Technology & Innovation

The world has over 7,100 different languages.

Nerriere identifies a simplified version of English called “Globish”, with a vocabulary of about 1,500 words, as the new universal language, spoken by political leaders, diplomats, business executives and other participants in the World Economic Forum, the annual IMF/World Bank meetings, and similar elevated gatherings. They include no profanity; have five of the rainbow’s seven colors (no indigo, no violet); include ‘sex’ but not ‘biology’; and define “snake” as ‘a long animal with no legs.’

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At Home

U.S. tariffs on anvils: 6% in 1947, duty-free in 2013.

Here are four sets of tariff rates applied to products under the consumer-products giant Acme Corporation brand, used in support of four representative Wile E. Coyote schemes, comparing rates in force in 1947 – that is, just as the “Coyote & Roadrunner” series launched, and also just as President Truman’s first post-war tariff agreement (the original GATT agreement) neared its conclusion – with those of today. In general, the figures show that tariffs (1) fell sharply over the 1947-1997 liberalization period; (2) fell especially steeply for heavy manufactured goods like the Self-Guided Aerial Bomb, the large rotary fan, and the industrial magnet; (3) and remain in place, if at lower levels, for farm products like the casein glue and the birdseed. The trends in these specialized products reflect larger structural realities reasonably well.

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Global Economy

Most new English words are nouns.

About one in six new English words – more precisely, 14 of the 82 new words the Oxford English Dictionary editors approved last December – comes from a foreign language. Four examples from the December list: akhund, a Muslim cleric, from Farsi; kalua, a procedure for cooking meat in underground ovens, from Hawaiian; savasana, a Sanskrit word literally meaning “corpse pose,” but in practice a Yoga pose in which you lie flat on your back; and xoloitzcuintli, the Nahuatl for “Mexican Hairless Dog,” which is pronounced just as it looks.

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Smart Power

The world has 117 electoral democracies.

In 1990, Freedom House counted 69 electoral democracies. By 2005 the total had grown to 123; then, by 2010, it fell to 115. Last year’s count of democracies rose to 117, as Thailand and Niger rejoined the list and Tunisia joined for the first time.

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Smart Power

All independent countries have national anthems.

The London Olympics opened Friday evening with a children’s-chorus rendition of God Save the Queen. This anthem will be followed by 302 more anthem performances for gold medalists over the two-week Games. (Assuming of course that there are no ties.) In total, the London Philharmonic Orchestra recorded 205 anthems last autumn, covering each participant, in arrangements of 60 to 80 seconds each.

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