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Mr. Smarty Pants Knows 929 results

Mr. Smarty Pants Knows is a weekly humor/trivia column by R.U. Steinberg that has appeared weekly in The Austin Chronicle since September 1988.

July 21, 2016

The Popsicle was invented by accident in 1905 by 11-year-old Frank Epperson. He called it the "Epsicle."

Spider brains are large and complicated. They are so large they can't even fill just the head; a part of them fills the thorax.

There are 13 words in the English language that end in "dous": amadous, apodous, decapodous, hazardous, horrendous, iodous, nodous, nonhazardous, palladous, stupendous, tremendous, ultrahazardous, vanadous.

Marines may roll up their sleeves while wearing desert camouflage uniforms in noncombat environments, as long as sleeves are rolled with the inside out, forming a roll about three inches wide, and terminating at a point about two inches above the elbow.

John Quincy Adams liked to skinny dip in the Potomac River.

July 14, 2016

For many Brazilian teens, a visit to Orlando, Fla., is a rite of passage.

At age 6, Sophia Loren's chin was cut by shrapnel during a bombing in World War II.

While Thomas Jefferson was U.S. vice president and president, he was also president of the American Philosophical Society, the nation's oldest scientific society, which was founded by the great American scientist Ben Franklin.

There are three known Wilson prime numbers: 5, 13, and 563. The fourth is believed to be greater than 20 billion although there are an infinite number of them.

The Transportation Security Administration made $765,000 from your loose change in 2015.

July 7, 2016

Les Paul invented the neck-worn harmonica holder.

Early English mariners discovered that using crushed African daisy flowers would kill roaches on their ship, which resulted in a body lice epidemic among the men. The roaches were quickly welcomed back.

In 1894, Frederick Weeks Wilcox of Chicago, Ill., patented the paper pail used commonly for Chinese food.

Horoscope is Greek for hora (hour) and skopein (to look at); that is, the hour of birth could foretell one's future from the position of planets and stars in relation to the time of birth.

You can't give a friend an umbrella in China because the words for "apart" and "umbrella" sound the same.

June 30, 2016

The Manhattan (the drink made with rye whiskey and sweet vermouth) debuted in 1867.

There are 2 million single fathers in the U.S.

According to, President Obama is descended from someone whom they call the first "slave" in America. He is 11th great-grandson of John Punch, who in 1640 became the first documented African enslaved for life in American history.

The word "thesaurus" comes from the Greek word for treasure.

July 1 is Canada Day. According to a recent study by Environics Analytics WealthScapes, the average Canadian has a net worth of $363,202, compared to $319,970 for the average American. Credit Suisse's Global Wealth Report found that in 2011, Canada had a median household wealth of $89,014, compared to $52,752 for the U.S.

June 23, 2016

Herbert Spencer popularized the phrase "survival of the fittest" and the use of the Oxford comma (a comma inserted after the second to last item in a list of three or more items).

According to the Sierra Club, all apples can be traced back to two trees in Kazakhstan.

NBC network suits forbade Barbara Eden from showing her belly button in I Dream of Jeannie, even though it was OK for others, especially in the episode "Jeannie Goes to Honolulu," which included several women in bikinis. Her navel can be seen briefly in a few episodes in seasons 4 and 5.

Eaglets have barbs on their tongues to help move food to the back of their throat.

The Pacific island nation of Tokelau has the smallest GDP of any country or territory in the world. But more than 31.3 million websites have been registered with the Tokelauan web domain .tk. China has 16.8 million .cn domains and Germany has 16 million .de domains.

June 16, 2016

Ancient hurlers likely used a heavier discus and took only a ¾ turn before releasing it, rather than the 2¼ turns that modern athletes use.

In the early Fifties, more than 30% of federal revenues came from the corporate income tax.

According to Dr. Laure Rittié, a researcher in dermatology at the University of Michigan Health System, everyone is born with virtually the same number of sweat glands, but sweat glands mature during the first two years of life. If you are a sweaty adult now, blame it on how you sweated as a child.

Haggis that includes livestock lungs has been banned in the U.S. since 1971. Traditional haggis contains around 15% sheep lung – said to give it a nutty flavor and improved texture.

Tina Fey used to work at a Dairy Queen.

June 9, 2016

The average raindrop falls at 7 miles per hour.

Elvis Presley's family was very poor. While he was growing up, during a one-week period, they only had turnip greens to eat.

The word "scofflaw" was coined in 1924 (during Prohibition) to mean a person who drinks illegally. The word came about as a result of a nationwide contest held by the Boston Herald. The winning prize of $200 was split between Henry Irving Dale and Kate L. Butler, who both came up with the same word, a compound of the words scoff and law.

In March 1980, nurses at Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas were caught betting amongst themselves on how long critically ill patients would live. In some cases, the odds may have been stacked against patients to alter the betting outcome.

When dingoes first came to Australia about 4,000 years ago with Southeast Asian seamen, they caused the extinction of many other mammals, including the mainland's population of Tasmanian devils.

June 2, 2016

As the divorce between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard proceeds, it looks likely that their two dogs, Pistol and Boo, will remain with Heard.

William Shakespeare made a grammatical error when he included the phrase, "between you and I" in The Merchant of Venice.

In May 1671, Thomas Blood tried to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. Disguised as a priest, he managed to convince the Jewel House keeper to hand over his pistols. King Charles was so impressed with Blood's audacity that he pardoned him, restored his estates in Ireland, and gave him an annual pension of 500 pounds.

In 1971, an anti-pollution ad featured a crying Native American man and the message, "People start pollution. People can stop it." The Native American was portrayed by "Iron Eyes Cody" who appeared in more than 80 films and many times on television dramas. He was of Italian descent and the tear that ran down his cheek wasn't real – it was glycerine.

Locks of Thomas Jefferson's hair sold for over $6,800 at a Texas auction, 190 years after his death.

May 26, 2016

Mel Brooks has had a cardinal rule to never eat with the actors on films he directed, but he enjoyed the company of Cleavon Little so much on the set of Blazing Saddles, he begged him to eat with him.

The Three Wise Monkeys have names: Mizaru (see no evil), Mikazaru (hear no evil), and Mazaru (speak no evil).

According to writer Michael Hiltzik in Slate, Pres. Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal created 1,000 miles of new and rebuilt airport runways, 651,000 miles of highway, 124,000 bridges, 8,000 parks, 18,000 playgrounds and athletic fields, 84,000 miles of drainage pipes, 69,000 highway light standards, and 125,000 public buildings built, rebuilt, or expanded.

Saladin, who defeated the Crusaders, was a Kurd born in modern-day Iraq, not an Arab.

Octopuses build edifices from shells.

May 19, 2016

Spray paint was invented in Chicago in 1949.

Duffel bags are named after the town of Duffel, Belgium, where they were first made.

In Chinese, "wu er ling" translates into "five two zero." It has a faint similarity to "Wo ai ni" (pronounced "whoa I knee"), which translates to "I love you." Therefore, May 20 is celebrated in China like Valentine's Day, and it's a good day to tell someone you love them.

Eagles use feaking to keep their beaks clean. "Feaking" means rubbing the beak clean on stones, branches, or other hard surfaces after eating. This removes the blood and other debris from the beak and also helps eagles trim their beaks.

Adam Sandler and Judd Apatow used to eat once a month at Red Lobster.

The above is information that Mr. Smarty Pants read in a book, magazine, or newspaper; heard on the radio; saw on television; or overheard at a party. Got facts? Write to Mr. Smarty Pants. Why not visit
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