• Walloon / Green Bay and the French connection MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! When I mentioned to Morgen that I was trying to come up with another good language-related topic to write about, she was silent for a moment, then proclaimed matter-of-factly, “Walloon.” This being a term I’d never heard of, I gave her my standard Scowl of Incomprehension, which she met with her deadly Blank ...

    20.05.2013

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    20.05.2013

  • Bahasa Indonesia / The complex story of a simple language MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! During college I spent a summer in Indonesia, and naturally I picked up a bit of the language. When I say “the language,” I’m referring to Indonesian or, as it is known in Indonesian, Bahasa Indonesia (“language of Indonesia”). This statement is not as obvious as it may sound; Indonesia is home to...

    17.05.2013

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    17.05.2013

  • Linguistic Categories / Women, fire, and dangerous things MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! English is widely regarded as a complex language, full of unpredictable spellings, irregular verbs, and etymological inconsistencies. Many other languages are easier to learn (at least for adults) because they’re more consistent. For example, people who speak both French and English often regard French as the more elegan...

    15.05.2013

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    15.05.2013

  • Pittsburghese / America's most underappreciated dialect MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! The city in which I grew up is a suburb of Pittsburgh—in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania, less than an hour’s drive from both Ohio and West Virginia. Decades ago, the region’s economy was largely based on the production of steel. Pittsburgh was a busy, thriving, industrial city, and the residentsâ€...

    13.05.2013

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    13.05.2013

  • Hypercorrection / Taking the rules of language too far MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! For all its shortcomings, I’m quite fond of the English language and have always been a bit bothered when people misuse it. That’s not to say I never misuse it myself, or that I even believe in such a thing as perfect English. But whenever I hear or read a glaring grammatical mistake—especially one of the c...

    10.05.2013

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    10.05.2013

  • The Klingon Language Institute / The final frontier of linguistic scholarship MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! When I was a child, I’d come home from school each day and immediately flip on the TV to watch my favorite show. The original Star Trek series—by then already well into its years of syndication—had me completely hooked. My mother used to tease me that I could summarize the plot of any episode by the time th...

    08.05.2013

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    08.05.2013

  • Ventless Clothes Dryers / Laundry without the hot air MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! Nearly two years ago, my wife and I decided to move out of our trendy loft apartment and find a quieter, friendlier, and less expensive place to live. One of the criteria on our list was laundry facilities. Here in San Francisco, this is not a trivial issue. There may be plenty of beautiful Victorian and Edwardian buildings, bu...

    06.05.2013

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    06.05.2013

  • Silicone Baking Products / The quiet revolution MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! One of my favorite pieces of kitchen kit has always been a simple plastic pastry mat I received as a gift many years ago. It did an excellent job of keeping flour off the counter and was imprinted with circles showing how far dough should be rolled out for different sizes of pie and tart pans. The mat also made it easier to get...

    03.05.2013

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    03.05.2013

  • Heat-Resistant Chocolate / Defying the laws of confectionary MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! I once heard a rumor that almost provoked a deep moral crisis. I have always had a profound, passionate, and unshakable devotion to chocolate. Equally strong is my contempt for mosquitoes (and I’d say that even if I hadn’t contracted malaria during a summer in Indonesia when I was in college). The rumor, which tur...

    01.05.2013

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    01.05.2013

  • Powder Coating / Paint's shocking competitor MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! During the three years I lived in Vancouver, Canada, I worked at an office in the back of a large building in an industrial park. Our company didn’t own the building, and as the smallest of several tenants, we didn’t merit a sign on the front. The company that occupied the largest portion of the building, and ther...

    29.04.2013

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    29.04.2013

  • Tabacón Hot Springs / The relaxing side of the Arenal Volcano MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! Volcanoes are generally considered rather scary, unsafe places. There was that whole Pompeii incident, of course, not to mention Mt. St. Helens. Any sensible person knows that you don’t want to be anywhere near a volcano when it erupts, and that volcanoes have the nasty habit of erupting at unpredictable and very inconv...

    26.04.2013

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    26.04.2013

  • Revenge of the Analog Clock / Time for a pie chart MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! Author Douglas Adams famously made fun of earthlings for being “so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.” Shortly before he died, Adams gave a talk at the University of California, Santa Barbara (not far from his home), at the end of which there was a brief question-and-a...

    24.04.2013

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    24.04.2013

  • The Handshake / Coming to grips with gestures of greeting MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! The other day I was at a restaurant with some friends, and one member of our party arrived a bit late. Before sitting down, he started heading toward the corner of the room, and when someone asked where he was going, he held up his hands and said, “Demunification.” Although I had never heard that word before, I unde...

    22.04.2013

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    22.04.2013

  • Giving Away the Razor, Selling the Blades / The curious strategy of loss-leader marketing MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! One day I opened up my mailbox, and there inside was a box from Gillette containing a brand-new Mach3 razor. It turned out that the box was addressed to my neighbor, which is just as well: the idea of shaving with a triple-blade razor seemed a bit—excuse me—over the edge. That was just a few years ago, and since t...

    19.04.2013

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    19.04.2013

  • The Unknown Woman of the Seine / Breathing new life into a mystery MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! by Morgen Jahnke Every year, thousands of tourists come to Paris to see one of the most famous faces in the world—Mona Lisa, or La Joconde as she’s known in France. With her enigmatic smile and serene beauty, the subject of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting has inspired both sincere admiration and endless specul...

    17.04.2013

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    17.04.2013

  • The Truth About Bananas / Fingering the world's most popular tropical fruit MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! When I was in college, I had a professor who was known for being a bit on the odd side. Although he was smart, friendly, and much loved by the students, he had some strange and inexplicable habits. For one thing, he had a very peculiar way of speaking, including about a dozen idiosyncratic phrases that he repeated over and over...

    15.04.2013

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    15.04.2013

  • Quantifying Despair and Depression / Keep swimming MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! Sometimes I make jokes about the exact extent to which some event has affected my mental state. For example, my wife will walk into my office with a plate of freshly baked cookies, and I’ll say, “Wow, I’m now 7% happier!” Of course, the reason it works as a joke is that happiness (or the lack thereof) ...

    11.04.2013

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    11.04.2013

  • The Equation of Time / When what you mean is not apparent MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! When someone asks me how I’m doing, I habitually answer, “Fine,” because that’s what social convention dictates—whether or not I really am fine. Most people probably don’t want to hear the detailed truth, and would be sorry they asked if I told them. Similarly, when people ask what I do f...

    10.04.2013

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    10.04.2013

  • Scruples and Stones / A pebble for your thoughts MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! You may think of yourself as a scrupulous person—you may have even said indignantly when accused of some fault, “I have scruples!” But exactly how many scruples do you have? If you’ve recently finished a meal or taken a stroll down a gravel-covered path, chances are you have more scruples now than you ...

    08.04.2013

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    08.04.2013

  • Decimal Time / Solutions for people who need 100 hours in a day MP3

    Happy birthday to us: Incredible but true: Interesting Thing of the Day is 10 years old! As an American, I have always been a bit ambivalent when it comes to units of measurement. I learned units like inches, pints, and pounds first, but all through elementary and secondary school, the metric system (or S.I., Système International) was taught, along with dire warnings that we’d better get used to the new ...

    02.04.2013

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    02.04.2013

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