Page 3 - Language Facts

Literacy in North Korea is measured by a child's ability to write down the name of their 'Dear Leader.' They claim 99% literacy


The Korean alphabet is also known as hangul in South Korea and chosongul in North Korea. It is the native alphabet of the Korean language. It was created in 1443, and is now the official written language of both South Korea and North Korea.

It differs greatly from the written Latin alphabet insofar as hangul letters are grouped into blocks and each block forms a syllable, whereas letters of the Latin alphabet are written sequentially. Each block in hangul consists of two to five letters and includes at least one vowel and one consonant.

The blocks are arranged horizontally from left to right, or horizontally from top to bottom. The number of mathematical possible syllables (or 'blocks') in the language is 11,172 although Korean phonotactics allow for far less. All hangul letters follow the rules of Chinese calligraphy.

Although both North and South Korea claim 99% literacy, studies show that the older generation in South Korea are not completely literate in hangul. It is really almost impossible to truly measure literacy in North Korea, as literacy in that country is defined by the ability to write the name of their Dear Leader, so the success of hangul in its entirety has not been completely measured.

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The word for "turkey" is translated oddly in various languages. What's the word for "turkey" in Turkey?


The word "turkey" is a funny one. Not only does it mean a type of bird, but it is also a country. And in that country, the word translates oddly. In Turkey, the word for the bird "turkey" is "hindi." This also means "India."

In India, the word for turkey is "peru." Another country! The word for turkey is also "peru" in Portuguese. These different translations come from confusion about the origin of the bird. Most countries believed that the turkey came from India, but this is not true.

The word for turkey in Chinese is the same as "fire chicken." And in Japanese it means "seven-faced bird." In Macedonia, Turkey is named for the Turkish word for "Egypt." While the three romance languages, Spanish, Italian, and French all have completely different words for it—tavo, tacchino, and dinde.

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The plural of sphinx is sphinges. What's the plural of octopus?


Some words have very odd plural versions. Cul de sac becomes Culs de Sac. Thesis becomes theses. Octopus becomes octopi. And sphinx apparently becomes sphinges. Where did that come from?

A sphinx is a creature with the head of a person and a body of a lion. It is also an ancient Greek monster. The best known sphinx is probably the giant sphinx statue built in ancient Egypt. It can also be a mysterious or inscrutable person.

Since there isn't usually more than one sphinx at a time, people don't often use the plural version. Hence why sphinges sounds so odd. It pronounced almost exactly as it sounds — sfin - jeez.

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Some awesome lists!

In many languages blue and green are considered to be different shades of the same color. In English, that color is referred to as 'grue'


According to Brent Berlin and Paul Kay's 1969 study 'Basic Color Terms: Their Universality and Evolution', distinct terms for brown, purple, pink, orange and grey will not emerge in a language until the language has made a distinction between green and blue.

Many languages, however, do not differentiate between certain colors on the visible spectrum and they therefore do not have separate terms for blue and green. Instead, they use one term to cover the description of both these colors. In English linguistic terms, this cover description is referred to as 'grue'.

For example, in Vietnamese the word to describe the color of both tree leaves and the sky is 'xanh'. To distinguish, they use xanh l cy ("leaf grue") for green and xanh dương ("ocean grue") for blue.

In the Thai language 'khiaw' means green, but when referring to the sky or the ocean, it means blue. In Chinese has 'qīng' can refer to green, blue and sometimes even black! The Korean 'pureuda' can mean either green or blue. Many African languages also utilize the same word to describe both colors.

But what is the color of water? Many will say blue, and some of us will say green. Color is sometimes in the eye of the beholder.

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Russians have a word to describe a weekend long bender! Learn more


The word "Zapoi" (written in Russian as запой) refers to two or more days of continuous drunkenness, during which an individual withdraws from society.

The fact that Russia has a word for such a specific behavior is not surprising—drunk culture is widely prevalent throughout Russian society, and heavy drinking is generally a socially acceptable behavior.

According to a World Health Organization report in 2011, the annual per capita alcohol consumption in the country is 15.76 liters, the fourth highest in Europe.

In 2012, as an effort to combat alcoholism in the country, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev nearly doubled the price of vodka. Still, the problem persists throughout the country.

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