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Mr. Smarty Pants Knows 925 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.

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.

May 12, 2016

Prince beat Michael Jackson and Jimmy Fallon in pingpong.

Donkey is a very expensive meat and highly sought after for its tenderness and sweetness in China.

The modern king of hearts is the only king without a mustache. Back in 1776 he had one, but he lost it in the 19th century. Each king represents a great king from history: spades – King David, hearts – Charlemagne, clubs – Alexander the Great, and diamonds – Julius Caesar.

One form of diamonds is called lonsdaleite, named after crystallographer Kathleen Lonsdale. It has a slightly different structure than others, with the tetrahedrons connected in a zig-zaggy hexagonal shape. Lonsdaleite is not thought to occur inside the Earth naturally. It's been found in meteorites, though.

About 100 years ago, one in four East Coast trees was an American chestnut. By 1945, 4 billion of them were wiped out by a fungus imported from Asia.

May 5, 2016

Corals, which are tiny animals, have even tinier plants living inside their cells.

The lemming mass-suicide story is a myth, largely fabricated by a Disney nature documentary that faked its evidence. The Disney filmmakers drove the lemmings into the water because they ­wanted to make a memorable film.

The hashtag symbol, pound sign (#), is properly called the octothorpe.

The names of the two stone lions in front of the New York Public Library are Patience and Fortitude. They were named by then-mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.

After starring as the bully "Fatso" Judson in From Here to Eternity, the late actor Ernest Borgnine could never go into a bar because some guy would challenge him to a fight because of his fighting Frank Sinatra and Montgomery Clift in the movie.

April 28, 2016

Almost every town in America has streets named Elm and Chestnut.

The numbers 111, 222, 333, 444, 555, 666, 777, 888, and 999 are all multiples of 37.

According to Mary Beard, a classics professor at the University of Cambridge, the Roman emperor Elagabalus never wore the same pair of shoes twice. For that and other behaviors considered strange for the time, he was assassinated at age 18.

Rice paper isn't made from rice, but from a small tree which grows in Taiwan.

The opening sequences for Gilligan's Island were filmed on Moku o Lo'e Island (aka Coconut Island), about a minute and a half by boat off the windward coast of Oahu.

April 21, 2016

Beginning in 1903, the U.S. paid rent to Cuba for Guantánamo Bay, but since the Sixties, Cuba has refused to cash the annual $4,085 rent check.

Monarch butterflies feed on milkweeds containing cardenolides, which are steroids that are poisonous and usually affect the heart. Cardenolides accumulate in the butterflies and act as a defense mechanism by making them taste bitter.

Franklin Pierce is the only U.S. president to have said "I promise" instead of "I swear" at his inauguration. He did it for religious reasons.

Some believe ancient Egyptians invented eye makeup about 12,000 years ago. Others blame a fallen angel named Azazyel who took an Earthly wife for his bride.

When Burgess Meredith took the role of "The Penguin" in the Batman TV series, he hadn't smoked in 20 years. His trademark cigarette in holder irritated his throat, which caused him to ad-lib his trademark, "quack, quack, quack" voice. For the record, penguins do not make quacking sounds.

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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