Columns Archives



list all columns


Mr. Smarty Pants Knows 989 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 14, 2017

The Republic of Texas had 23 counties in December 1836 based on the existing Mexican municipalities. The state of Texas has 254 counties.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a "100-year flood" is not something that happens once every 100 years. Instead, it's a flood that has a 1% chance of happening in any given year.

In 1841, Robert Browning published a drama, "Pippa Passes," in which he mistakenly thought the word "twat" referred to a nun's habit.

According to author Russell Warren Howe, Mata Hari was an inept agent who may have been framed. Recently released documents suggest that she was a warm and loving mother.

According to Erin Falcone and her research team, the longest-held breath ever recorded in whales was 2 hours and 43 minutes.

September 7, 2017

In 1962, 160 U.S. deputy marshals were wounded – 28 of them shot – defending James Meredith's admission to the University of Mississippi.

Evidence of smallpox scarring has been found on Egyptian mummies as early as 1157BC.

According to Will Oremus of Slate, the Coriolis effect has nothing to do with which way the water circles when you flush your toilet. If you want to know why it drains clockwise or counter-clockwise, try looking at which way the water comes out of the jets.

Jack Daniel was taught whiskey distilling by a slave named Nathan "Nearest" Green. In 2016 Brown-Forman, the company that owns the Jack Daniel Distillery, finally decided to keep its debt to Green by acknowledging his role, thanks to efforts by author Fawn Weaver.

Plato got his name from his wrestling coach. It means broad of shoulders. He wrestled in one of the first Olympic games and "Plato" was his nickname.

August 31, 2017

Of the 22 statues of historical figures in Central Park, none are of women. Of the 87 statues in San Francisco, only two are of women.

In the 1890s, "flapper" meant a very young prostitute. It also described young girls with braids flapping in the breeze.

Before she was queen, Princess Elizabeth selected a gown and robe set from Joske's department store of San Antonio for her wedding night trousseau. It consisted of a pale ivory Georgette gown made with 40 yards of silk, and had satin roses embroidered across the bodice, along with a hand-stitched, brocade robe patterned with tiny lords and ladies bowing in minuet. It cost $300, which today would be $3,368.82.

Alexander Graham Bell favored "Ahoy" as a greeting when answering a telephone. Use of the alternative "Hello" is generally credited to Thomas Edison.

Pinetop Perkins was buried holding a red-and-white peppermint between his thumb and index finger.

August 24, 2017

Humans have produced 9.1 billion tons of plastic since 1950, and most of it is sitting in our environment, according to a recent study published in Science Advances.

Judge Marion W. Gooding attended Elvis Presley's August 1956 shows in Jacksonville, Fla., to monitor if his gyrations were obscene.

According to the Arkansas Secretary of State, the design of the state flag, approved by the Legislature in 1913, had only three blue stars, to represent: The year of the Louisiana Purchase (1803), it was the third state created from the purchase, and the fact that the state had belonged to three countries (France, Spain, and the United States). In 1923, legislators added a fourth star to acknowledge Arkansas' membership in the Confederacy.

Watermelon has less sugar per serving than grapes, apples, or pears. Lore has it that watermelon was put in King Tut's grave for energy and hydration in the afterlife.

Apes and humans have 32 permanent teeth. Cats have 30, and dogs have 42.

August 17, 2017

A 2007 dispute between attorney Gregory Shamoun and oilman John Cantrell, both of Midlothian, led Shamoun to bring his donkey named Buddy to the courtroom. Cantrell complained of the donkey's noise and manure. The case was settled when Shamoun agreed to buy some of Can­trell's land – and thus, Cantrell's objections to the ass were over-muled.

According to a study by Nationwide Children's Hospital, about 34 children a day were treated at emergency rooms between 1990 and 2010 for cotton-swab-related ear injuries.

Although 75% of today's rubber products are made from synthetic rubber, rubber bands are still made from organic rubber because it offers superior elasticity.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2015, Texas consumed almost 13% of the nation's energy, and had led the nation in energy consumption for 55 years. And according to Sci­en­tific American, wind energy accounted for almost 23% of Texas' power in the first quarter of 2017.

An elephant consumes about 400 pounds of vegetation a day and may spend 12-18 hours a day feeding.

August 10, 2017

By the time he was 23, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones had five illegitimate children by five different women.

