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Mr. Smarty Pants Knows 972 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.

May 18, 2017

The Senate barbershop continues to operate at a deficit and offer taxpayer-subsidized haircuts and shaves.

Dave Navarro of Jane's Addiction used to sign hotel registers under the alias of Bruce Wayne, Batman's real name. He identified with Batman after his mother was murdered by a former boyfriend.

Back in China and Japan around AD1400, they made condoms out of tortoise shell or animal horn that only covered the head of the penis.

Black lace-weaver spider moms allow their children to eat them alive.

George Washington had the most Supreme Court appointments with 10. The president with the second highest number of appointments was Franklin Roosevelt with nine.

May 11, 2017

"America's Sweetheart," the actress Mary Pickford, was born in Canada.

In 2010, an investigation led by Christopher C. Burt convinced the World Meteorological Organization that El Azizia, Libya, did not have the hottest recorded temperature – 136.4°F in 1922 – and that it was probably a mistake. The "real" record is probably 129°F in Death Valley, Calif., in 1960, 1998, 2005, and 2007.

Occam's razor is known for William of Ockham, a Franciscan friar from Ockham, Surrey. So it really should be called William's razor.

The U.S. has 4.4% of the world's total population, but 22% of the world's prison population, according to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Fainting goats, also known as myotonic goats, will freeze their muscles for three seconds if they feel panic, which usually results in the animal falling on their side. The reason for the fainting is a muscle condition they share with humans called myotonia congenita.

May 4, 2017

Ernest Borgnine's marriage to Ethel Merman lasted 32 days.

The U.S. Air Force definition of an astronaut is anyone who has flown more than 50 miles above mean sea level – about the line between the mesosphere and the thermosphere.

In 1858, two years before publishing his landmark third edition of Leaves of Grass, the American poet Walt Whitman wrote a series of newspaper columns under the pseudonym Mose Velsor, on the subject of "Manly Health and Training."

Hyacinth macaws can crack a coconut shell.

Hendrick Hamel, a 17th century bookkeeper for the Dutch East India Company, was the first person to use the spelling "Korea." He and his crewmates shipwrecked there and were not allowed to leave the country, but those who survived eventually escaped to Japan after being held there for 13 years.

April 27, 2017

It is estimated that a two-second distraction while driving, such as one caused by using a phone, increases the risk of a collision by 20 times.

According to some Chinese etymologists, there is no word for right-handedness in Mandarin since it's normal and encouraged. However, there is a word or two for left-handedness, since it's rare and indicates intelligence.

The poison delivery system at the Jonestown Massacre on Nov. 18, 1978 was not Kool-Aid, but a discount knockoff brand called Flavor Aid.

The song "In the Year 2525" by the group Zager and Evans was recorded in a studio in a cow pasture in Odessa, Texas, with some members of the Odessa Symphony. It was the group's only No. 1 hit, and after that they never had another single on U.S. charts.

What do Howard Stern and Sheryl Crow have in common? They both sang "The Diarrhea Song" to their children when they were growing up.

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.

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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