WTF Fun Fact 13502 – The Naming of Mount Everest

The naming of Mount Everest was controversial. While it already had local names, the mountain was renamed by British colonialists in 1865 after a man who had never even been there.

Sir George Everest and the Naming of Mount Everest

Sir George Everest, whose name graces the world’s tallest mountain, holds an ironic place in its history. Despite his significant contributions to cartography and the British Great Trigonometrical Survey in India, he never set foot on the mountain itself. Everest’s connection to the peak comes solely through his work, rather than any firsthand experience.

Everest never visited the mountain. He spent much of his time overseeing operations, conducting research, and ensuring the accuracy of the work. He retired and returned to England in 1855, before the peak’s official identification and naming.

Initial Discoveries

British maps first labeled the mountain as “Peak XV.” In the 19th century, the British began a massive project. Their goal? Measure the entire Indian subcontinent. The British Great Trigonometrical Survey faced many challenges, from dense forests to rugged landscapes. By the 1850s, they focused on the Himalayas.

Radhanath Sikdar made a discovery in 1852. He was an Indian mathematician and surveyor. Sikdar believed Peak XV was the world’s highest peak. This idea challenged the earlier belief in Kangchenjunga as the highest. This claim took years to confirm.

Everest served as the British Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843. During his tenure, he spearheaded various initiatives to measure and map the subcontinent. These efforts laid the groundwork for later expeditions into the Himalayas. His meticulous methodologies ensured that the measurements and results of the surveys were precise.

The Controversial Naming of Mount Everest

In 1856, a new proposal emerged. Andrew Waugh, the current Survey’s General, had an idea. He wanted to name the peak after Sir George Everest. But this idea sparked debate. The mountain already had local names. Tibetans called it “Chomolungma,” and the Nepalese named it “Sagarmatha.”

Waugh had a reason for his proposal. Many local names existed across various regions. Picking one name for everyone seemed tough. He thought naming the peak after Sir George Everest made sense. The Royal Geographical Society made it official in 1865. They named it “Mount Everest.”

The world now knew Mount Everest. Climbers wanted to reach its top. Every expedition brought more attention to the mountain. Yet, Nepal and Tibet kept their local names. It took time for “Sagarmatha” and “Chomolungma” to gain global recognition.

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Source: “Mount Everest” — National Geographic Society

WTF Fun Fact 13184 – People in India Read the Most

People in India spend 10 hours and 42 minutes a week reading, the most of any country on Earth. The U.S. makes up about 30% of the world’s book-buying population. But Americans don’t crack the top 5 for the time spent reading metric.

Where do most readers live? People in India read the most

India, Thailand, China, Phillippines, and Egypt round out the top 5 for the most time spent reading per person, on average, per week.

Data collected between 2017 and 2022 showed that:

  • India ranks first, with people spending 10 hours and 42 minutes reading per week (556.4 hours per year).
  • Thailand ranks second with weekly totals averaging 9 hours and 24 minutes (488.8 hours per year).
  • China readers average 8 hours a week (or 416 hours per year).
  • Those in the Philippines tend to read 7 hours and 36 minutes per week (395.2 per year.)
  • And Egyptians read for 7 hours and 30 minutes per week (or 390 minutes per year).

Books and their readers

Data collected between 2011 and 2020 shows that Americans love buying books (and they do read them, so it’s not just book hoarding). And most Americans do read books.

The World Population Review compiled numbers from various research studies and showed that while people in India read the most (in terms of hours spent reading):

Altogether, Americans read 275,232 books per year and makeup 30% of the market share of book buyers. A Pew Research Center study published in 2016 found that 72% of Americans had read a book the preceding year, a number that rose to 75% in 2022. But that rise was almost certainly due to the pandemic keeping people at home. In 2016 Americans read an average of 12 books a year (though 50% of the nation reads 4 or fewer, so we’re depending on some people to read a lot of books to make us look good). But we still tend to read more physical books than e-books, even though the e-book trend is growing in the U.S.