Beach sand is too firm for beach volleyball. Sand samples must be approved by Hutchison Sand & Mixes in Ontario, Canada, which creates sand volleyball courts around the world. Dubai had to import sand for construction, as desert sand is also unsuitable.

A recent study at the University of Basel found praying mantises can eat birds, though it's not common. Some even wait on hummingbird feeders.

Drug overdoses have killed about as many Americans this year as died fighting the wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan combined.

In a 2012 assessment republished in 2017, Indian Country Today, a leading publication on Native American Affairs, rated Richard Nixon as one of the best presidents in American history (if not in fact THE best president in American history), from the perspective of U.S. tribal interests.

August 3, 2017

According to Longhorn Steakhouse stats from 2016-17, 2.5% of their customers ordered their steaks rare, and 11.7% order them well done.

By his own admission, as a youth, actor Robert Pattinson used to steal X-rated magazines and sell them at a substantial markup to classmates at the private school he was attending.

According to the Huffington Post, the least expensive time to buy a plane ticket for travel in the continental U.S. is 54 days before the flight.

Martin Van Buren was the first U.S. president born after the Declaration of Independence, and the only one whose native language wasn't English – his first language was Dutch. The Sultan of Oman gave him two tiger cubs; he wanted to keep them in the White House, but Congress pressured him to donate them to a zoo.

Taffy-pulling is the process of aerating a mix of sugar, butter, corn starch, glycerin, flavorings, and colorings into a candy – giving the taffy a silky-chewy texture. In 1900, the onset of mechanical taffy-pulling machines increased production from 300 pounds a day to 10,000 pounds, with the same labor.

July 27, 2017

Growing up as a kid on her family farm in South Africa, Charlize Theron had a pet goat named Bok.

Warbler finches in the Galápagos have been self-medicating with Guayabillo leaves to combat parasites and repel mosquitoes.

Ten years before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, he survived another assassination attempt by stabbing in Harlem, N.Y., by Izola Curry. Diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, she spent the rest of her life in mental institutions.

According to PayPal, about 90% of all email sent worldwide falls into the spoof, phishing, spam, and general junk category.

The longest covered bridge in the world is in Hartland, New Brunswick. It is 391 meters long, or about ¼ mile. Local folklore says when you enter it, if you make a wish, close your eyes, cross your fingers, and hold your breath, your wish will come true.

July 20, 2017

In the Victorian era, bees were depicted in things like jewelry to depict the ethic of working hard and being productive.

Mites are one of the top killers of domestic snakes.

The 4th and 5th movements of Hector Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique, written in 1830, symbolize a man's transition from unrequited love into fantasies of delirium, nightmare, and death due to opium. It is believed that during this period, Berlioz was taking opium himself, as was his father the physician.

When Jimmy Carter visited Poland, he tried to say he was happy to be there, but the translator messed up and it came out he was "happy to grasp at Poland's private parts."

It wasn't until as late as 1875 that scientists really understood how human conception took place. Like the ancient Greeks, Leonardo da Vinci believed sperm was a drop of liquid from the male brain and women had a vessel going from their uterus to their nipple – and mother's milk came from recycled menstrual blood.

July 13, 2017

Want to say "no worries" in Australia? Some say "no wuckers," which is a spoonerism of "no effing worries."

According to, people will spend 3.5 trillion hours on mobile apps by 2021.

Instead of Groundhog Day, in Korea they have Gyeongchip, the Day of Awakening. It takes place on the 74th day after the winter solstice and marks the day when frogs, snakes, and insects come out of hibernation. One old custom was hunting for frog or salamander eggs; it was believed eating them would make one healthy throughout the year.

Chimborazo, an inactive stratovolcano in Ecuador, is 20,564 feet tall, and its summit is the farthest point on the Earth's surface from the Earth's center.

Robert Craig "Evel" Knievel Jr. rarely had speedometers on his motorcycles. He nicknamed himself after sitting in the next jail cell down from William Knofel, whom guards had nicknamed "Awful Knofel."

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
1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10     NEXT    99 »
This content has not been formatted for this window size.
Please increase the size of your browser window, or revisit this page on a mobile device.
AC Daily, Events and Promotions, Luvdoc Answers

Breaking news, recommended events, and more

Official Chronicle events, promotions, and giveaways

Updates for SXSW 2017

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)