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Mr. Smarty Pants Knows 968 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.

April 20, 2017

There is no evidence Marie Antoinette ever said, "Let them eat cake." The phrase, "Let them eat brioche" was attributed to an unnamed princess by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in his autobiography, which he wrote before Marie Antoinette's arrival in France.

According to author Michael Shore, the hand for Thing in The Addams Family belonged to Ted Cassidy (Lurch). Another hand starred in scenes with both Lurch and Thing on camera.

The plural octopi is hypercorrect, coming from the mistaken notion that the "us" in octops is a Latin second declension ending. The word is actually a third declension noun in Latin: the plural octopodes follows the Ancient Greek plural, οktωpoδeς (októpodes). The plural octopii is an incorrect attempt to pluralize the word based on an incorrect assumption of its origin, and is rare and considered nonstandard.

According to NASA, Antarctica, technically, is the world's largest desert.

The White House was called "the Executive Mansion" until the 20th century.

April 13, 2017

There are at least 15 different bands named the Spazmatics across the country, all using the same schtick of nerds playing songs from the Eighties. The original group formed in 1983 when Kevin Stigwood, a high school physics teacher in Thousand Oaks, Calif., lost a bet with a student and performed "She Blinded Me With Science" at a basketball game.

When Navy/U.S. intelligence vet-turned-MSNBC analyst Malcolm Nance was assigned to the National Security Agency, his supervisor was fellow U.S. Navy vet Montel Williams.

Koalas are turning to drinking stations set up by scientists because they're not getting needed water from eucalyptus leaves, which are slowly drying out.

Counterfeit goods valued at $1.38 billion were seized by the U.S. government in 2016.

According to one etymologist, the usage of "skim milk" over "skimmed milk" is preferred 8-to-1 (although "skimmed milk" was the original term).

April 6, 2017

According to the U.S. Treasury, in $100 bills, the weight of $1 million is about 22 pounds.

Cigarette filters allow smokers to take bigger and deeper puffs. The filters allow the smoke to feel milder on the throat and only "filter" out large tar particles.

The original idea for Mount Rushmore was to have the sculptures of the presidents go from their heads down to their waists.

At the Bronx's Woodlawn Cemetery, on Miles Davis' tombstone, you will find the first two measures to "Solar," composed for his 1954 album, Walkin'.

Jim Weatherly wrote a song based on a conversation with Farrah Fawcett (his old college football buddy Lee Majors' current girlfriend) about a trip to her hometown. "Midnight Plane to Houston" was offered to Cissy Houston, but to get a more R&B feel, she preferred a train and Georgia.

March 30, 2017

In dental parlance, the top front six teeth are known as "the social six."

According to Foreign Policy, "give a clock" sounds like "attend a funeral" in Mandarin, so gifting a clock is highly taboo.

According to Stars and Stripes, as late as 1985, the Defense Logistics Agency still had about 120,000 refurbished Purple Heart sets from World War II. The refurbished Purple Hearts have been given new ribbons to put them in line with current requirements.

A study published in 2015 by Microsoft found that since 2000, our attention spans have been cut by 33%. The attention span of the average goldfish is nine seconds, while people now generally lose concentration after eight seconds. However, no definition of attention span is given, and it's not clear how these numbers were developed.

A lyrebird not only can imitate sounds of other birds, but can also sound like a car alarm, chainsaw, or a camera with a motor drive, all in an attempt to attract a mate.

March 23, 2017

The U.S. presence at Guantánamo dates back to 1902, when Cuba was granted independence.

The theremin was invented as part of Soviet research into proximity detectors.

"Echo Boomers" are taking over the economy, according to Christopher Matthews of Axios. This group is also known as Generation Y and millennials, and includes people born in the Eighties or Nineties.

After Cesar Romero was cast as The Joker on the Batman TV series, Frank Sinatra expressed an interest in the role.

Precursors to chess originated in India during the Gupta Empire. There, its early form in the sixth century was known as caturanga, which translates as "four divisions (of the military)": infantry, cavalry, elephantry, and chariotry.

