International Board of Hygiene

In 1926 the League of Nations recognized a new medical body, the International Board of Hygiene. It’s a good thing they didn’t assign it any responsibilities: The “board” was really a group of drinking buddies who met in a turf bar in Tijuana during Prohibition. San Diego pathologist Rawson Pickard invented a surgeon, “Honorable J. Fortescue,” as a founder, and anyone who attended a meeting became a lifetime member.

Pickard probably imagined his joke would be exposed pretty quickly, but the other shoe never dropped. In response to his letter, the League of Nations recognized the board in a couple of weeks. Soon the nonexistent Fortescue was invited to join the American Conference on Hospital Service, and the U.S. National Research Council included him in a directory of child psychologists. Pickard began to write articles under his byline and answered journalists’ inquiries on his behalf.

The joke kept snowballing. By 1936 Fortescue was listed in Who’s Who in San Diego, including his publications, association memberships, medical studies and travels. He lived in Paris, ostensibly, but his address was given as “The International Board of Hygiene, 1908 Eutaw Place, Baltimore, Maryland.”

That’s it. For years membership of the International Board of Hygiene spread by invitation, but no one ever caught on. Pickard died in 1963, taking Fortescue with him.

Someone ought to check the rest of our luminaries. Do they all exist?

Tour de France

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Riding in the Tour de France is the equivalent of running a marathon almost every day for almost three weeks, plus climbing three Mount Everests. Each day, riders eat up to 10,000 calories, the equivalent of 17 Big Macs.

Unquote

“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” — Alfred Hitchcock

Faces of a Pandemic

Famous people with HIV:

  • Isaac Asimov
  • Roy Cohn
  • Eazy-E
  • Michel Foucault
  • Liberace
  • Greg Louganis
  • Robert Mapplethorpe
  • Rudolph Nureyev
  • Anthony Perkins

Noah’s Headache

This is a jaglion, a cross between a jaguar and a lion. Big cats interbreed pretty easily, which makes for some confusing nomenclature.

Cross a lion with a tiger and you get a liger or a tigon, depending on the parents’ sexes. Cross a leopard with a jaguar and you’ll get a jagulep or a lepjag. And if you cross a puma with a leopard you get the magnificently named pumapard.

You can even make hybrids of your hybrids. Cross your new jagulep with a lion you’ll have a lijagulep. Keep going and eventually you can make liards, jaguatigers, doglas, leotigs, tigards, tiguars, and liguars.

And theoretically, if you crossed a jaguar with a tigress … you’d get a jagger. Hmmm.

In a Word

quacksalver
n. one who falsely pretends to knowledge of medicine

Starting Early

Ronald Reagan received the following letter in April 1984:

Dear Mr. President,

My name is Andy Smith. I am a seventh grade student at Irmo Middle School, in Irmo, South Carolina.

Today my mother declared my bedroom a disaster area. I would like to request federal funds to hire a crew to clean up my room. I am prepared to provide the initial funds if you will privide matching funds for this project.

I know you will be fair when you consider my request. I will be awaiting your reply.

Sincerely yours,

Andy Smith

Reagan replied, pointing out a technical problem: “The authority declaring the disaster is supposed to make the request. In this case your mother.” He recommended that Andy launch a volunteer program — and sent his congratulations.

Sssssss

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What do you get when thousands of drunken sports fans stack their beer cups into a huge chain? A beer snake, that’s what. They’re not very dangerous, as snakes go — they tend to appear at cricket matches, which take hours and sell a lot of beverages. But they get big: The largest so far measured 23 meters. Cheers.

The Lost Colony

In 1590, England sent an expedition to check on a colony of settlers on Roanoke Island off the coast of North Carolina. They found the settlement deserted: 90 men, 17 women, and nine children had disappeared without a trace. A search turned up nothing. The only clue was a single word carved into a post: CROATOAN.

There was a Croatoan Island nearby, with a tribe of that name. Had the colonists been killed or captured? No, there was no sign of a struggle. Had they assimilated peacefully? Then why had they left no clue where they’d gone? Had they moved to another base? Tried to return to England? Starved to death? To this day, no one knows.

“Tub of Blood Bunch”

Colorful New York gang names, 1825-1920:

  • Baxter Street Dudes
  • Car Barn Gang
  • Corcoran’s Roosters
  • Crazy Butch Gang
  • Daybreak Boys
  • Forty Little Thieves
  • Gas House Gang
  • Gopher Gang
  • Hudson Dusters
  • Humpty Jackson Gang
  • Italian Dave Gang
  • Mandelbaum Gang
  • Squab Wheelman Gang
  • Yakey Yakes

Slobbery Jim of the Daybreak Boys cut Patsy the Barber’s throat in a fight over 12 cents in 1853. He later rose to the rank of captain in the Confederate army.