Monday, 11 January 2010

Nobody’s business but the Turks’

For a little stocking-filler aimed at the UK market two Christmases ago, “Tanganyika” has really been getting a pretty good international audience. Thanks to the University of Toronto bookstore for a nice review on their blog: “a light-hearted but informative book that is a lot of fun to read … Campbell has added a few new examples to my corpus of useless knowledge”. Here at Campbell’s Fun Factoids we know no higher goal.

I’m also grateful for the information that “Berlin, Ontario became Kitchener during the First World War for patriotic reasons” — another one for the bulging file of name-changes that never made it first time round but would have gone into the sequel that my publishers came so close to commissioning for Christmas 09 before succumbing to a sudden and devastating attack of cold feet (and we’ll say no more about that). And yes, I know, I should have covered Istanbul/Stamboul/Constantinople/Byzantium, as so many have since pointed out. That was one of the first places I planned to include but it just narrowly fell off the list as the submission deadline approached — like seeing the exam invigilator approaching your desk as you furiously scribble down the last few precious words. Sorry Constantinople, you were on the tip of my pen.

Photo: © Oberazzi (Tim O’Brien)

Wednesday, 6 January 2010


The latest edition (5 January) of the excellent Radio 4 programme Word of Mouth is about artificial languages, especially Esperanto. There is mention of Amikeyo, supposedly the world’s only official Esperanto-speaking state, which existed in the vicinity of a little village on the borders of Belgium, Prussia and the Netherlands. In the programme they refer to it as Kelmis, which is its name in Limburgish, the local form of Dutch. As Neutral Moresnet, the crazy sliver of a jointly-administered microstate that existed between 1816 and 1919, it gets the full nine yards in the compulsive geographical page-turner that is Whatever Happened to Tanganyika? — over a thousand words if I remember rightly. (I must admit it amused me that the tiniest territories, in this case about a square mile, should get the longest writeups.)

The equally excellent Strange Maps blog has a page on the subject, including not only a very nice map of the place but a historical timeline and some discussion of whether it was (and whether there has ever truly been such a thing as) a quadripoint, where the borders of four sovereign states meet precisely.

Stamp: Annie McFadden