March 16, 2017

In CB radio lingo, Memphis, Tenn., is called Fort God because of Bellevue Baptist Church, a large church just outside the city.

Steve Bannon once wrote a hip-hop musical set during the L.A. riots and based on the Shakespearean play Coriolanus, according to his Hollywood writing partner, Julia Jones, quoted in The Daily Beast.

Oscar Hammerstein II lost part of a finger during a baseball game while he was playing first base for Columbia University's freshman team.

Executive orders from Presidents Obama and Trump were signed using custom gold-plated pens made by Cross, which is based in Providence, R.I., although most of the manufacturing is done in China. The preferred model is the felt-tipped Century II.

Black rhinoceroses live 35-50 years. White rhinoceroses live 40–50 years.

March 9, 2017

The Original Dixieland Jass (sic) Band recorded the first jazz record ever on Feb. 26, 1917.

According to The Wall Street Journal, soon there will be fewer than 2 million farms in America for the first time since pioneers moved westward after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

John Belushi's last meal was a bowl of lentil soup at the Rainbow Bar and Grill on Sunset Boulevard. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe met there in 1952.

The predominant type of carrots are orange because Dutch growers cultivated them in the 17th century as a tribute to William of Orange.

George McJunkin (1851–1922) was an African-American cowboy, amateur archaeologist, and historian in New Mexico. He discovered the Folsom Site in 1908, which showed that people had inhabited North America since at least 9000 BCE, some 7,000 years earlier than previously thought.

March 2, 2017

A cargo container measures 40 feet long, 8.5 or 9.5 feet high, and 8 feet wide, and can hold as much as 29 tons in its 2,000 cubic feet.

West Point cadets hold annual cyberwar games in full fatigues to simulate fighting the enemy online.

Thomas Harman, a 16th-century magistrate, wrote about thieves' cant, a secret language used by criminals. In his book, A Caveat or Warning for Common Cursitors, Harman said the phrase, "Byng we to Rome vyle to nyp a bounge, so shall we have lower for the bowsing ken" means "Let's go to London and cut a purse, so we shall have money for the alehouse."

Lucille Ball was afraid of birds.

The Brooklyn Dodgers were so named in the 1890s because the team's field in Eastern Park was bordered on two sides by trolley tracks. "Trolley dodger" was a pejorative term Manhattanites used for residents of Brooklyn.

February 23, 2017

The longest rubber band chain measured at 10,855.6 feet not stretched, and was achieved by Pavitra Patro in Gujarat, India, on May 31, 2016.

The coin-operated newspaper box was invented in 1947 by George Hemmeter. In the newspaper box heyday, Kaspar Wire Works in Shiner, Texas, dominated the U.S. market for manufacturing them. With newspaper boxes on the decline, most publications these days choose to refurbish old boxes, rather than buy new ones.

Scientists used to think female sea turtles lay about 3.5 clutches of eggs per year. New research suggests the true number may be twice as high.

Pianist and jazz singer Hazel Scott was the first African-American woman to have her own television show. The Hazel Scott Show premiered on July 3, 1950, but was canceled that September following her investigation by the House Un-American Activities Committee.

Abraham Lincoln was a prolific wrestler and is enshrined in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.

February 16, 2017

"America First" was the name of the pro-Nazi group led by Charles Lindbergh that fought FDR to keep America neutral between Britain and Hitler's Germany.

Most birds don't have penises. However, ducks, geese, swans, and large flightless birds like ostriches and emus do.

In the 1850s, Karl Marx was a reporter for The New York Daily Tribune.

Butter was used in religious practices by the Sumerians, some theories say as early as 3500BC. Churning milk into butter was seen as magic, and milk was related to birth and lactation. One Sumerian text says, "The rocking of the churn will sing for you … thus making you joyous."

According to Nature, in childhood, you have more than 30 billion fat cells in your body, and that number remains essentially the same for the rest of your life. You gain weight by filling fat cells with fat and you lose weight by emptying them.

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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