In other countries:

  • China reads 208,418 books on average per year (10% of all books purchased).
  • The United Kingdom reads about 188,000 books every year, and book sales have reached about 212 million!)
  • Japan makes up 7% of the market share for book buyers, and the Japanese read an average of 139,078 books per year. This makes up about 7% of the total market share.

What are the most popular books in the world? Well, you can probably guess – it’s the Holy Bible and the Holy Qu’ran. Next in line come The Harry Potter Series, The Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung, and Lord of the Rings. Eclectic!  WTF fun facts

Source: “Average Books Read Per Year by Country 2023” — World Population Review

WTF Fun Fact 12931 – Killed by elephants in India

If you live in certain parts of India and encroach on the increasingly small amount of land where wildlife still rules, you could be one of the 100+ unlucky people to be killed by an elephant each year. In fact, a woman in India was killed by an elephant in January 2022 and witnesses say it returned to her funeral and trampled her corpse.

Typically, elephants are empathetic creatures, but as their land is increasingly encroached upon, they can be dangerous.

Killed by an elephant in India

Elephants typically keep to themselves. But as building and other types of habitat destruction increase, some small farmers are forced farther into elephant territory to find land to grow food. There, they can have their crops trampled or be killed by a single elephant or group of elephants that feel threatened.

According to the World Wildlife Fund (cited below), over 100 people are killed by elephants each year in India “over 200 people have been killed in Kenya over the last 7 years.”

The WWF notes that “Elephants are often killed in retaliation. Wildlife authorities in Kenya shoot between 50 and 120 problem elephants each year and dozens of elephants are poisoned each year in oil palm plantations in Indonesia.”

Rare incidents involving elephants

Perhaps one of the most popular (albeit unconfirmed by official sources) incidents involving an elephant in India happened in January of 2022.

According to Mashable:

“On June 10, 2022, the woman named Maya Murmu, who hailed from Raipal village in the district of Odisha Mayurbhanj, was brutally attacked by an elephant in a nearby forest while collecting water.

According to news reports, she was rushed to the hospital where she was pronounced dead very quickly after.

After bringing her body home, her family proceeded to make the necessary arrangements for her funeral, but it was all for nought as on the day of her funeral, the very same elephant returned to the village in an extremely foul mood.”

In Odisha, elephant attacks are slightly more common due to their proximity to the creatures. But this is very atypical behavior. While some people insist the woman was assisting poachers in threatening baby elephants or throwing stones at the creatures, there’s no legitimate evidence of that.

However, there are multiple reports that “the elephant then proceeded to attack the funeral and targeted Maya’s corpse, trampling it furiously before letting out a roar that signalled other elephants from its herd to wreck the rest of the village. The same elephant also somehow managed to identify Maya’s home, and went on smash it, killing the goats living there.

By the end, nearly the entire village had been wrecked, and many of the inhabitants had lost their homes (although thankfully, no one else was hurt).”

Indian newspapers have reported it, but local authorities have yet to directly confirm the specifics.

It’s hard to know what to believe in these cases, but it’s clear that elephants are capable of getting pretty angry under certain circumstances.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Battles over ever decreasing land” — WWF

WTF Fun Fact 12708 – Parents Sue For Grandchildren

In a story that raised eyebrows around the world, a couple in India is telling their son and daughter-in-law that waiting six years for a grandchild is just too long (or at least long enough).

Sanjeev Ranjan Prasad and Sadhana Prasad paid for an education in the U.S. so their son could become a pilot, bought him a luxury car, and financed his lavish wedding and overseas honeymoon. And now they are looking for payback in the form of a grandchild to dote on.

The couple’s lawyer, Arvind Srivastava, seems to understand: “I feel very sorry for them because I am also an Indian and I can understand their pain,” he said. “This is an Indian parent thing.”

There are probably plenty of prospective grandparents around the world who can sympathize with the disappointment, but it’s the lawsuit (and the accompanying feeling of entitlement) that is…let’s say…puzzling.

They seem to feel that the money was an investment in their own child so they could get something back – in the form of a grandchild. They’ve expressed sadness, embarrassment, and now a bit of litigious rage that the couple seems to have no interest in having a baby after six years. And they seem to think that they are now owed $650,000 for the disappointment and humiliation they have endured.

