitoris derives its name from the ancient Greek word kleitoris, meaning "little hill".
  • Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobiacs is the term for people who fear the number 666.

In the "Faith in My Government" category:
  • US Secret Service sniffer dogs are put up in five-star hotels during overseas presidential visits.
  • In the 1960s, the CIA used to watch Mission Impossible to get ideas about spying.
  • George W. Bush's personal highlight of his presidency is catching a 7.5lb (3.4kg) perch.

In the "Useless Trivia" category:
  • The lion costume in the film Wizard of Oz was made from real lions.
  • Sex workers in Roman times charged the equivalent price of eight glasses of red wine.
  • Cows can have regional accents, says a professor of phonetics, after studying cattle in Somerset.
  • The Himalayas cover one-tenth of the Earth's surface.

And finally:
  • In Bhutan, government policy is based on Gross National Happiness; thus most street advertising is banned, as are tobacco and plastic bags.

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