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Tea: Top ten facts about about Britain’s favourite brew

1. The first mention of tea in English was in 1598 when it was referred to as “chaa”.  2. The first reference to “tea-time” was in 1740, the first use of the phrase “tea-strainer” was in 1906 and “tea-break” was first seen in 1948.  3. Around 165 million cups of tea are drunk in the United Kingdom every year.  4. The earliest known monograph on tea was written in China by Lu Yu around AD760… 5. …it includes descriptions of the 28 items used in the preparation and drinking of…

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Monkey see, monkey do: Top 10 facts about man’s closest evolutionary relatives

1. Monkey Day celebrates monkeys and “all things simian” including apes, tarsiers and lemurs. 2. The Burmese sneezing monkey, discovered in 2010, clears its nose by sneezing when it rains. 3. On the Japanese island of Yakushima, monkeys have been seen riding deer.. 4. Last year the National Portrait Gallery marked Monkey Day by tweeting a painting of the Earl of Rochester putting a laurel on a jabbering monkey. 5. The Emperor tamarin is said to have been named for German Emperor Wilhelm II as both had impressive white moustaches. …

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Snow: Top ten facts about this winter wonder

1. The study of snow and ice is known as “cryology”.  2. The Oxford English Dictionary includes 337 words with “snow” in their definition, so you could say English has 337 words for snow from “ablation” (the melting of snow on the surface of a glacier) to “yeti” (the abominable snowman).  3. The earliest known reference to the abominable snowman was in 1921; the word “yeti” was not seen in English until 1937. 4. Snow on top of a glacier that has not yet turned to ice is called “firn”. …

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William Bligh: Top 10 Ten facts about the HMS Bounty lieutenant

1. William Bligh was born in 1754 and served as cabin boy and captain’s servant on HMS Monmouth from 1761, when he was still only six. 2. His father worked as a customs officer. 3. In 1776, he was chosen by James Cook to be sailing master on the Resolution on Cook’s third and final voyage to the Pacific. 4. At the time of the mutiny in 1789, HMS Bounty was on a mission to find breadfruit plants in Tahiti and transport them to the West Indies. 5. Bligh was…

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St Nicholas: Top 10 facts about Father Christmas

1. The name Santa Claus came from the Dutch name for St Nicholas: Sinter Klaas.  2. St Nicholas is thought to have been born in the city of Patara, now in Turkey, in AD 270 and died in the nearby town of Myra on December 6, 343.  3. He became Bishop of Myra, but was jailed by Roman Emperor Diocletian during the persecution of Christians from 303 to 306.  4. After being freed from jail, he is thought to have attended the Council of Nicaea in 325 at which the…

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Cricket: Top 10 facts about a great British sport

1. The word cricket has been used for a type of insect since at least 1325.  It was first used to refer to a game in 1575…  2. …but the earliest definite reference to it being played in England was in a court case in 1598…  3. …and the earliest known version of formal laws for the game was in 1744.    4. In 1611, two Sussex men were fined for playing cricket and not going to church on Easter Sunday.  5. The first international cricket match was held in…

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Lions: Top 10 facts about the king of the jungle

1. An average male lion weighs about 500 pounds and grows to 8ft in length.  Tigers grow to 850 pounds and 11ft long.  2. Although the lion is called “king of the jungle” they live on plains and grassland, not in jungles.  3. Then constellation Leo represents the Nemean Lion which was killed by Hercules (Heracles).    4. Female lions hunt together in groups while male lions stay home to protect the pride.  5. A liger is the offspring of a male lion and female tiger; a male tiger and…

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December begins: Top 10 facts about the month of Christmas

1. The month of December gets its name from “decem” the Latin for 10, as December was the 10th month in the ancient Roman calendar. 2. December is the month when most proposals of marriage are accepted. Most proposals happen in the week leading up to Christmas. 3. December brings the least sunshine to the UK. In December 1890, Westminster saw none at all. 4. “Men are April when they woo, December when they wed,” (Shakespeare, As You Like It). 5. The only film with “December” in its title to…

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Going Bananas: Top 10 facts about bananas

1. The word “banana” came to us from Spanish or Portuguese and was first seen in English in 1597.  2. The origin of the phrase “go bananas” is not clear.  It dates from the 1950s and may stem from the older phrase “go ape” for going wild or crazy.  3. “Bananaland” has been a slang term for Queensland, Australia since 1898.   4. The use of “banana peel” for a hazard that may cause failure or humiliation dates back to the late 19th century.  5. The scientific name for a banana…

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Light: Top 10 facts you would never know

1. According to Rømer’s observations of Jupiter and its moon Io, light travelled at 220,000 km per sec. The correct figure is 299,000 km per sec.  2. Rømer was the first to prove that light did not travel instantaneously.  3. By coincidence, November 21 was also the date in 1905 when Einstein first published the equation e=mc², linking energy, mass and the speed of light.  4. This was a significant date in the history of sound as well as light: Edison announced his invention of the phonograph on this day…

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