Through sophisticated mnemonics and error-checking mechanisms the Vedas, the canonical religious texts of Hinduism, have been transmitted orally for three and a half thousand years with shocking precision in both word and sound.
The hymn Amazing Grace was set to its current tune more than fifty years after it was written. Because it was written in common metre, it can also be sung to Mack the Knife, Sympathy for the Devil, the Pokemon theme, and the Gilligan’s Island theme.
Lewis Carroll’s ninth rule of letter writing was to never cross your letters. But many people did it anyway.
In Norse mythology, Ask and Embla were the first humans of this world. After Ragnarök, Líf and Lífþrasir will be the first humans of the next world.
Chinese wuxia (and derivative Western) fiction describes the touch of death, a single blow that can kill an opponent. Surprisingly, this is actually possible.
The Epic of Sundiata, describing the rise of the first ruler of the Mali Empire, was passed down by griots – West African bards – for over six hundred years before it was written down.
The United States motto, e pluribus unum, appears in several classical sources. In one of them, it’s part of a recipe for pesto.
“One. A Poem. A Raven. Midnights so dreary, tired and weary, silently pondering volumes extolling all by-now obsolete lore.” The beginning of a short story that also encodes the first 3835 digits of pi.
Jesus Christ is associated with many images: the Lamb of God, the Good Shepherd… and the Pelican?
The tarasque is a famous dragon of medieval French folklore. It burned its victims with fire, but the fire did not come from its mouth. Quite the opposite.
In 1953 the sci-fi author Hugo Gernsback proposed provisional patents for sci-fi writers’ hypothetical inventions. 42 years earlier, he had predicted radar, television, remote controls, solar power, synthetic cloth, and videophones.
The French comic publishing house L’Association made a game that plays like Scrabble – except that it uses comic panels instead of letters.
Any attempt to categorise knowledge inevitably reinforces our cultural and epistemological biases. And nowhere is this demonstrated better than the absurd taxonomy of animals created by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges.
The Kāma Sūtra suggests that lovers learn cryptography.
The first author whose name we know was Enheduanna. Daughter of Sargon the Great, she wrote religious hymns, so she can also lay claim to being the first named poet in history.