Harry S? Truman

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You can start fights among copyeditors by asking them how to punctuate Harry Truman’s name.

The 34th president had no middle name — just the letter S. So the question is, do you add a period afterward? Purists say no, it’s not an abbreviation. Pragmatists say yes, if you omit the period then some readers will stop at the “error.”

Truman himself usually signed his name with a period, but he once remarked that it should be omitted. That’s why, to this day, some newspapers refer to him as Harry S Truman.

Living Former Presidents

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There have been only three periods when five former American presidents were alive at the same time:

  • March 4, 1861-Jan. 18, 1862: Martin Van Buren, John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan
  • Jan. 20, 1993-April 22, 1994: Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush
  • Jan. 20, 2001-June 5, 2004: Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton

Herbert Hoover lived for 31 years after leaving office; James Polk lasted only three months.

Left-Handedness and Age

Twelve percent of American 20-year-olds are left-handed, but only 5 percent of 50-year-olds and fewer than 1 percent of people over 80.

Does this mean that more lefties are being born today? Or that older generations were forced to switch hands? Or that southpaws die sooner? No one knows.

An All-Purpose Anthem

Americans think of the song “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” as a patriotic anthem — which is ironic, because everyone else does, too. We stole the tune from the British, who know it as “God Save the Queen,” and the same melody has served as the national anthem of Denmark, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, and Liechtenstein.

When England met Liechtenstein in a Euro 2004 qualifying football match, they had to play the same music twice.