The Mokeys Have O Tails

Pago Pago has always been known locally as Pango Pango.

When U.S. Navy officers first wrote to Washington from the island territory, they used a typewriter with a defective “N” key.


“He has to retreat into his fanciful world in order to survive. Otherwise, he leads kind of a dull, miserable life. I don’t envy dogs the lives they have to live.” — Charles M. Schulz, on Snoopy

Kneebone Connected to the …

Excerpts from 19th-century students’ physiology exams:

  • “Physillogigy is to study about your bones stummick and vertebry.”
  • “Occupations which are injurious to health are cabolic acid gas which is impure blood.”
  • “We have an upper and lower skin. The lower skin moves all the time and the upper skin moves when we do.”
  • “The body is mostly composed of water and about one half is avaricious tissue.”
  • “The stomach is a small pear-shaped bone situated in the body.”
  • “The gastric juice keeps the bones from creaking.”
  • “The Chyle flows up the middle of the backbone and reaches the heart where it meets the oxygen and is purified.”
  • “The salivary glands are used to salivate the body.”
  • “In the stomach starch is changed to cane sugar and cane sugar to sugar cane.”
  • “The olfactory nerve enters the cavity of the orbit and is developed into the special sense of hearing.”
  • “The growth of a tooth begins in the back of the mouth and extends to the stomach.”
  • “If we were on a railroad track and a train was coming the train would deafen our ears so that we couldn’t see to get off the track.”

— From Mark Twain, “English as She Is Taught: Being Genuine Answers to Examination Questions in Our Public Schools,” 1887

Fire Insurance

In China you can send money to your dead relatives. “Hell banknotes” are burned in a traditional ceremony, after which dead ancestors can use them to bribe the king of hell for a shorter stay.

They’re starting to use credit cards.


The swinging Brassie strikes; and, having struck,
Moves on: nor all your Wit or future Luck
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Stroke,
Nor from the Card a single Seven pluck.

— From “The Golfer’s Rubaiyat” by H.W. Boynton, collected in The Wit and Humor of America, Volume II, 1907

Watch Dogs

In 1997, retired advertising executive Dan FitzSimons proposed a new cable TV channel called The Puppy Channel: “24 hours a day, seven days a week, footage of puppies fooling around like puppies do, acting the natural comedians and cuties that they are, with no people, no talk, accompanied only by relaxing instrumental music.”

In focus group surveys, 41 percent of respondents said they would prefer watching the channel to CNBC, and 37 percent preferred it to TBS.

Alexander Selkirk

Robinson Crusoe isn’t entirely fiction — it’s based on the story of a real Scottish sailor, Alexander Selkirk, who spent four years marooned on an uninhabited island.

Selkirk was sailing with privateer William Dampier in 1703 when he began to doubt the seaworthiness of their galleon, the Cinque Ports. Finally he decided to stay ashore voluntarily on the Juan Fernández islands in the South Pacific with only a musket, gunpowder, carpenter’s tools, a knife, a Bible, and his clothing.

At first Selkirk was wracked with loneliness and regret, but he soon acclimated to island life. He domesticated wild cats to keep rats at bay, grew turnips, cabbage and pepper berries, and built two huts of pimento trees. He hunted wild goats and made clothing of their skins and forged a knife from cast-off barrel rings.

There’s a telling postscript to the story. After four years and four months, Selkirk was rescued by William Dampier, the same man who had left him ashore — but Selkirk was surprised to see he was sailing a different ship. The Cinque Ports had sunk, losing most hands. Selkirk, it seems, had been right to stay on the island.

The Final Cut

In high school, Robin Williams was voted “most likely not to succeed.”

United Nations

Excerpts from 112 Gripes About the French, a handbook produced to help American soldiers understand the French after the Liberation:

  • The French are too damned independent. The French are independent. They are proud. They are individualists. So are we. That’s one reason there is friction between us.
  • I never heard people gab so much. Gab, gab, gab. If you understood the language it might be interesting and not just “gab.” An American writer, Ambrose Bierce, said, “A bore is a person who talks — when you want him to listen.”
  • The French are not as clean as the Germans. Perhaps not. If the Germans had had no soap for five years they wouldn’t be as clean as they might like to be. A learned man once said, “An untidy friend is better than an immaculate enemy.”
  • The French can’t drive a car. They can’t keep it up. They ruin vehicles. The French, on the whole, certainly do not drive as well, keep a car up as well, or protect their vehicles as well as we do. Neither do women, compared to men. We have had more mechanical training, more technical experience. And at the present time we have incomparably better maintenance facilities.

A Bicycle Built for Few

Evidently somebody thought this was a good idea. In the late 19th century, lamplighters used this “giraffe bicycle” to travel between gas streetlamps. If you could keep your balance you’d be sitting more than 7 feet above the ground. Watch the road.