The deal is that the young couple can now take a year to produce the heir or pay up, and a northern Indian court is overseeing the case (which, according to most legal scholars, will go nowhere).

But regardless of whether or not the case just goes away, it’s raising a debate about what kids owe their parents, legally and spiritually.

According to the NYT: “In the Hindu faith, as in other traditions, children have a duty to repay a moral debt to their parents by taking care of them in their old age. Having grandchildren is also seen as necessary to carry forward a family’s lineage and help one’s parents achieve enlightenment.”

Here’s an interview with the parents involved:

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Source: “No Grandchild? Six Years After Son’s Wedding, These Parents Are Suing” — The New York Times

WTF Fun Fact 12670 – Thieves Return Plundered Temple Artifacts

In May 2022, thieves unwisely stole 16 statues of Lord Balaji (an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu). And if you know anything about Vishnu, you’d know that was a particularly bad idea. Vishnu is known as the preserver and protector of the universe, and it is said that he will return to earth in troubled times to restore the balance of good and evil.

However, the belief is that Vishnu has been incarnated 9 times already and his 10th reincarnation will signal the end of the world. So, seriously, do not make him come down here!

Lucky for the rest of us, the thieves got some personal punishment rather than triggering the apocalypse.

Most of the statues were returned a week later to the temple in the Chitrakoot district in Uttar Pradesh, India along with a confession, apology, and plea for forgiveness. It turns out the thieves had been plagued with such terrible nightmares and bad luck during the time they held the statues that they felt they had no choice but to return them and come clean.

“We have been suffering from nightmares since we committed the theft and have not been able to sleep, eat and live peacefully,” the thieves said in the accompanying letter, the Times of India reported (in translation). “We are fed up with the scary dreams and are returning your ‘amaanat’ (valuables).”

Returning stolen temple items is actually somewhat common because of feelings of guilt and misfortune – but, somehow, they still justified keeping two of the stolen items!

Sweet dreams! –  WTF fun fact

Source: “Thieves Return Stolen Treasure To Temple After Being Haunted By Nightmares” — IFL Science

WTF Fun Fact 12655 – Alexander the Great and His Horse

King Alexander the Great spent his entire adult life trying to conquer the world on behalf of Macedonia, and by his side, nearly the entire time was his horse, Bucephalus.

The ancient writer Plutarch wrote much of what we know about the life of Alexander, including the story about how the 12-year-old future king won his noble steed.

A horse dealer tried charging Alexander’s father a very high sum for the horse (to be fair, his father was King Philip II of Macedon). No one had seemed it a good deal since the horse could not be tamed. But young Alexander saw some potential and made a deal with the horse seller – if he could tame it, he could keep it. If not, he would pay the high sum.

Of course, we know where this story goes – Alexander subdued the horse and then rode it into nearly every battle for decades until the horse died during a campaign in India.

As someone who felt he had the right to conquer the world, Alexander left his name all over it, including over 70 cities named Alexandria.

But he loved his horse Bucephalus so much that when it died in 326 BCE, he named a city Bucephala.

The ancient writer Pliny the Elder also wrote about the event:

King Alexander had also a very remarkable horse; it was called Bucephalus, either on account of the fierceness of its aspect, or because it had the figure of a bull’s head marked on its shoulder. It is said, that he was struck with its beauty when he was only a boy, and that it was purchased from the stud of Philonicus, the Pharsalian, for thirteen talents. When it was equipped with the royal trappings, it would suffer no one except Alexander to mount it, although at other times it would allow anyone to do so. A memorable circumstance connected with it in battle is recorded of this horse; it is said that when it was wounded in the attack upon Thebes, it would not allow Alexander to mount any other horse. Many other circumstances, also, of a similar nature, occurred respecting it; so that when it died, the king duly performed its obsequies, and built around its tomb a city, which he named after it” The Natural History of Pliny, Volume 2, translation by John Bostock, Henry Thomas Riley.

– WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Bucephalus: The Horse of Alexander the Great” — ThoughtCo.