Vaguely Interesting Snippets | 5 February 2013

  • According to the BBC’s Africa programme, a single ball of dung is enough to feed a dung beetle for life. It certainly explains why the insect goes to incredible lengths to roll the dung to a safe, cool and damp place for storage and impregnation with eggs.

  • The great State of Nebraska banned almost all foreign language education in 1919. And, just to be clear about this, the ban applied to all teaching of foreign languages and teaching in foreign languages (the latter particularly hated by people who think everyone should speak English). Teaching of certain foreign languages was permitted but only after eighth (typically, age 13 to 14). The resulting Supreme Court judgement (Mayer v Nebraska) was famous enough to earn a mention on the West Wing .

  • Has China reached its peak working-age population? Statistics released last week by China’s National Bureau of Statistics suggest that China’s working-age population has started to shrink. This marks the beginning of a challenging demographic period for China and its leaders.

  • Pentheraphobia is the persistent fear of your mother-in-law. It can be accompanied by vitricophobia (fear of your step-father), novercaphobia (fear of your step-mother), and soceraphobia (fear of your parents-in-law).

  • Cornucopia derives from the Latin for ‘horn of plenty’ – cornu copiae. It is usually depicted as a horn overflowing with abundance, and the reason for the association comes from Greek mythology when either Zeus or Hercules snaps off a divine being’s horn and the resulting object becomes an inexhaustible supply of food.