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Fun Facts and Tidbits from 2022

  1. In the 1912 Olympics, the then-President of the International Olympic Committee, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, won a gold medal…for literature!
  2. “Omicron” literally means “little O” in Greek (o mikron); compare to omega, or “great O” (ō mega).
  3. Coors encouraged the organization of its gay and lesbian employees into the Lesbian and Gay Employee Resource in 1993. Its acronym was LAGER.
  4. Rat tickling is an effective way to improve laboratory rat welfare. And you can get certified in it.
  5. The RMS Carpathia moved heaven and earth to rescue the survivors of the Titanic.
  6. Ornithologist Mario Cohn-Haft predicted the existence of a bird 25 years before confirming it.
  7. The “imperial phase” is the name for the period in which a musical artist is regarded to be at their commercial and creative peak simultaneously.
  8. St. Francis of Assisi is the reason for the popularity of the name Francis. His given name was Giovanni, and Francis was his nickname, which spread due to his fame.
  9. The stitching at the top of a big 40 lb bag of rice or oats is a chain stitch.
  10. Things that are older than you think:
    1. Sharks are older than trees (420 million vs 370 million years old).
    2. Crocodiles and their relatives are older than Saturn’s rings (200 million years old vs 100 million years old).
    3. The Appalachian Mountains are older than bones.
    4. Altoids were created in the 1780s.
  11. The Emmy Awards are named after “immy”, an informal term for the image orthicon tube that was common in early television cameras.
  12. Male dromedaries have an extremely weird organ in their throat. Turn on your sound for this video.
  13. The nonsense syllables in e.g. “Sweet Caroline” (“Sweet Caroline, bum bum bum”) are called non-lexical vocables.
  14. The Burpee exercise was named after Dr. Royal H. Burpee (!), a man with an exquisite sense of style.
  15. You can fit all the planets (Pluto included) between the Earth and the Moon.
  16. Some Kosovans are named “Tonibler” after Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was credited with ending the Kosovo War.
  17. Vladimir Putin’s name in French is Vladimir Poutine.
  18. Jan Evangelista Purkyně (1787-1869) was such a famous scientist that when people wrote to him, all that they needed to put as the address was “Purkyně, Europe”.
  19. Julie Kavner, the voice of Marge Simpson, is reclusive and part of her contract says that she will never have to promote The Simpsons on video.
  20. The “Bell” in Taco Bell’s name came from its founder, Glen Bell, who started selling tacos from the side window of his hamburger stand and then expanded.
  21. Papa John’s franchises in Russia are called PJ Western (!).
  22. The stamp on toilet paper that you see at hotels sometimes is called a pixie stamp.
  23. Under federal law, a ship that only visits US ports must be flagged (registered) in the US. Thus, almost all cruise ships at least stop in Mexico or Canada to avoid the expense and regulation of a US registration.
  24. Bangkok’s formal name is so long that it is an official world record: Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthara Ayuthaya Mahadilok Phop Noppharat Ratchathani Burirom Udomratchaniwet Mahasathan Amon Piman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit.
  25. The names “Arctic” and “Antarctic” derive from the Greek word for bear (“arktos”), referring to Ursa Major’s visibility (or lack thereof) from each region.
  26. A number of Latin American people misheard R2-D2’s name as “Arturito”.
  27. The Bizzaria is a “bizarre” cross between a citron and an orange, and the fruit looks like half of each fruit combined. Check out that picture!
  28. Seymour Cray, the father of supercomputing, loved to dig tunnels to help him think through a problem: “While I’m digging in the tunnel, the elves will often come to me with solutions to my problem.”
  29. The Versace logo is Medusa’s head.
  30. Just as unitarianism is belief in God with one person, and trinitarianism is belief in a Holy Trinity, so too is there belief in God with two persons, and it has the excellent name of binitarianism.
  31. In 1972, Dr. John Fryer risked his career to tell his colleagues that gay people were not mentally ill.
  32. Passion fruit flowers look completely wild.
  33. There are two types of fun. Type 1 Fun is enjoyable while it’s happening. Type 2 Fun is miserable while it’s happening, but enjoyable afterwards. (For example, some exercise.)
  34. Baseball’s first openly gay player, Glenn Burke, invented the high five in 1977.
  35. The actor who played Ser Bronn in Game of Thrones (Jerome Flynn) was a singer with the best-selling UK single of 1995.
  36. Apparently you could make a pretty good living as an actor in a gorilla suit in the 1940s. At least if you were Ray “Crash” Corrigan.
  37. The first and second derivatives of position are called velocity and acceleration. The third derivative is jerk. And the fourth/fifth/sixth are snap, crackle, and pop.
  38. Chlorine itself doesn’t smell like much. The “pool smell” is chloramines: compounds formed in pool water after chlorine has done its job and had a fight with a germ or algae or whatever. Ideally your pool wouldn’t smell like much.
  39. Many wineries color their wines a deeper red using a compound called Mega Purple.
  40. The space-age, Jetsons-like architecture has a formal name: Googie architecture.
  41. This is not a fun fact, exactly, but I love that Raimbaut d'Aurenga, who died before the year 1200, gets compliments on his fire bars 850 years later on Wikipedia:

    He was a major troubadour, having contributed to the creation of trobar ric, or articulate style, in troubadour poetry. About forty of his works survive, displaying a gusto for rare rhymes and intricate poetic form.

  42. In the Dublin whiskey fire of 1875, 13 people died. But none of them died from smoke inhalation, burns, and so on. They died from alcohol poisoning from drinking the whiskey that flowed out of the factory!

  43. I had cause to learn a bit about violins this year, and I was impressed by how much effort goes into the parts of the violin that are not the actual body. For example, bows can cost tens of thousands of dollars by themselves. I also found this website about violin strings, which I can only describe as having “Ollivander’s wand shop vibes”.

  44. Just as the Harlem, NYC is named after Haarlem in the Netherlands, so too is Brooklyn named after Breukelen.

  45. Magnús Scheving created the TV show Lazytown. But before that, he became the Icelandic champion in aerobics after making a bet with his friend that they could each master a topic they knew nothing about in three years. His friend became the Icelandic champion in snooker as a result of the bet. I can’t believe this worked for both of them.

  46. In Babe: Pig in the City, the landlady’s elderly uncle is named Fugly.

  47. There was a small but vocal movement to import hippopotami to America to raise them for food in the early 1900s.

  48. The state flag of Hawaii includes the Union Jack.

  49. The hamster’s Arabic name translates to “Mr. Saddlebags” in reference to its roomy cheek pouches.

  50. Rivers Cuomo has a GitHub account.

  51. Oprah’s birth name was Orpah.

  52. Hallmark Cards owns Crayola.

  53. Steve Aoki is the heir to the Benihana fortune. Also, actress Devon Aoki is his half-sister.

  54. I was extremely amused to discover that Pilates was founded by Joseph Pilates. It’s like if baseball was started by Jim Baseball!

  55. The sport of rugby is named after Rugby School, 300 years after its founding.

  56. Sagittarius B2 is a giant molecular cloud that (probably) smells like raspberry rum.

  57. Shrapnel is named after Henry Shrapnel.

  58. Aqua Net was a popular hair spray of the 1960s. It was created by Rayette, which used the profits to buy…Fabergé, the jewellery company, for no reason I’ve been able to find. Maybe Rayette just really liked fancy eggs.

  59. The Dutch baseball league is called Honkbal Hoofdklasse, which is an extremely funny name.

  60. There are 7 sizes of piano, not just “regular” and “grand”.

  61. The town of Kenner, Louisiana was called “Cannes-Brûlées” by the French settlers. I just love that they landed there and thought “It’s just like Cannes, except it’s a million degrees hotter”.

  62. Zellerbach Hall, a local performing arts space in the SF Bay Area, is named after the Crown Zellerbach corporation, which invented modern molded egg cartons (among other things).

  63. Ratherius, a bishop born in 890 CE, was so quarrelsome and difficult to get along with that he was sent to prison and exiled.

  64. Pit vipers are called that not because they like to hang out in pits in the ground but because they have an infrared organ that is exposed via a deep pit on their head.