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Mr. Smarty Pants Knows 939 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.

September 29, 2016

A "sook" is a word used in Australia and New Zealand to describe a timid, cowardly person, especially a young person – essentially a crybaby.

According to Stanford professor Keith Humphreys, the most affordable university in the U.S. for students who get federal financial aid is the University of North Texas. However, some wealthy schools provide financial aid for low-income families, and therefore, Harvard is the most affordable according to a Washington Monthly analysis.

Brad Pitt was in Kickapoo High School golf, swimming and tennis teams, and speech and debate club (Springfield, Mo.) Angelina Jolie was teased at Beverly Hills High School and transferred to Moreno High School where she was a punk outsider.

Joseph Goebbels' wife, Magda, had a biological Jewish father, Richard Friedlander, who died in the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1939. She didn't try to help him.

September 22, 2016

Ringolevio is a kid's game from New York City dating back to the early 20th century. Players divide into two teams. Team 1 hides, while Team 2 covers their eyes and counts off like in hide-and-seek. The seekers try to find an opponent, grab them, and shout, "Ringolevio 1-2-3." During the chant, the Team 1 member can break away, but those who can't are put into Team 2's jail, which is usually a park bench or by the base of a tree.

A 1997 study by the American Journal of Physiology of 16 Americans found the volume of a fart ranged from 17 milliliters to 375 milliliters.

Russian dictator Josef Stalin signed important documents in red crayon, although he sometimes marked documents using both red and blue crayons.

According to a recent report in Current Biology, there are four main species of giraffe, not one.

The word "robot" derives from the Czech words for "work" and "forced labor." Peasants in the Aus­tro-Hungarian Empire who revolted against landowners in the late 19th century were called "robotniks."

September 15, 2016

The Chicago River is the world's only river that flows backward. Instead of flowing into Lake Michigan, it flows upstream toward the Mississippi River.

According to, Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos, Texas, is the 10th most income-segregated metro area in America.

The Nazis' Theresienstadt concentration camp gave prisoners a modest degree of freedom that included the ability to buy instruments and form bands. One such group was the Ghetto Swingers, a band of Czech Jews who conceived the jazz version of "Someday My Prince Will Come."

Victor Hugo once asked his publisher how his novel Les Miserables was doing with a telegram consisting only of "?". The publisher's response was "!".

According to Slate, the word "jumbo" may derive from the Swahili word "jambo" for hello or "jumbe" for chief or boss. That's why the Barnum & Bailey Circus named one of its star attractions "Jumbo the Elephant." After that, the word was associated with giant things. Jumbo, who was born in 1861 in the Sudan, was accidentally hit by a freight train and killed on Sept. 15, 1885.

September 8, 2016

As a tribute to The Day the Earth Stood Still, George Lucas named three minor characters in Return of the Jedi Klaatu, Barada, and Nikto.

U.S. census data shows that 2 million dads are single.

In Texas, if you are being tested for a venipuncture performance exam, you must palpate the vein with your fingertips to determine the direction of the vein and to estimate its size and depth. Note: The vein most frequently used is the median cephalic vein of the forearm.

According to Atlas Obscura, there's a basketball court on the fifth floor of the U.S. Supreme Court Building.

It is unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation that owns, leases, or controls any premises within Bartlesville, Okla., to have more than two dogs and two cats over the age of 6 months outside of the primary dwelling unit. Agriculturally zoned properties are exempt.

September 1, 2016

Mr. Smarty PantsJoe McDonald of Country Joe & the Fish was named by his parents for Josef Stalin.

"Boonta" (pronounced with the oo like "book") is a South Australian term to describe someone going crazy, getting excited, angry, etc., as in, "I told her what I did and she just went boonta at me!"

In 1890, Eugene Schieffelin released 60 starlings into New York's Central Park to improve the ambience. There were none in the U.S. until then.

According to one historian, ancient Roman gladiators were vegetarians, and their sports drink consisted of a mixture of vinegar and ash.

