Say Good Night

Gracie Allen: On my way in, a man stopped me at the stage door and said, “Hiya, cutie, how about a bite tonight after the show?”

George Burns: And you said?

Gracie Allen: I said, “I’ll be busy after the show, but I’m not doing anything right now.” So I bit him.

“All I had to do was say, ‘Gracie, how’s your brother?’ and she talked for 38 years,” Burns once remembered. “And sometimes I didn’t even have to remember to say, ‘Gracie, how’s your brother?'”


Ground zero after the first test of a nuclear weapon, July 16, 1945. Observers set up betting pools on the outcome, including these possibilities:

  • It would be a dud
  • It would destroy the state of New Mexico
  • It would ignite the atmosphere and incinerate the planet

Physicist I.I. Rabi won — he predicted a blast equivalent to 18 kilotons of TNT.

All Clear

Lloyd’s of London does not charge higher insurance rates for ships passing through the Bermuda Triangle. It says the area is no more dangerous than any other high-traffic piece of ocean.

The U.S. Coast Guard agrees.

“Cover With the Moon”

Hobo lingo:

  • accommodation car – the caboose of a train
  • angelina – young inexperienced kid
  • banjo – a small portable frying pan
  • bindle stick – collection of belongings wrapped in cloth and tied around a stick
  • bone polisher – a mean dog
  • bull – a railroad officer
  • cannonball – a fast train
  • catch the westbound – to die
  • chuck a dummy – pretend to faint
  • cow crate – a railroad stock car
  • crums – lice
  • doggin’ it – traveling by bus
  • hot shot – a train with priority freight
  • jungle – an area near a railroad in which hoboes camp and congregate
  • knowledge bus – a schoolbus used for shelter
  • road kid – a young hobo who apprentices himself to an older hobo in order to learn the ways of the road
  • rum dum – a drunkard
  • soup bowl- a palce to get soup, bread and drinks
  • yegg – a traveling professional thief

Much Ado About Nothing

You can fool some of the people all of the time.

Perhaps inspired by Thomas Chatterton, the teenage Samuel William Henry Ireland (1777-1835) “found” an old deed with Shakespeare’s signature.

His father, a collector, was overjoyed, so Ireland went on finding more Shakespeareana — a promissory note, a declaration of Protestant faith, letters to Anne Hathaway and to Queen Elizabeth, books with notes in the margins and “original” manuscripts for Hamlet and King Lear.

Amazingly, these were all authenticated by experts of the day. Ireland wasn’t caught until at age 18 he wrote an entire “lost” play, which was mounted at Drury Lane Theatre. As a playwright, he couldn’t match the Bard, and Vortigern and Rowena closed after a single performance on April 2, 1796.

Sadly, his father took the blame, as no one could believe such a young man could pull off such a forgery. His son fled to France and died in obscurity.

The Sky Falls Again

Remember the Y2K crisis? We thought society was going to collapse because we hadn’t trained our computers for the future.

Well, it’s going to happen again. We’re going to run out of Social Security numbers.

Your number is unique; it’s not recycled when you die. About a billion numbers are possible, but we’ve been assigning them since 1936 and we’ve already used up about a third of the possibilities. According to some estimates we could run out by 2075.

What happens then? Who knows? But if our government collapses, head to South Korea: Their social security numbers give access to online video games.


The initials SPQR appear everywhere in Rome — they were emblazoned on the standards of the Roman legions, and they appear today in the city’s coat of arms. The only trouble is that no one knows what they stand for. Historians think it’s probably one of these mottoes:

  • Senatus Populus Quiritium Romanus (“The senate and the citizens’ Roman people”)
  • Senatus Populusque Quiritium Romanorum (“The senate and people of the Roman citizens”)
  • Senatus Populusque Romanus (“The senate and the Roman People”)
  • Senatus Populusque Romae (“The senate and the people of Rome”)

But that hasn’t stopped everyone else from making suggestions:

  • Sono Pazzi Questi Romani (“These Romans are crazy.”)
  • Sono Porci Questi Romani (“Those Romans are pigs.”)
  • Solo Pago Quando Ricevo (“I will pay when I get paid.”)
  • Soli Preti Qui Regnano (“Only priests rule here.”)

Supposedly Pope John XXIII noted that SPQR backward reads RQPS, which he suggested meant “Rideo Quia Papa Sum” — “I laugh, because I am the Pope.”