INSTEAD OF deliberating about weighty matters of life and death, I have chosen this week to amaze you with my top 80 lesser-known universal facts, which I hope you will find both entertaining and thought-provoking.
– Richard the Lionheart spent just four months of his life in England.
– During Word War II, the American car industry produced only 139 cars.
– A leech has thirty-two brains.
– The US Virgin Islands were known as the Danish West Indies until 1916.
– The name Wendy was invented for the book Peter Pan.
– Clark Gable was listed on his birth certificate as a girl.
– The first couple to be shown in bed together on US prime time TV were Fred and Wilma Flintstone.
– Colombia is the size of France, Spain and Portugal combined.
– A rat can last longer without water than a camel.
– Rabbits love liquorice and the elephant is the only mammal that can’t jump.
– The Guillotine was last used in France to execute a convicted murderer in 1977.
– In the Navajo language, the name for Hitler was ‘Daghailchiih’ meaning ‘he smells his moustache’.
– More soldiers died from malaria in the First World War than were killed by weapons.
– Sylvester Stallone, Vidal Sassoon, Gary Glitter and Neil Morrissey were all foster children.
– Half of all Americans live within 50 miles of their birthplaces.
– Hummingbirds can’t walk but they are the only birds that can fly backwards.
– Astronaut Buzz Aldrin’s mother’s maiden name was Moon.
– The average person is one centimetre taller at night.
– MASH (1970), Taxi Driver (1976), Apocalypse Now (1979), Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989) and Pulp Fiction (1994) all won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
– The water we drink is three billion years old.
– Bob Marley had a white Liverpudlian father.
– Just 1,000 words make up 90 per cent of all writing.
– Nobody knows where Mozart is buried.
– The Sanskrit word for war means ‘desire for more cows’.
– Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lord Snowden, Arthur C. Clarke, Ian Dury and Sir Walter Scott all reached the pinnacle of their chosen careers despite being severely crippled by childhood polio.
– Some bamboo plants grow one metre a day.
– Venetian blinds were invented in Japan, Panama hats in Equador.
– Packets of Sainsbury’s peanuts carry the caution: ‘Warning, contains nuts’.
– If a 20-a-day smoker inhaled a week’s worth of nicotine, he or she would die instantly.
– The reindeer is the only female animal with antlers.
– Octopuses have been known to eat their own tentacles when exposed to stressful situations.
– Nepal is the only country without a rectangular flag.
– Upper Volta, Dahomey, British Honduras and the New Hebrides are today known as Burkina Faso, Benin, Belize and Vanuatu.
– The owl is the only creature able to turn its head in a complete circle.
– General George S. Patten, Philip Noel Baker and Eddie Charlton were all Olympians. Johnny Mathis (high jump), Arnold Schwarzenegger (weightlifting), Rolf Harris (swimming), Geena Davis (archery) and Paul McGann (triple jump) all just failed to make their country’s Olympic teams.
– The words pliers and cattle have no singular form – the singular form of graffiti is graffrito.
– Earth is the only planet not named after a God.
– The Coca-Cola Company is the largest consumer of vanilla and sugar in the world. It is also the biggest employer in Africa.
– Spike Milligan, Englebert Humperdinck, Cliff Richard, Tiny Rowland, Julie Christie, Vivien Leigh, Pete Best, George Orwell and Joanna Lumley were all born in India.
– Stanislava Walasiewicz, or Stella Walsh as she became known, won 100m gold at the 1932 Olympics. Her autopsy in 1980 revealed that she was actually a man.
– No piece of paper can be folded in half more than seven times.
– The Dead Sea is really a lake.
– Half the world’s population has seen at least one James Bond movie.
– More redheads are born in Scotland than in any other part of the world.
– Less than one per cent of the Caribbean Islands are inhabited.
– Camels have three eyelids to protect themselves from blowing sand.
– Eskimos use refrigerators to keep their food from freezing.
– The little finger or toe is called the minimus.
– Most fatal car accidents occur on Saturdays and 20 per cent of all road accidents in Sweden involve a moose.
– Rabbits can reach speeds of up to 47 mph, jump 46m high and are capable of seeing in every direction.
– Sir Richard Branson, Ozzy Osbourne, Keira Knightley, Robbie Williams, Tommy Hilfiger and Steve Redgrave have all overcome dyslexia to become successful.
– The first European McDonalds opened in Munich, Germany, in 1971.
– Pink Floyd named themselves after legendary blues men, Pink Anderson and Floyd Council.
– The male seahorse carries the eggs, not the female.
– No US President has been an only child.
– The River Nile has frozen over twice in the ninth and again in the 11th centuries.
– When mother penguins return to care for their young, the fathers go to sea to eat and rest.
– Stewardess Vesna Vulovic survived a 10,000m fall in 1972, when her DC-9 aircraft blew up.
– 130 million Ikea Catalogues are printed each year, which are translated into 28 languages and distributed in 36 countries – they depict flat-packed furniture.
– Roy C. Sullivan of Virginia, USA, holds the world record for surviving seven lightning strikes. Unrequited love led to his suicide in 1983.
– Danny Higginbottom dived safely from a 10m board into 36cm deep (shallow) water in January of this year.
– 82 per cent of the Beatles music was about love and John Lennon’s first girlfriend was named Thelma Pickles.
– Little Red Riding Hood’s name is Blanchette, Donald Duck’s middle name is Fauntleroy.
– Screwdrivers were first used to help knights put on their armour.
– Britain’s first escalator was installed at Harrods in 1878. The Knightsbridge department store was also the first to sell toilet paper.
– In the vast majority of the world’s languages, the word for mother begins with the letter ‘m’.
– Every year, the average person will eat 428 bugs by mistake.
– The word ‘dude’ was coined by Oscar Wilde and his friends. It combines the words duds and attitude.
– Marlon Brando’s occupation on his passport was shepherd.
– Debra Winger was the voice of ET.
– Christopher Lee was the only member of the cast and crew of The Lord of the Rings movies to have met J R R Tolkien.
– Only 30 per cent of humans can flare their nostrils.
– The size of your foot is approximately the size of your forearm.
– Charles Bronson was in both The Magnificent Seven and The Dirty Dozen.
– Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer was not part of the original line-up in Clement Moore’s 1822 poem.
– The only one of the Seven Dwarfs without a beard was Dopey. The only one to wear glasses was Doc.
Now that you know that my head is crammed full of useless information, I will lastly name the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as an introduction to my next piece in a fortnight’s time, which will have a more profound subject matter – War, Famine, Pestilence and Death.
See you then!