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Social studies

Stiff upper lip? Turns out the British fancy a snog (or 10) Add to ...

Before lips were stiff

“Over centuries, the British have come to be seen by others and to see themselves in terms of reserve, resilience and restraint,” writes Ian Hislop for BBC News magazine. “But this has not always been the case. When the Dutch scholar Erasmus came to London at the turn of the 16th century he wrote home in amazement, describing how the English spend the whole time kissing each other. ‘Wherever you move there is nothing but kisses,’ he noted. Italian visitors in the Elizabethan period remarked upon how emotional everyone was and how we lacked self-control. And it was the French who had words like ‘sang-froid’ and ‘insouciance’ to describe qualities that the British did not yet appear to possess.”

When kids can count

“A Swedish school photo company has offered a sixth-grader $225 in compensation after a photo editing error gave her a third eye in her class yearbook,” United Press International reports. “Tilde Norgaard, a student at Maneskold school in Lidkoping, and her family said she received her yearbook two weeks ago and soon discovered she had an extra eye on her forehead. … ‘First everyone was laughing, Tilde too, because we thought it was funny,’ Tilde’s sister Anna said. ‘But then we noticed it made her sad and we realized it was actually quite bad that they never noticed the mistake.’” As well as offering compensation to Tilde, the company that took the photos said corrected editions of the yearbook will be issued.

Craziness needs a reason

“[W]e like watching risky stuff, but we prefer risks with a purpose,” writes Marc Herman in Pacific Standard magazine. “A study by psychologist G. William Farthing, published by the University of Maine, noted that men who do risky things don’t generally impress anyone, until they take those risks for altruistic reasons.” The 2005 research found that daredevils “are trying to get women (or other young men in some percentage of cases, one assumes) to notice.” But they don’t, Farthing found. Or they do, but don’t want to have any further relationship, other than perhaps driving them to the hospital. … Farthing found that doing something insane made you interesting, but doing something insane on behalf of someone else made you far, far more interesting.”

PhD reaches the top

“For the young soldiers stationed on top of Changhai mountain in Jilin province, Zou Aimin is a comrade who stands shoulder to shoulder with them,” reports The Shanghai Daily. “The 30-year-old graduated with a PhD from Jilin University in 2011 with a major in telecommunications. He applied to come to the outpost last year and is one of the few border defence soldiers in the province who has achieved such a high level of education. ‘The toughest environment provides the best opportunity to mature,’ he said. … Zou, who is now the commanding officer of this small outpost, said leading the soldiers is as much a learning experience as pursuing a degree. The outpost is where he can gain real management experience.”

Thought du jour

“We love our habits more than our income, often more than our life.”

Bertrand Russell, British philosopher (1872-1970)

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