To get rid of a headache, try applying pressure to your Valley of Harmony – it's the center of the webbed area between the base of your thumb and index finger. Apply steady pressure by pinching the Valley with your opposite thumb and index finger until you feel a slight soreness. Hold for a few seconds or up to two minutes. Repeat on your other hand.

August 25, 2016

Ernest Hemingway made his martinis really cold by using tennis ball cans to make dense tubes of ice.

The word "shark" likely comes from the Mayan word for the fish.

The Santa Rita No. 1 oil well owned by the University of Texas was so named because Saint Rita is the patron saint of impossible causes. Some N.Y. stock salesmen had encouraged a group of Catholic women to invest in it and they became worried about their decision and consulted their priest. The well came in on May 28, 1923.

Mark Spitz won a then-record seven gold medals for swimming at the 1972 Olympics. Although most swimmers are known for going as hairless as possible, Spitz sported a mustache, claiming it helped create a pocket of air to help him breathe.

According to the American Journal of Epidemiology, you're twice as likely to suffer a head injury when walking as you are when riding a bike.

August 18, 2016

In 2004, the FDA approved maggots as a medical device.

Model Gisele Bündchen was discovered in a Brazilian fashion mall.

According to, in 2016 Olympics boxing, 250 men will compete, compared to only 36 women. USA Boxing didn't lift its 106-year ban on women competing until 1993. Back in the Seventies, the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission required women to wear aluminum bras so they could preserve their ability to breastfeed.

The nickname of the Brazilian flag is "Auriverde" (Gold and Green).

According to Plutarch, every speech Cato made in the Roman Senate ended with the phrase "Carthage must be destroyed" (delenda est Carthago). There was always the reply, "Carthage should be allowed to exist," from Scipio Nasica, who was the son-in-law to Scipio Africanus, who defeated Hannibal in the Second Punic War.

August 11, 2016

As of 2009, there are more guns than people in the U.S. (357 million guns vs. 317 million people).

Harpo Marx loved the children's cartoon series Beany and Cecil and insisted on absolute silence in the house when it came on TV. The series was created by Bob Clampett and featured a boy named Beany Boy and a sea serpent named Cecil. It included satirical references to current events and personalities.

The first blood bank in the United States was created in Chicago in 1937.

The sheltopusik may look like a snake, but it's a legless lizard. It is also known as "glass lizard" because it can break off its tail in several pieces if it feels like it's in danger.

Saying "statutory legislation" is a redundancy.

August 4, 2016

According to NPR and The Washington Post, goats outnumber people 14-to-1 in Sutton County, Texas. The ratio is 22-to-1 in Edwards County, Texas. All in all, goats outnumber people in 21 U.S. counties, and all but one of them are in Texas.

Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan, and Al Gore all played the harmonica.

Scientists believe the first evidence of condoms was in cave paintings in France's Grotte des Combarelles, which date back to 11,000 BC.

Ernest Hemingway had a 15 parts gin, 1 part vermouth martini. This drink is called the Montgomery and is named after Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery who preferred the 15:1 ratio when going into battle.

It is believed the word "byte" is a contraction of "by eight."

July 28, 2016

According to the British Office for National Statistics, in England and Wales, the birth rate for women over age 40 now exceeds that for women under 20.

Of the 705 survivors of the Titanic's sinking, at least 10 later committed suicide – a rate more than 100 times the current U.S. suicide rate.

During the winter of 1901, Robert Vandervoort of Corpus Christi became the only person who has ever successfully looped the loop on a bicycle.

Black women are now the most educated group in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics. From 2009–10, black women obtained 66% of bachelor's degrees earned by black students, compared to 56% for white women and 61% for Hispanics. Black women also have higher rates for associate, master's, and doctorate degrees.

The Kingsmen recorded "Louie Louie" for $36. The FBI investigated whether the song included obscene lyrics. One report says analysts spent two years playing the record at different speeds, but were unable to come to a decision on what the words were. Their conclusion: no evidence of obscenity.

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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