• Most Muppets are left-handed.
  • The largest prime number in the Bible is 22273 (Numbers 3:43).
  • SEE, HE, and IS are spelled identically in Morse code (ignoring spaces).
  • Maine is the only one-syllable state name.
  • “More things grow in the garden than the gardener sows.” — Spanish proverb

Fritz Zwicky referred to his colleagues at the Mount Wilson Observatory as “spherical bastards” because they were bastards whichever way one looked at them.

In a Word


adj. of or resembling a goose

In 1936, Polish mathematician Stanislaw Mazur offered a live goose to the first person who could determine whether every Banach space has a Schauder basis. Thirty-seven years later, his Swedish colleague Per Enflo claimed the prize. The ceremony was broadcast throughout Poland. (Thanks, Jeremy.)

In the public gardens at Halifax, there is an eccentric goose that seems to manifest a genuine affection. Whenever a certain old gentleman, whose name we do not know, approaches the pond and calls ‘Bobby,’ the goose will leave the pond and sit beside him, and when he leaves to go home, will follow close at his feet, like a dog, to the gate, and sometimes into the street, when it has to be forcibly put back, to its manifest disgust, for it goes off to its native element twisting its tail with indignation, and giving vent to sundry discordant squeaks. The old gentleman says he has never fed it, or petted it in any way, which makes it more remarkable; but we are told by a frequenter of the gardens that about two or three years ago a man used to come there and feed this identical goose regularly, so we are inclined to think that it is a case of mistaken identity on the part of his gooseship. Anyway, it is an interesting question for ornithologists to solve, whether geese (supposed to be the most stupid of birds) have memory and can experience the sensation of gratitude.

— James Baird McClure, ed., Entertaining Anecdotes From Every Available Source, 1879

Urban Sprawl

The longest unhyphenated place name in the United States is Kleinfeltersville, Pennsylvania.

That’s in real life, anyway. In the 2002 film Mr. Deeds, Winona Ryder’s character claims to come from Winchestertonfieldville, Iowa.

A Key Point

Complaint received by a French typewriter shop, reprinted in a local newspaper on the Île de Ré:


Il y a quxlquxs sxmainxs jx mx suis offxrt unx dx vos machinxs à écrirx. Au début j’xn fus assxz contxnt. Mais pas pour longtxmps. Xn xffxt, vous voyxz vous-mêmx lx défaut. Chaqux fois qux jx vxux tapxr un x, c’xst un x qux j’obtixns. Cxla mx rxnd xnragé. Car quand jx vxux un x, c’xst un x qu’il mx faut xt non un x. Cxla rxndrait n’importx qui furixux. Commxnt fairx pour obtxnir un x chaqux fois qux jx desirx un x? Un x xst un x, xt non un x. Saisissxz-vous cx qux jx vxux dirx?

Jx voudrais savoir si vous êtxs xn mxsurx dx mx livrxr unx machinx à écrirx donnant un x chaqux fois qux j’ai bxsoin d’un x. Parcx qux si vous mx donnxz unx machinx donnant un x lorsqu’on tapx un x, vous pourrxz ravoir cx damné instrumxnt. Un x xst très bixn tant qux x, mais, oh xnfxr!

Sincèrxmxnt à vous, un dx vos clixnts rxndu xnragé.

Xugènx X—-

From John Julius Norwich, Christmas Crackers, 1981.


  • Scranton, Pa., was formerly called Skunk’s Misery.
  • Sweet’n Low was named for a Tennyson poem.
  • STRAIGHT-GRAINED has 15 letters and 2 syllables.
  • The average 2-year-old is already half his adult height.
  • “The exit is usually where the entrance was.” — Stanislaw Lec

If a reincarnated person has no memory of her past life, then in what sense is she the same person?


  • There’s no “u” in solipsism.
  • Wagner said the saxophone “sounds like the word Reckankreuzungsklankewerkzeuge.”
  • FDR was related by blood or marriage to 11 other presidents.
  • 3909511 = 53 + 59 + 50 + 59 + 55 + 51 + 51
  • “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the chicken.” — Ted Giannoulas, San Diego Chicken

(Thanks, Eric.)

All in the Family

In 1955, attendants at a naval hospital in Balboa, Calif., discovered a patient named Tonsillitis Jackson. When they asked about this, he explained that his mother had had tonsillitis when he was born.

Evidently his parents had liked the effect, because they had named his brother Meningitis and his sisters Appendicitis, Laryngitis, Peritonitis, and Jakeitis.

Elsdon Smith writes, “The last one must have signified the end of their medical knowledge.”

UPDATE: Even Jakeitis is a medical term, of sorts. In the 1920s, a ginger extract known as jake was valued for its high alcohol content. When a curious paralyzing ailment began to afflict poor alcoholics in the central South, the FDA traced the cause to two Boston bootleggers who had been adding tri-orthocresal phosphate, an industrial plasticizer, to bootleg jake. “Jakeitis,” also known as jake leg, may have afflicted as many as 100,000 people, but they tended to get moral opprobrium rather than sympathy. (Thanks, Krysta.)