A fact and a theory

Fact: the Polish word for nightmare is koszmar, a direct borrowing of the French word cauchemar. The idea of Franco-Polish linguistic exchange is an unusual one. It’s quite common for words of local colour to make the journey from one language to another. It’s not surprising, for instance, that the French have borrowed the word goulache from Hungarian, and similarly the Poles talk of brioszka and bagietka; but nightmare? I wonder how the word came to be adopted into Polish, given the unrelatedness of the two languages.


Theory: there is a higher incidence of deaths from heart attack in the circus community than in the world at large.

1. Medical professionals advise that people performing CPR on anyone suffering cardiac arrest should sing in their head a song with a tempo of around 100-120 bpm, to facilitate the maintenance of a steady and appropriate pulse.

2. Popularly recommended songs for this purpose include Stayin’ Alive, the Archers theme, and Nellie the Elephant.

3. Although Nellie the Elephant is generally regarded as a happy and upbeat song, circus people consider it a sad song because it relates the departure of one of their number. As a result, circus people sing the song at a slower tempo (and sometimes in a minor key).

4. When called upon to perform CPR, circus people perform chest compressions at a correspondingly slower rate, which is less effective in combatting heart attack.

5. Therefore people suffering heart attacks while at the circus have a lower chance of survival.

It would be good to see some statistics on this.

Baby Elephant


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